An Italian friend came to visit for a long weekend. We went to the 40th birthday party of a common Birmingham-based German friend. Around the dinner table of the French-ish restaurant there were twenty people from thirteen different countries. I met my Italian friend in 2001 on the very first day I set foot in the UK to study for a PhD: we were introduced by our shared director of studies and we ended up sharing an office and numerous meals for a few years until she moved back to Italy. She is by far the most travelled and cosmopolitan-minded person I know, so much that I have given up on keeping track of her movements and stopped asking which team she supports at international sports events. All this to explain why it rang an alarm bells when between main and dessert she rather casually said: “it would be so much better if the UK were to leave the EU”*. Her argument is that the UK systematically undermines any attempts to bring closer cooperation between member states and uses its economic and political leverage to negotiate special conditions in the EU and this in turn creates tensions that reverberate to other states. I can see where she is coming from and, coming from an outsider, a bird’s eye view makes sense. But, as one of 3 million insiders who risks being turned into outsiders, a bird’s eye view doesn’t feel like an option right now.
*She later added she was speaking “half-jokingly”.