Brexit 'own goal,' David Petrie tells PWA
ROME -- The January conference for the Professional Women’s Association (PWA) was held in the luxurious Grand Hotel Palace Wednesday with a talk from Professor David Petrie on the implications of Brexit on expats living in Italy and followed by a swanky networking cocktail mixer.
Introduced by President Valerie Baxter and Programming Director Christine Sterpetti, the title of the conference was ‘Brexit: An empty chair,’ referring to the uncertainty surrounding Europe’s future and indeed the future of Britain itself once negotiations begin. Prof. Petrie teaches at the University of Verona and is President of the Association of Foreign Lecturers in Italy, fighting for the rights of non-Italian lecturers (‘lettori’) discriminated against within Italian universities.
The speech began by outlining that the referendum in Britain, ‘a mistake’ from David Cameron according to Petrie, was not actually based entirely on the EU, but on the controversial topic of immigration. A more human issue. The professor said that Europe “is a policy vacuum,” but the one subject which is able to inspire and mobilise people is in fact immigration -- and Brexit is just one example of this.
Taking a rather philosophical approach on the matter, Prof. Petrie discussed the status of man as a biological being or a political being, questioning “what makes someone an immigrant” and indeed, “what do we do with illegal ‘excomunitarios.’”
In short, according to Petrie, each European nation is wrapped up in their own economic interests, quoting Italian jurist Giorgio Agamben in saying, “Europe’s so-called constitution is illegitimate (…) An institution without a constitution cannot follow a genuine policy and each European state continues acting according to its egoistic interest.”
Does this mean Brexit was the right decision? The professor hesitated, then admitted he would have voted against, quickly adding that, nevertheless, “it is where we are now.”
Turning to developmens on the struggle of the lettori, Petrie discussed the issue of labour mobility. Essentially, if people can’t move freely and receive the same opportunities in other countries, which is the main fear for expats following Brexit, then “Europe won’t be much more than nice idea,” said the speaker, quoting Helene Cooper from The Wall Street Journal.
Drawing the speech to a close, Petrie quoted Albert Camus on football, stating, “The rules of football are simple enough…what complicates it is the existence of the other side.”
“For Brexit,” the professor concluded, “the other side is 27 other member states. Add to this the threat coming from within the four territories of the United Kingdom -- one should never discount the possibility of an own goal, or several.”
President Baxter thanked the speaker for his insightful words and then announced the commencement of the cocktail mixer, encouraging PWA members to join her in the women’s march for equal rights in the Eternal City Saturday morning.