Come on England!

Fourteen years ago, we moved from France to England. My partner and I had both found postdoctoral research positions at the University of Liverpool. We arrived with our one and half year old daughter and immediately felt welcome. After our first Christmas holidays on the continent, coming back to what we were not yet calling “home” , we found presents for us from the next flat neighbour, whom we had barely met. The two years became five. We progressed in our respective academic careers and we made the choice to stay here. The five years became fourteen. Two more children, born in Liverpool. Until these last few weeks, I have always felt welcome.

But now things are different because there is a nationwide debate about getting rid of us, European immigrants. Some will object and say that Brexit is not really about that, but whatever their objections, this is most definitely how it feels. This is how it feels not just because of the xenophobia which is rife through most of the Brexit campaign, but also because for us, the 3M of EU nationals who live in the UK (and probably the 1.2M UK nationals living in the EU), Europe is not an undemocratic and distant abstraction, it is us: we are European. As EU nationals, we vote in local elections in the UK. As EU nationals, we have the right to work and live here. We are Europeans. Therefore, as Europe is under attack in the country where we live our happy lives and where we have made so many wonderful friends, we feel under attack.

On Friday, I received the following message from a German colleague at another University:

Hi Raphael
I wonder what you are doing in ‘preparation’ to the seemingly increasing likelihood that there will be a Brexit?
Have you or Violaine applied for permanent residency? What about UK citizenship?
I am getting a bit nervous…
Best wishes

In truth, we have done nothing, partly because if the worse comes to the worse, there will hopefully still be some time to get our affairs in order, and partly because we don’t want to believe that this will really happen. On Twitter, François Guesnet who is teaching Jewish history in London puts it this way, in an hommage to the British sense of humour,

but, humour apart,

Like him, I am very concerned but also, rightly, powerless. I do not have (and do not claim) the right to vote. This is a decision for you, my UK friends, to make. I – and many others – will be cheering from the tribunes, and, like the supporters of the EURO 2016, we will be waiting anxiously for the final score.



  1. Reblogged this on Symptoms Of The Universe and commented:
    I’m reblogging this post by Raphaël Lévy on the EU referendum because it deserves to be shared as much as possible.

    “Therefore, as Europe is under attack in the country where we live our happy lives and where we have made so many wonderful friends, we feel under attack”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am Raphael’s father.
    Fourteen years ago when Raphael, Violaine and their baby were installed at Liverpool I was a little sad. This new young family moved far from our house.
    Fourteen years later, I am happy to go very often to Liverpool. This country is so close and so different from ours. It is very exciting to discover a different culture and this happy family who enjoys the best things of both cultures and way of life, English and French. It seems to me that this mixture is a great hope for peace and the future for all EU countries.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Why are you worried about your job in Britain if they vote to leave? There will be a mechanism for foreigners to work there most likely and especially for professors, just like there is in North America and Japan. I left my country 12 years ago and the places where I worked don’t have an EU like relationship with my country. I’ve managed to survive and nobody has yet fired me due to my lack of citizenship or permanent residency. At least not yet.


    1. Hi anonymous. I am not immediately worried about my job and right to work. I don’t fear losing on the 24th of June those rights if Leave wins. If I must speak of very material considerations, I would say that the direct concerns would be that funding for research will be affected both through lack/diminished access to EU funding, an economic downturn which will impact HE as well as the rest of the economy, etc. My main concern is at more emotional and political level. I feel European and therefore I feel under attack. I am worried about the direction that this country (and unfortunately others too) is taking: a direction towards more nationalism, suspicion and hatred.


      1. Okay, I see your point. But I think this feeling of ‘European’ is really prevalent in the place where we spend most of our lives: university campuses. In fact, you interact with so many people here, that forget about being European, I feel like a World citizen. I have great friends and colleagues from every continent.

        But I also grew up in a sort of poor immigrant family, and worked in factories with Africans and Turks in the early 00s, and lived in a really shady part of a major city for a while, so I know those conditions and thoughts of togetherness don’t exist for the majority of people outside of university. In reality, people are tribalist and sort of racist, especially if they are worried about their economic situation, and an English person in university is not representative of their community. And if you push people too far with inclusiveness and moral arguments, there will be pushback. I’ll probably never feel like a ‘native’ of my country of citizenship; especially since I left 12 years ago. Sorry to tell you this, but there will probably not be a strong European identity until aliens come and start trying to kill us, forcing us to unite. But at least on the brightside, I think the vote will be to stay this time around.

        (By the way: good blog. Started reading it after learning about stripy nanoparticles, but almost never comment since I’m in a different research area.)


  4. As an English man, once lucky enough to have worked with Raphael in Liverpool, I am very sad and a little shocked to read this blog. In all my years working in London and Liverpool, the harmony that existed between many of my European (including British) colleagues was part of the reason why I like working in Research. I for one don’t want to see reverse development in our society, and will definitely be voting ‘In’ thanks to my Proxy vote.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There are bad things about being, feeling European as well: finky bureaucrats and women’s platform shoes, to quickly come up with two.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.