At the end of a meeting with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Alfano said in a statement: “We greatly appreciate the work carried out up to now by Michel Barnier, who has made it possible to obtain excellent results while maintaining a strong cohesion among the 27 EU Member Countries.
“Italy believes that it is essential to unambiguously and tangibly protect the acquired rights of EU citizens in the UK and of British citizens in the EU.”
He added: “Special attention should be paid to the more vulnerable categories such as, for example, those who must retrace their residence prior to accession and those who have problems with accessing online services.”
As the European Union discusses its strategy amid Britain’s exit from the bloc, Mr Alfano also voiced concerns about the future movement of EU citizens, as well as negotiations on trade and security.
He said: “In relation to London’s future relations with the EU, in addition to a sound partnership on the economic and security front, we hope that also the movement of people will be kept as open as possible.
“As for trade, we must design a broad-scope and ambitious free trade agreement without however compromising the integrity of the Single Market.
Mr Alfano added: “While, on the front of security, we believe it is advisable to maintain a close operational cooperation.”
The comments from Italy’s foreign minister come after the draft Brexit agreement struck between Britain and the EU on Monday was missing “Article 32”, which in previous drafts regulated the free movement of British citizens living in Europe after Brexit.
The entire article was missing from the document, which goes straight from Article 31 to Article 33.
MEPs from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru have written to Brexit Secretary David Davis for clarification about the missing article, while citizens’ group British in Europe said the document failed to provide them with “legal certainty”.
A copy of the letter sent to Mr Davis seen by the Independent said: “As UK MEPs we are deeply worried about what will happen to British citizens living in EU27 member states once we leave the EU.
“Up until today, Article 32 of the draft withdrawal agreement stated that the freedom of movement rights of UK citizens and their families will cease to exist. However we noticed that Article 32 has suddenly vanished from the latest text!
“We would like clarification of what this removal of Article 32 means. Will UK citizens who already live in the EU27 after the end of the transition period be able to continue to move freely across the member states?”
It is understood that Brexit negotiators will discuss the issue of further free movement in upcoming talks on the future trade between Britain and the EU, which are likely to begin in April.
In a speech at Mansion House in London in early March, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The approach I have set out would: implement the referendum result, provide an enduring solution, protect our security & prosperity, helps us build the kind of country we want to be and bring our country together by commanding the confidence of those who voted Leave & Remain.”
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.)