"PORTO VIRO (Rovigo) - 'It's a pity - È un peccato - I love working with the Italians, I love Italy. I just hope this Ssuff about the Grimsby refinery is just a one-off'. Brian has just got back from the oil rig in the Adriatic where one hundred Brits, along with two hundred Italian and foreign colleagues, are working cheek by jowl on a regasifier that will provide 10% of our country with methane. He doesn't want to talk, as he walks out from the Porto Viro base, guarded like a barracks, where another one hundred employees work, mostly from Exxon Mobil: British, American, Norwegian, Italian...But the news of those walkouts against the "Italians" arrive like a bad omen. The ghost of a sour story that may turn up here as well. Which is why many of them clock out with their heads down, without uttering a word, sidestepping the questions. "I haven't read the papers, I haven't a clue", says another British worker as he walks away, looking down. "I'm not qualified to speak", mumbles yet another as he vanishes into the thick cloak of fog around the base. They seem to have a hunch that the mood is changing amongst the locals.
"In Italy it's a mess - protests Melchiorre Vidali, a bricklayer, working on the naval dockyards 200 metres away - I don't mind the English or the French, but if they reject us, then we'll have to do the same". Luigi Tessarin, owner of the Taglio di Po hotel that hosts half a dozen technicians from the UK is concerned. "The English want to grab hold of their cake- he utters- but if that's the way they want to play, then we'll send them home too". [Full translation here.]
exactly the same
And, as the Repubblica article reminds us, it's not as though there aren't plenty of Britons taking advantage of EU labour laws themselves. Heck, this has been going on for a long time: remember Auf Wiedersehen Pet? To repeat: freedom of movement and labour has been one of the great EU achievements. There may be rocky moments and it may have unfortunate consequences for some, but it is, nonetheless, a Very Good Thing.