Brexit provokes a lot of feelings, both for the British and the EU citizens of London. In this article, Roar writer Elena Siniscalco tries to come to terms with her uncertain fate as an Italian in London.
I am a 21-year-old Italian student living in London. Why did I put these two words in italics? Well, because they’re key for my reflections here, and because they are connected to a third frightening word: BREXIT.
I was about seventeen when I decided that I had to study in London. I fell in love with this city the first time I visited, and always had the dream to experience it myself not as a tourist, but as a ‘Londoner’. And here I am, two years later, embarking on my final year of a degree at King’s.
Until now, nothing has gone wrong. I love my life in London. But looming in the background, there is an alarming concept: Brexit. It was there when we were not sure if the European students born after 1998 would still be able to apply for the Student Loan throughout the entire course of university, and the uncertainty remains. We have no assurance of how it is all going to be here, after Brexit happens.
I don’t really feel the repercussions of the ongoing and puzzling political process. Apart from a couple of comments received in a restaurant when speaking Italian to an Italian friend, and a security guard at Gatwick Airport who for some reason thought that an international student like me surely had something to declare (he kept me there for a solid 20 minutes), my life in London is as usual, busy and stimulating. But what do all the other Italians living in London think? After all, there are a lot of us here.
La Repubblica, one of the leading newspapers in Italy, has an entire section dedicated to London. Not Paris, not Berlin, not any other city, but London. The section offers the personal accounts of several Italians in London, and the leitmotif was mixed feelings.
Some feel grateful for their lives in the UK. According to them, there are many more opportunities here than in Italy, the system is fair and unbiased and the system is more merit-based than it is in Italy. One says that he will fight with all his might to stay in a country “that has welcomed him as a son”.
Others claim that they feel European above anything and that because of Brexit they’ve left the UK. Others have decided to remain, haunted by bitter feelings; “There was a time I used to love breakfast with a London view. Now I dream about breakfast with a sea view on Liguria”.
What to conclude from this? Firstly, that there is a common denominator when Italians speak about Brexit: uncertainty. We still don’t know what the actual day-to-day implications will be for us Italians living in London. Another shared feeling is a sense of betrayal, of uneasiness with the fact that many of us feel like a fundamental part of the EU and do not want to associate with a country that has turned its back to a truly inspiring political project. I don’t know what Brexit will actually mean for my life here, but there is something I know;
As part of a population who has been leaving and coming back to its country for centuries and has roots almost everywhere in the world, I strongly believe in the congenital power of merging, exchanging, and sharing.
If London and, more broadly the UK will still be able to do these three things after Brexit, remains to be seen.