Two months after a narrow majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union, Andrea Mammone, an Italian expat living in London, writes in the Boston Review about how the climate has changed for foreigners. Apart from racist attacks against "foreign-looking" people, the UK has also witnessed distressing government rhetoric about the immigration status of longtime residents from other countries. Here's an excerpt:
Since the vote, I have found myself contemplating what for me—a seasoned émigré—is a quite uncustomary question: I cannot help but wonder, “Do they really want me here?” In this I finally have an inkling of how refugees must feel, constantly barraged by the likes of Marine Le Pen and Viktor Orbán, Donald Trump and Geert Wilders, being told over and over you are not wanted here, you are a potential subversive, a radical Islamist, a welfare-state parasite—in sum, you are not and will never be “us.” The experience contains echoes of when some Western governments of the early 1900s fretted about “alien immigration”—by which they meant Eastern European Jews—and of course the ensuing fascists with their scapegoating of Slavs, Roma, and, once more, of Jews. After studying the history of European far-right and nationalist politics for about a decade, I find that I am now living it...
My own job sector, education, is now in a state of absolute confusion. Before the vote, leading conservative Eurosceptic Daniel Hannan had fantasized wildly about a post-Brexit utopia in which British schools would thrive: “Our universities [will be] flourishing, taking the world’s brightest students and charging accordingly. Their revenues are rising, while they continue to collaborate with research centers in Europe and around the world.” So far the reality has, once more, been very different. As the Times Higher Education reported on June 29, “UK academics could face dwindling chances of winning European research grants following the vote to leave the European Union . . . with some European researchers saying that they would now no longer launch joint applications” for the EU Horizon 2020 funding program (worth €70 billion). An online survey of 167 scientists showed that 51 “had general concerns about the future of science in the UK, 33 said they were planning to leave the country, 20 cited worries about xenophobia, 16 said they had encountered disruption in Horizon 2020 applications and nine were foreign scientists who had decided not to take up UK job offers.” Considering that the Leave campaign’s promises of increased funding for the National Health Services proved ludicrously mendacious, one can safely anticipate that lost EU education funding will never be replaced by any post-Brexit government. Unsurprisingly some of my European/EU colleagues are already receiving job offers from the best European institutions and, I am sure, North American universities will soon follow. The exodus is likely to include British scholars worried about the climate of anti-intellectualism following Brexit, setting up the potential for a British brain drain.
Image via Boston Review.