The view from Italy: How Brexit is viewed on the streets of Rome

From calls for Italy to quit the EU to worries about Brexit’s impact on ordinary people, Italians share their opinions.

Retired government employee Daniela Boni says the EU 'doesn't help us, it just imposes rules' [Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]
Retired government employee Daniela Boni says the EU 'doesn't help us, it just imposes rules' [Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]

Rome, Italy – Italy and the United Kingdom have a long history of close economic, cultural and diplomatic ties.

Italians have migrated to the UK for decades. In recent years, many young Italians have moved to the UK to study and work.

Italians are the fifth-largest group of foreign nationals who reside in the UK, a community of almost 300,000 people including large numbers in Scotland, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, in 2016, the Italian consulate in London estimated the number of Italians actually present in the country to be double that.

Five percent of Italy’s exports go to the UK, including key sectors like agri-food.

Al Jazeera spoke to Italians – and one Russian – in Rome about how they feel about Brexit and their own country’s European Union membership.

‘Italy should leave the European Union as well’

Daniela Boni, 69, retired bank and government employee

“I think Italy should leave the European Union as well. I support Brexit, and I think [the UK] did well by keeping out of the Eurozone. We should look after our own borders and our own affairs.

“I don’t love these EU policies. The EU doesn’t help us, it just imposes rules, and that’s not good. I think the people of each nation are nationalists, they think about their own interests. In the end, it doesn’t feel like this Europe has ever really taken off. Yes, it might have maintained peace, but at what cost? And I don’t even know if there really is peace.”

‘Europe as an idea is good’

Valentina Colacelli, 39, Italian literature teacher

Valentina Colacelli is worried about rising populism in Europe [Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]

“The referendum result is clear, the British people have chosen. Political and economic consequences are evident, especially for economic migrants who went there to work. I have many friends who went to Britain for work. They found opportunities there they couldn’t find here in Italy.

“[Brexit] is just part of a trend that can be seen in other European countries as well. As for the Italian political climate at the moment, I don’t feel represented by what has been happening here over the past months. I’m thinking about other European countries in similar, ‘reactionary’ situations, like Hungary. I distance myself from that, from the walls [they are] erecting.

“It’s obvious there are things that need to be changed in Europe. Europe as an idea is good, but the problem is how that idea is put into practice, even by the [citizens themselves]. Being part of Europe should mean more than going to France without bringing a passport. It should be more cosmopolitan, there should be more equality both in terms of opportunities and from an economic perspective, but also of citizenship.”

‘Brexit won’t affect those with good connections and money’

Alessandro Di Luna, 28, student

Student Alessandro Di Luna is worried about the impact on ordinary people [Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]

“I don’t think [Brexit] is having a particularly positive impact from both an economic and social perspective. I don’t agree with the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

“For many people who want to try and get some work experience in the UK, it will be more difficult to get some kind of stay permit. There will be limits put on migration, which has always existed and has always worked. We talk a lot about migration these days.

“From a social perspective, and of advancing the development of a community that is international, I think [Brexit] has done a lot of damage.

“I went to the UK on holiday and for an internship. Brexit won’t affect those with good connections and money, but those who are looking to build a new life.”

‘I am opposed to Europe, so I understand people want to leave it’

Matteo Cassarri, 27, restaurant manager

Restaurant manager Matteo Cassarri believes Brexit is a good idea [Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]

“I lived in England for five years. Migration is very important for them, so is trade with the EU. They are a lot more dependent [on that] than we might think.

“I was in London for two years and in Birmingham for three and a half, working as a restaurant manager for a British company. I decided to come back because I was very young when I left, and I felt like I’d been away for too long. I would have gone back to England, but right now with everything that’s going on, I am a bit cautious. 

“On a personal level, it was a blow for me. But I am opposed to Europe, so I understand people want to leave it. I think there’s too much centralisation of power. I am against the idea of a few people controlling the majority. 

“I am in favour of freedom of movement. I am not against immigration or globalisation. I think we should maintain our traditions, that migration should be regulated under many aspects.

“A ‘Brexit’ for Italy? If you do it to close borders, then it becomes something racist and I would be completely against that.”

‘A closed country is a healthier country’

Tania Liakhava, 27, hairdresser from Russia

Russian Tania Liakhava supports freedom of movement but backs Brexit [Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]

“[Britain] is doing the right thing. A closed country is a healthier country. Europe brought money, business, but for us regular people, I don’t think it has been very positive. For example the Euro. I come from Moscow and I can tell you the Euro has wrecked many countries. 

“Of course I am all for freedom of movement. I think each person should be able to choose where they want to live, it’s a personal choice. If your dream is going to London, you should do it. But there should also be a route to gaining citizenship.

‘I don’t think the UK will leave the EU in the end’

Angelo Grassi, 54, manager in automotive industry

Angelo Grassi says migrants are essential for the car industry and other businesses [Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]

“I don’t think the UK will leave the EU in the end. 

“[As for the referendum], unfortunately, we also voted for the wrong government [at the last elections]. 

“I work in the automotive industry. Without migrants, we would close shop. My sector, in particular, will face a crisis because of Brexit. The strongest, driving market is the German one and it will be the one most affected. Here in Italy, with the state our economy is in, it can hardly get worse.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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