‘UK is now a less desirable place to live and work’. Italophiles and their take on Brexit


We have asked some famous ‘Italophiles’ and Italians living in the UK their opinion on the referendum result.

John Dickie, professor of Italian studies at University College. We
‘Brexit is, exactly as the much-maligned ‘experts’ said during the campaign, a hugely dangerous economic, political and constitutional leap in the dark. We have years of uncertainty and turmoil ahead of us’.

James Brandburne, Director of Museum of Brera in Milan. I believe that the Brexit is a step backwards, and betrays a profound misunderstanding of what democratic process should be.  To decide such issues by referendum, instead of in parliament, is false democracy, and brings to a complex situation the logic of the lynch mob. I am committed to living and working in Italy, and will soon be looking to apply for an Italian passport.

Antonio Guarino, Presidente AISUK (Association of Italian Scientists in the UK). This is a very sad moment for the scientific community in the United Kingdom. Science is a collective enterprise. In science we do not recognize national borders: we work in teams, together, independently of nationality. Policies that curb researchers’ mobility are a barrier to scientific progress. Our work, as scientists in the UK, may be affected by the referendum outcome very soon. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty foresees a two-year period for negotiations between the UK and all other member states. For this reason, our immigration status should not immediately change (unless there is a unilateral action from the British government). Nevertheless, the entire situation has already changed. The UK is now a less desirable place to live and work. There is a lot of uncertainty, and this may make it difficult to attract new researchers from abroad. Scientists who already work here may well decide to move to other countries, since the future quality of our academic and research centres, which is of course related to the resources we can count on, is now at stake. To give but one example, in the UK we have obtained plenty of funds from the ERC, the European Research Council. Hopefully, we will still be able to apply for more funds in the immediate future, but later this type of funding will have to be renegotiated with the European Union. Scientific research has long horizons, and an unstable, uncertain situation is not what we need. Similarly, our ability to attract top students is now a question mark. Doctoral students have a 3-5 year horizon, and they will be more doubtful of the future scientific value of our institutions. All Italian researchers in the United Kingdom have greatly contributed, together with colleagues of all nationalities, to the outstanding performance of the scientific institutions in this country. Of course, we are now very concerned, but we know that scientific progress is stronger than populism.

Mary Beard, academic and writer. I am hugely disappointed by the vote. Not only is it economic folly, it is taking Britain backward not forwards in many ways. We are turning our back on the best of a European project.

Andrea Biondi, professor at King’s College. The long and winding road. This is what now confronts the UK and the other 27 EU member states. An intricate process of re-negotiations, of disentangling Britain position from numerous international agreements signed under the EU umbrella, some very  complex calculations on how to redistribute EU funding for regions, cows and research.  And a process which will have an impact on many personal lives, on career choices, on the kind of education future generations are going to get. Still as the song goes the long and winding road that leads to your door will never disappear. In the coming months (years?), I am sure, ingenious solutions will be proposed to accommodate the new UK position. It remains however to be seen if there is will –on the other side – to open that door.








John Dickie

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