Brexit fury: Italy hits out after EU nationals detained by border force trying to enter UK

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Italy said a recent spate of detentions of EU nationals by UK border officials was not “acceptable”. Italian undersecretary for foreign affairs Benedetto Della Vedova raised the issue with immigration minister Kevin Foster on a recent visit to London. Mr Della Vedova told the Politico website: “We made it clear to the Home Office and to minister Foster that we don’t consider acceptable what happened, and we hope that in the future cases like these will be treated in a different manner.”

His remarks come after a number of recent cases where EU citizens were detained and held in immigration centres after attempting to enter the UK.

It was said they either had arrived in the country without visas, residence status or were travelling for job interviews.

Last month, the Home Office announced it had told border officials to stop transferring people detained without work visas to immigration centres while travel remains disrupted during the pandemic.

People should instead be granted bail “where appropriate”, allowing them to remain in the country under specific conditions until they can fly back to their country of origin.

Mr Della Vedova claimed he had been told by his UK counterpart that EU citizens “won’t be put in cells again”.

But the Italian warned such a “dramatic” shift in immigration rules “must be handled in a more flexible and pragmatic way”.

He said there could be a sudden surge of Italians seeking to move to the UK without the necessary visas as international travel resumes.

“In that case, of course, you are not facing an illegal migrant, you are facing an EU or Italian citizen who is not fully aware that something called Brexit happened.”

Mr Della Vedova hoped to visit London to start talks on new bilateral deals between the UK and Italy to complement the post-Brexit trade deal.

He said the UK-EU pact, signed on Christmas Eve last year, would have to be “fully implemented”.

But after Rome and London can look at securing deals on closer cooperation for defence, climate change, education, science, investment and law enforcement.

Crime fighting is of particular importance to Italy with the country still grappling with its long-running mafia woes.

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Federico Cafiero, the country’s national anti-mafia prosecutor, told the Guardian last month that data sharing with Britain will be “less effective” after Brexit and warned organised crime bosses could “exploit” weaknesses in international cooperation.

However, Mr Della Vedova said he was yet to see a Brexit hit to its law enforcement work with Britain.

He said crime-fighting efforts remain strong through Interpol and at a diplomatic level.

The Italian said it would also be possible to “maintain the high level of investment” in each other’s countries, as well as keeping “very strong ties” on international issues, including human rights issues in China.

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One of the issues Rome wants to resolve is the post-Brexit change in university fees for EU nationals in Britain.

Currently EU students starting a full university degree in 2021-22 in the UK, and arriving after December 2020, will have to pay higher tuition fees and are not edible for fee loans.

Mr Della Vedova said: “This is a problem for Italian students who cannot afford the high fees.

“I think at the end of the day it will be a problem also for the UK universities because the recruitment of students, researchers and professors among the Italian community was very successful for the Italians but very fruitful for the universities.”

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