If it had been an Italian election, there would have been British journalists in droves ready to laugh at the naïve and childish politics in Italy. What takes your breath away in the Brexit referendum are the lies and exaggerations from both camps…in the British press and in the speeches of its leaders. Some examples: the existence of a million and a half illegal immigrants will cause the collapse the National Health Service in two or three years; a promise of 350 million pounds weekly to this service because there will be no contribution to the EU; the restoration of national control will increase 10-fold the ability to stop suspected terrorists; the spectre of 700 crimes committed weekly by EU immigrants … and the best: there will be an invasion of Turkish immigrants if the United Kingdom does not leave the European Union.
Clearly, fears about immigration were one of the top issues among the voters. What the election also revealed were the deep divisions within Great Britain—between the generations, among different educational and socio-economic levels, and between geographic regions.
But what is likely to be the impact of Brexit on Italy? We don’t yet know, of course, particularly for the medium and long term. The immediate fall of the markets was expected and predictable. The European economy will probably be weaker for a time. For Italy, one of the countries with the lowest growth in Europe and one of the highest debts, Brexit is not good news. In the immediate future, Italy risks paying a higher price for Brexit.
On the export side, the United Kingdom is a major market for Italy. In 2015, the trade exchange was 5.9% higher than in 2014. If Great Britain had remained in the EU, Italian exports to that region were expected to grow at 5.5% in the 2017-2019 period. With Brexit, the flow will probably slow.
Certainly there will be many changes in the world of business and other aspects of life, but perhaps not all will be terrible. What makes people so uncomfortable is the uncertainty. Could some banks leave the central financial district of London? Could some automobile factories in Great Britain (Nissan, Honda, Toyota, BMW, General Motors plants) close and reopen in another EU member nation, perhaps to the East? What happens to the 300,000 Italian residents in the UK? What will be the future of research at British universities that are financed in part by the EU? Will the English raise customs barriers, a repercussion for products “made in Italy”?
What will be the domino effect, politically speaking, on other European Union countries? It is said that Brussels will be hard in the negotiations with the UK, in order to discourage other countries from leaving the EU. Could the financial scenario of the EU have an impact at the ballot box in Italy in October when at play will be constitutional reforms, the stability of the government, the future of the prime minister, and the sway of the legislature?
It’s important to avoid scaremongering and bold-faced lies in the press and in the speeches of European leaders at such a time of uncertainty.