Rome – Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Thursday said the 27 member states of the European Union (EU) should stay united during the negotiations for the exit of Britain from the bloc.
Gentiloni made the call while addressing both houses of the Italian parliament ahead of an extraordinary meeting of the European Council scheduled for April 29, which would define the guidelines for Brexit.
He said “unity among the 27 EU countries is absolutely crucial, for both EU member states and Britain.”
After a majority of British citizens voted to leave the EU in a referendum held in June 2016, British Prime Minister Theresa May in March triggered Article 50 of the European Lisbon Treaty, the formal mechanism that allows a country to exit the bloc.
Talks to discuss the terms of the divorce are expected to start in the coming months and to last about two years.
In his address to the parliament, Gentiloni also stressed one of his government’s priorities in the negotiations will be safeguarding the status and interests of EU citizens permanently living in Britain, Italians included.
“It is our duty and our right to ask for our compatriots certain safeguards and administrative protection, which should be immediately enforceable, non-discriminatory, and based on a principle of reciprocity,’’ he told lawmakers.
According to data released by the Italian Consulate in London in 2016, approximately 600,000 Italians are permanently living in Britain, no fewer than 280,000 of them are recorded in the official Registry of Italians Resident Abroad.
Gentiloni also said that Italy would strongly compete in order for the country’s economic capital Milan to be chosen as new location for the European Medicines Agency, which is currently based in London.