In 2016 the number of Italians residing in the UK was 280.000, which goes up to 350.000 considering those who are still not officially resident. What attracts Italians to the UK despite its exit from the EU?

The exit of the UK from the EU is having important political consequences. The number of Italians moving to UK is, however, increasing. In 2016 the number of Italians residing in the UK was 280.000, which goes up to 350.000 considering those who are still not officially resident (source: AIRE). Despite Brexit, the exit of the UK from the EU decided through a referendum on June 23 2016, our compatriots who chose to make the UK the place in which they live and work has increased by 30.000. Why? What attracts Italians to the UK despite its exit from the EU?

THE SENSE OF UNCERTAINTY. We spoke to young Sicilians who have been living there for a few months or years now. They work in universities, start-ups, and big companies. In each one of them Brexit has awakened feelings of uncertainty. “The result of the Brexit referendum left me speechless and angry” says Maria Luisa Aliota, lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. “I have been residing in the UK for fifteen years, with a permanent job; my partner is a British citizen and my six-year-old son is growing up here. Yet, I didn’t get a chance to vote in the referendum”. For non-British citizens things might change with regard to health cover, pensions, rising prices on imported goods as well as the price of flights to and from Europe.

THE ROLE OF UNIVERSITIES. With regard to academia, the risk is that access to European resources and cooperation will be substantially reduced. Even though Maria Luisa says: “Universities are doing a great job in supporting those like me who are going through this transitional period with apprehension”. Fabio Giuffrida, a 26-year-old PhD student in Law at Queen Mary, University of London, feels the same way. “In my university most students are foreigners. I am not worried right now, I don’t think much will happen in the short term. Of course, Brexit unleashed huge social upheaval and it will be necessary to reevaluate at some point whether it is worth spending our lives in the UK.”

RISKS FOR START-UPS. Moreno Bonaventura is a young startupper who has been working for three years in the digital field in London. “The biggest American investment funds aiming towards Europe have always regarded London as their first step. As the bridge between the UK and the EU is gradually collapsing, it is easy to predict that the same funds will aim at Europe directly and avoid going through the UK. If Brexit means  reducing interaction and exchange between nations, the consequence will also be a reduction in terms of innovation. Whether this will really happen is hard to tell”.

MULTICULTURALISM AND CONSERVATISM. “If the British economy were to collapse, it would be no joke” says Angela Catania, from Gela, who is doing a PhD in archaeology at the University of Sheffield. “And I truly hope this does not happen”. Angela and her boyfriend Andrea Cavone, from Apulia and working as a legal advisor for a bank in the City, would like to live permanently in London one day. “I would like to do that, because it still remains one of the most culturally and socially vibrant places I know. Not long ago, I met on a bus an Italian young man who had just arrived to the City to work as a waiter; there was no fear in his eyes, just excitement”. Andrea, on the other hand, was not surprised by the outcome of the referendum. “It was a protest

vote, partly due to poverty and partly to conservatism which goes against a multicultural Britain. This is nothing new – it has happened in the past that people react with racism to migrants who, in their view, threaten how resources are shared”. At the moment, the UK retains the two faces that have always characterized it. One is conservative and afraid and it looks inward. The other one, the multicultural, vibrant and international face of London continues to look to the rest of the world. The snap election of June 8 2017, called by PM Theresa May, should have clarified the UK position on Brexit negotiations. What happened instead was a hung parliament, with no majority between Tories and Labour, that will have to make decisions on behalf of British and European citizens alike.

UK AND EU. ALWAYS A CONTROVERSIAL RELATIONSHIP. “The relationship between the UK and the EU,” says Salvatore Scellato, engineer at Google, “has always been a very special one with lots of exceptions. London remains a global metropolis where the whole world lives, dreams, worksand has fun. A stepping stone for careers and aspirations with a powerful symbol: mayor Sadiq Kahn, with his open and practical mindset. For the moment, my wife and I will stay here together with our baby boy, who was born here and who’s growing up surrounded by other children from everywhere in Europe”.