Do EU Like? An Italian Take on the Brexit Referendum

Not sure I am entitled to write about Brexit with so many other experts in the field, and I am not even British. Still, I am European, and also human. And Kennedy called himself “Berliner”, then Obama just treated Britons as beggars, so I’m sure I can’t do that bad. Besides it’s quite simple: Brexit means Britain’s Exit ...

Ok, my copywriter's ear detects here a bit of bias on voter's choice, like an emergency exit signal, why should it flash if everything is ok? What if they gave it a different snappy name like BRemain? Or EUlike? Would it then quench the anxiety of EU doubters? Possibly not. The very idea of a referendum implies a crisis communication instance, something leaked out of control of the experts supposed to run smoothly our decently selfish lives, a moment of deepening, jerking away the swift gliding of fingers across the surfaces of our ultraflat touchscreens, these few rare moments in which the captain's voice thinks it safe to pass over his high command to the passengers providing them with a safety jackets. But I’m being dramatic.

The referendum is a most powerful instrument of democracy, so I shall stick to the matter. Without much further ado, here is the simple choice presented to English voters on next 23rd of June:

Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?

To be or not to be European? How lovely the English faith in the strength of direct language. Why do I find it so moving? Here the choice presented to Italian voters on our last referendum:

Want you that be abrogated the article 6 paragraph 17, third period of legislative decree 3 April 2006, n 152, "regulation on environmental matters" as supplemented by paragraph 239  of article 1 of the law 28 December 2008 "disposition for the formation of annual balance and multiannual" limited to the following words: "for the last of ..."   

Ok stop. No reader deserves that. Just believe me when I say that it doesn’t get any clearer.

Anglophilia has some good points in my country. So, speaking as an Italian/European, I could pray Britons to stay with "us", inviting them to try harder to infect us. We'll cook for them. But what if things work the other way around? More honestly I could reformulate Brexit—Should UK prolong a trade pact with Italians regulators?

This suggests that a simple question does not imply simple reasoning, let alone simple answers. Beyond that “to be or not to be European” seems not the only question coming with the Brexit vote.

Here another hot one: Who can vote? That means: why those Britons, who left the home country more than 15 years ago, some of them with stronger European interest that those living in UK, are not entitled to express anymore their political voice as English people. Protests are arising all over the www, quite touchy about free expression, the Britons.

On the other hand, many who could vote predictably will not exercise their right. The disaffection for this primary democratic instrument grows all over the so-called democratic world, mostly among the younger generations, the so-called future ones, and not least in the UK.

So an even more basic dilemma stands up: To vote or not to vote?

Just a few days ago in my lovely home country, the higher political representatives invited lovely voters not to waste their lovely time in participating in the aforementioned referendum about oil exploitation around our lovely shores by the big lovely oil industry. Without even plunging into the technical issues raised by this greasy referendum, a sane democratic instinct should reckon that when politicians prompt for a disregard of democracy, they must have greasy reasons. This didn't seem to ring any bells for Italian citizens' majority. The referendum did not reach the threshold necessary to validate the 84% of votes against oil company interests.

Though the UK top representative is a smiling fairy Queen with a diamond-encrusted crown and a hundred even more catchy hats, when well-read people think about Democracy they think first about a long ago perished Greece and then of a still-surviving defense of free opinion largely embodied by English culture. English spirit has proven a flexible tendency to bow before common sense prior to other, thus managing to spare to their monarchs the leap through guillotines and fascism.

As told the Brits are quite fond of free expression—for however arguable democracy may be, who would want to renounce to the very right of arguing? Quite sportingly, English censors end up engulfing their anarchist counterpart. The Queen's smile was never really twisted before Banksy's or Sid Vicious's impudence, and Banksy still has time to become Sir.

But then why is this disaffection for voting conquering the UK as much as other countries?

This trend foreruns any more specific preference for the colours or shapes of politics, and while experts argue over the causes and could also find some answers before of the last voters die out, I would venture that “wellness” widened our choice menu much more than our choice hunger. Most simply, we’re already choosing among thousands of fast offers to be distracted by such a stale system as “polls consultation”. Put even more simply, consumerism consumed our free will, having us appreciating discounted goods more than free ones.

A linear statement graffitied on one Berlin bridge warns us: You cannot be apolitical, you can just accept politics passively. And come to that, the crowd in Berlin streets against TTP suggests that even indifference is not a durable fashion, even among rich countries.

Now we could hope that this abstention-fever wanes a bit for a referendum (Italy aside), being such a direct say to be more akin to the Youtube like/dislike than normal political consultations. So as Italian, European and even human, I feel safe in suggesting this: VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!

A some good democratic people in Berlin have set up this friendly website that, far from giving advice on what to vote for, simply (and strongly) invites you to Vote and illustrates the few easy steps involved. Very simple indeed, compared with other countries: in fact, if you have your passport and your National Insurance number, you can both vote by post (provided the mailing time necessary for the vote to be acquired) and by proxy (if you have someone to whom to delegate your vote). But read more and better detail at

But let's come back to the main question: EU or not EU? Despite my studies in contemporary history stuffed with economics and politics, I don't feel serious enough to join the experts in their smart analysis, like those of the Guardian, who warn that once out of the EU British soccer players will be less free to move throughout European teams. No joke. Same Guardian expert proceeds to demonstrate that since the UK joined the EU in 1975 its economy has overcome that of Germany, France and Italy. But how could I endorse them without feeling in conflict with the expert of FT arguing exactly the opposite, and, above all, without feeling that the advantage of a union should not be calculated by singling out the growth of one member at the expense of other members of the same union?

I somehow got the idea that you could roughly divide the many economic theories into two big areas: on one side the Free Market believer, on the other the Regulated one. This line at one point seemed embodied by the Berlin Wall and fell apart with the same. But no, the champion of free market turns out to be over-fond of agreement, pacts, protectionism, closed groups, big families system, and when you come to agreements, the big members weigh more than the small ones. And find me a single group that put something like Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a prerequisite to its members—(that has no legal obligation even for the UN which produced that.

I flicked through some Britons' comments as they questioned why other countries don’t feel the same need to ask their peoples if they feel at ease in the EU. I have an inkling about my country on this concern: our politicians are not so naïve to ask people what they want. Our democracy is much more a dress than a habit. But apart from the UK which inadvertently called its people to weigh in, the EU is put to discussion throughout Europe, in the poorest and in the richest countries. The two most powerful chiefs of the democratic world, great kissers-up-to of Ms. Merkel, have betrayed quite a twist in their sobriety. Mr. Obama warned the UK not to put themselves at the end of the queue, in doing so picturing European countries like a row of beggars out of the castle and consequently being accused of blackmailing the UK as the first in a queue of insults. Economist Mario Draghi showed off even more royal annoyance blurring his splendid aplomb: I cannot believe that English could choose the Brexit.

Still, when a person managing the power—in this case, power over around a billion people—cannot conceive that some of these people might not agree with him, or might even renounce His regency over them, expressing his dismay at this sole idea, well a democratic instinct should feel that something is rotten in the state of Democracy.

By Paolo Tacchini
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