The language of Brexit: shock waves

dott. Jemma Prior, English lecturer at unibz

by Vicky Rabensteiner*

How language can affect decisions: Brexit talked always about “exit”, and the Remain camp, as it was called, was always in a weaker position as it was seen as the “against”. A talk with Jemma Prior, English lecturer of unibz.

The UK rejected staying in the European Union – how do you judge the Brexit?

I am devastated. The unthinkable has come true and the UK has made the biggest political decision in a generation based predominantly on anti-immigrant rhetoric. And to think there is absolutely no plan as to what will happen next! I’m still in shock.

The whole campaign was known as a referendum on Brexit – therefore implying to leave the Union. Do you think that influenced the voters?

Most definitely. My job is language and I understand how words can affect how people see and interact with the world. The whole campaign was certainly skewed because the “yes” vote, for many the positive vote, was for Brexit. The Remain camp, as it was called, was always in a weaker position as it was seen as the “against”, which is truly ridiculous.

You decided to work on the continent – how do you see the Brexit influencing the job market?

Well, it’s very difficult to tell as it’s unclear what will happen next. It is likely EU nationals will have to have a work permit and possibly visa to stay in the UK and vice versa for British people in EU countries. This will have a huge negative impact on one of the main principles of the EU – freedom of mobility. I don’t know whether it will affect people already living and working in the UK and British people in EU countries, but it will certainly cause problems for the young generation who would want to enjoy the privileges I and many many others have enjoyed. Did you know London is the third biggest “Italian” city after Rome and Milan? There are over half a million Italians living and working in London. Whatever happens, it’s going to have a negative impact.

Will the Brexit change your life-style further on?

No, it’s not going to have much of an impact on me as I finally got my Italian citizenship in March so I am fine here in Italy and of course am also a European citizen. I now have dual nationality so I will also be ok in the UK. In the short term, it’ll make going back to the UK cheaper for me, which selfishly is a positive thing! One area where it might have an impact is pensions – I really don’t know what will happen if I decide to retire in the UK and I have been paying into INPS for so long. But that’s a long way in the future….

You work in the university – with the Brexit European students will pay for university education in England double as much as before – how will this influence the university scene in England?

I think I read that 20% of students at British universities are EU students, either there on Erasmus exchanges or as regular students. Obviously if they have to pay the fees of non-EU citizens, British universities will be less appealing for them. This will lead to fewer EU students and thus less income for British universities which are already struggling with budget cuts. Moreover, it will deprive British universities of the benefits that come from having such a diverse student body – the cultural aspects, the social aspects of course but also the professional aspects – so many EU students end up remaining in the UK working in every imaginable sector including at the universities themselves in research and teaching.

The media talk about shock waves around the global markets – what is your personal view on this?

Well, the pound was at $1.50 at 10.00 last night and had dropped to $1.33 by 6.00 this morning and that was its biggest fall in 30 years – and that was before the stock markets had even opened! We’re all in for a rough ride thanks to the majority of British people believing the demagoguery of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson.

*unibz Press Office