#Brexit a view from an Italo-Australian

<> on June 24, 2016 in UNSPECIFIED, Unspecified.
NOLA – JUNE 25: Italian newspapers declaring about Brexit and UK leaving the European Union are displayed on June 25, 2016 in the town of Nola near Naples, Italy. The results from the historic EU referendum has been declared and the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. (Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images)

Sometime in the 80’s I went to the UK with my parents. Five years earlier I became and Australian citizen, and at that time there was non double citizenship. It was your own personal ‘leave’ statement. If I acquired a citizenship of another country, I relinquished the one I had. So I stopped being an Italian citizen and was an Australian one.

It was somewhat bemusing that while my parents, who remained Italian citizens went straight through the ‘EU’ door at Dover no question asked, I went to the ‘Non EU queue’ which took half an hour and got asked how long I was going to be in the UK, where was I staying etc. Especially considering I had to swear eternal allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II and her successors to become an Australian citizen.

But I thought that it was good. It was good that the UK was part of a union that recognises its place in Europe. I always knew that a large proportion of UK citizens never like it, and I felt that the UK didn’t really feel part of it, a reluctant member so it wouldn’t miss out.

As a non EU citizen, the UK referendum on whether to remain in the EU was interesting with the assurance that it wouldn’t impact me very much at all.  A bit like watching the EURO Football tournament.

I am no economist but I think the impact on Australia of brexit is somewhat overstated. Of course in the current election mode the press gallery commentariat is interpreting this as a possible boost for Turnbull, but I personally can’t see the average punter being swayed by it.  Remembering that a much more serious and real upheaval in the form of the GFC didn’t save the government that saved us from it.


Somewhat crude Italian cartoon by Altan. “Necessary to guarantee a future for you young people” A bitter observation on how the old UK citizens didn’t care about the possibilities the EU gave to the youth of Britain.


#Lexit.  The left wanting to leave the EU and an Australian parallel.


There is good reasons why left leaning people don’t like the  European Union and also wanted to leave initiating the #Lexit movement.  These are outlined by Matt Turner in his article I’m a left wing Brit, and I want us to leave the EU. Here’s why.   The main argument is that the EU is a globalist capitalist project, which disadvantage the working class.  Socialism was a product of Europe and the idea was the collectivisation of political power in the hands of the masses, but the EU model is the antithesis of this: centralising decision-taking in the hands of an unaccountable technocratic elite.  And as we saw with Greece more interested in saving banks than people’s welfare.

The issue here is that the left is wedged.  While the reason why the current EU model favours capital over people is a good argument, the main motivation for leaving the EU by most voters was dislike of non British people in the country and perhaps a perception that ‘Brussels was interfering’ with 50+ somehow thinking that leaving the EU would bring back the UK to the halcyon days before the Suez crisis.  So there was no altruistic socialist drive in the result.

There have been many sad examples in history where instead of turning their anger towards their capitalist exploiters,  these exploiters (with the aid of some media etc.) are able to deflect this anger towards other disadvantaged people.

A great explanation was given by Elizabeth King on a Facebook reply.  Entire communities in the UK have suffered generational poverty. A series of governments have removed public sector resources and job opportunities for these communities and privatised resources in the belief that ‘less taxes’ would benefit everyone (which it doesn’t)  Since 2006 there has been an influx of EU citizens from Eastern Bloc countries who are prepared to be exploited by working below the minimum wage, thus boosting profits but disadvantaging workers. In addition, these citizens legally have the right to access Britain’s social and health resources.

From the perspective of the (many) disenfranchised and impoverished British, this is threatening. They perceive that EU workers are taking their jobs and their services. Were all persons in the EU equally educated, this would not necessarily be a problem. But for a British person who did not complete their education and is unable to speak any language other than English and who has no money – there is no immediate benefit of being in the EU. They cannot simply relocate to Spain or France and work or start a business there. They will never be able to utilize the reciprocal health and social benefits of EU Citizenship. For the middle classes, EU Membership offers real and tangible benefits. For the millions of British people living in poverty – and living in communities destroyed by Thatcher-ism – there is no advantage. They are now competing with EU immigrants for employment and social services – and at a time when the Cameron Government has massively reduced the latter. The visible element of this equation are the EU immigrants themselves.

So we have here working class people who are disadvantaged by the economic rationalist policies of successive Conservative and Labour governments blaming the EU migrants for their plight, and older UK citizens who ‘want their country back’.  But they relinquished that country on the 3rd of May 1979, when they elected the Thatcher Government.

As John Harris writes in The Guardian

Most of all, Brexit is the consequence of the economic bargain struck in the early 1980s, whereby we waved goodbye to the security and certainties of the postwar settlement, and were given instead an economic model that has just about served the most populous parts of the country, while leaving too much of the rest to anxiously decline.

More on ‘Lexit’ – The Australian parallel

As I stated earlier I don’t really think that Brexit will have a significant impact on Australia despite Boris Johnson’s utterances that ‘Brexit would bring Britain and Australia together’, I think that ship sailed away long ago.

While very different, the EU UK referendum and the referendum we had about the republic in 1999 had one similarity.  The belief that it would be better for something to happen, or not to happen to get something better.

One of the factors (not the deciding one, but significant) that the republic referendum failed in 1999, was because many on the left didn’t like the Turnbull’s minimalist model.


They argued, with merit, that just replacing the Governor General with a President elected by parliament would be an opportunity lost.   If we were going for a republic, it had to be the right one.  If we went for such a major constitutional change we should review the constitution to make it more equitable etc.  So many voted against the republic.  The monarchist movement sensed this and in the last week their advertising emphasised voting no to “this republic”, implying that a model more to their preferences was likely to be put in the future.

Of course they knew very well that if the referendum was lost, any idea of a further referendum would be dead and buried.  And in fact this is what happened.  The talk of a republic is hardly heard now days.

On a similar note is the notion that exiting from the EU would facilitate Britain to be a more just and equitable society.  In the article I mentioned earlier Matt Turner writes:

The answer is not to cede power to the European Union. The answer is to become politicized and win a battle of ideas against that floppy haired Etonian through persuasion, media strategy (particularly digital + crowdfunding), in essence, a genuinely competent political strategy. Society in general, and millennials especially, are fleeing from an intellectually and morally bankrupt centre-ground. They’re looking for new answers to the world’s problems, and most of them have found answers in platforms offered by the likes of Jeremy Corbyn (whose platform, by the way, will be incredibly difficult to enact should we vote to remain). A Johnson victory in 2020 is by no means certain……

If we can unite the left around a strong policy platform, a scenario where Boris Johnson doesn’t get a whiff of power is entirely plausible. Furthermore, it is infinitely more likely of coming to pass than the reformation of the European Union, which I view as a naïve pipedream that can only end badly.

And in another article Jenny Jones writes:

I don’t feel like a winner, even though the majority of the country has voted for leaving the EU – something I have argued should happen for the last 40-odd years. I’m at Glastonbury, in the Green Fields, surrounded by people who feel hurt and disillusioned at the referendum outcome and the way that outcome was achieved.

For many of us, the referendum result was a rejection of power being taken into fewer and fewer hands. This crisis could be a fantastic opportunity to bring back control to a more localised level and assert more democratic control of our economy.

What many on the left fear is that we will be grabbing power back from Brussels bureaucrats in order to pass it over to the rich elites and globalised companies. That is what Farage, Boris and Gove want, but that is not what most voters want. With Cameron going, the Greens and the left now have an opportunity to argue for a very different vision of an independent Britain.

I hope we can now join together with the trade unions, the Corbyn supporters and the various social justice and environmental campaigns to push a positive vision of how an independent Britain could look. Grieving and anger have to happen, but then we have to join forces to create the better society we all dream of.

What I fear is that like the Australian republicans that voted against the republic in 1999 hoping to get a better one, and 17 year later they are still waiting, exiting the Euro for Britain will not create the ‘better society we all dream of’ or the left rallying to create a strategy for a more equitable UK.  This is because the main driver of the Brexit was not altruistic, but quite the opposite.  And because the isolationism and resentment were main factors in many people voting the legacy of this vote will be this trend.  If somehow this feeling switches to a push for am more equitable Britain great, but the signs are not encouraging.  In fact this referendum has stripped bare the inequities that have been created by the economic rationalist policies of the last three decades as explained earlier.

Beside that, I fail to see why Britain could not have pursued a more equitable society within the EU, considering that Britain has had some exemptions for some rulings etc.  And many points to the treatment of Greece, which is a good point.  But the issue with Greece wasn’t the EU as such, but the fact that it had the Euro as its currency (something the UK doesn’t have).

What about Italy?

People in Australia may be surprised, but many in Italy welcomed Brexit and praised the fact that a major nation decided to break away.

There is anti-EU sentiment in Italy as well again driven by immigration.

Italy: Coast Guards Rescue 1053 African Migrants in Palermo

PALERMO, ITALY – MAY 25: Aid workers assisted over 1,000 migrants off an Italian coast guard vessel which arrived in Palermo, on May 25, 2016. About 260 of the 1,053 migrants rescued were reportedly unaccompanied teenagers. The coast guard reported rescuing some 3,000 migrants in a single day on Tuesday, as the number of people attempting the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean reaches record levels. (Photo by Antonio Melita/Corbis via Getty Images)


Italy has rescues thousands of immigrants coming by boat in Africa, and as the first port of call has faced the brunt of the refugee wave.  However the EU has often done precious little to help Italy, leaving it to sort this problem by itself.

Earlier this year Austria was thinking to erect a wall between the border so refugees could not leave Italy.

The leader on the Northern League tweeted: “(UK) Free! Now it’s our turn”

A new party that has grown in popularity rapidly in the last few years due to the discontent with establish parties has been the Movimento 5 Stelle.  So much so that its candidate just won to become Major of Rome.

While its position is not to leave the EU, their position is that it needs reform, otherwise Italy also should have a referendum regarding its membership.

Some Italians may hail this result, but they forget that a significant number of voters who have voted brexit did that because they despise Southern Europeans and think of them as inferior.  But the fact that even in a foundation member such as Italy there is this anti-EU feeling shows that there is work to do if we want to salvage the European Project.

The future

What will happen next will be really interesting.  Of course I hope that the EU will see this as a major lesson and reform to be more accountable and democratic.  Moving away from a top-down system of policy initiation, The Commission is  unelected, and unaccountable to all those living in Europe and affected by its actions.

Or this result will bolster the xenophobic movements of the far right in Europe.  Maybe not actually winning elections but shifting the whole political spectrum further to the right.  Any idea of co-operation amongst European nations will dissipate in isolation and self serving interests.  And the experiment of an European Union will be seen as a brave experiment that lasted  about 70 years, a blimp in the history of a continent spanning millennia.

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