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Old Sep 18th 2017, 11:00 am   #1
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Florence split as Theresa May finds room for her view on Brexit

Tuscan city’s commercial and cultural ties with the UK are now at risk

YESTERDAY by James Politi in Florence

Julia Holloway, the 80-year old custodian of the English cemetery in Florence, was far from impressed when she heard that Theresa May would deliver her big Brexit speech this week in the Tuscan capital.

“I cannot tell you how many Florentines still resent that they were bankrupted by an English king,” she said in an interview, referring to the thousands of gold florins in unpaid loans owed by Edward III to the Peruzzi and Bardi banking families in the 14th century.

Ms Holloway’s words are probably less a reflection of popular sentiment than her own opposition to Brexit, which she shares with many fellow Britons living in the EU.

But Florence has perhaps felt a greater sense of betrayal and sadness at the Brexit vote than other parts of Europe. Its commercial and cultural ties with the UK have endured for centuries; they cut both ways and are now at risk. This is the city that had a flourishing medieval and Renaissance textile trade with London, and where EM Forster set A Room with a View, his novel of Edwardian life. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the British Institute along the Lungarno.

Mrs May could have chosen the European University Institute, in the hills above Florence, as a venue but people close to the situation say it has been ruled out and that the speech is more likely to be in the city centre.

Renaud Dehousse, a Belgian lawyer and EUI president, says the symbolism of Mrs May’s speech will be that the UK’s relationships with Europe thrived even “before the birth of the single market”, but he says the substance of her remarks will be more important.

“It’s clear that the negotiation between the EU27 and the UK is not going very well and there is a need for a clear position from the UK government,” says Mr Dehousse.

Leonardo Bieber, a city councillor for the centre-left Democratic party, says the Brexit vote was a source of “pain and displeasure” but he hopes the choice of Florence presages a shift in the UK position in the talks.

“Maybe there is a will to soften the tone. I hope the history and the beauty of the place will influence the results of negotiations,” Mr Bieber says. “Florence is a symbol of Europe, a very pro-European city.”

So far, news of Mrs May’s visit has not captured much Italian attention, reflecting a certain indifference to Brexit in a country with its own issues including a lacklustre economic recovery, struggles with migration and an impending general election campaign. In Tuscany, Mrs May’s visit could face competition from the Dalai Lama, who is speaking in Florence three days earlier.

Among those interested in Mrs May’s visit, however, the views are split. Daniele Petruzzi, a bakery shop owner near the English cemetery, says the British prime minister will have to “explain her reasons” for doing something that “will do a lot of damage”.

“Now that they have decided to detach themselves the EU needs to keep a firm position,” he says.

Margherita Vannoni, a 42-year-old psychotherapist, says she has lost a little “sympathy” for the UK, pointing to the fact that she recently went to Paris on holiday. “The English fell in love with Florence but we need a little bit more of an opening, the future is tied to co-operation. If everyone tries to hold on to their own, in the long run everyone will be poorer,” she says.

But in a country where Euroscepticism has been on the rise in recent years, there is also plenty of sympathy, even admiration, for the UK’s decision.

Max Francalanci, a 64-year-old photographer, says the UK “did well”. “They have their autonomy, at least they won’t be under Germany and France, they will be like Switzerland. I believe that it would be good for us, too,” he says.

Marianna Bufanio, 32, agrees. “We didn’t have a union before. Why should everything finish if it dissolves?” she says. “Maybe everyone should have their own identity, like we did before.”

Yet even some Italian Eurosceptics are nervous about what might happen to Italians living in the UK after Brexit, amid doubts about their ability to live and work freely in the country. “I know a lot of Italians who work in England and I don’t know how its going to end for them — I don’t think anyone knows,” says Alessandro, a 47-year-old diner at the Central Market in Florence.

Mr Bieber believes it is unrealistic for the UK to expect to maintain the same level of relations with Europe — including Florence — while leaving the EU. “It’s like in a separation. Inevitably there will be more distance,” he says.

Ms Holloway, a self-described hermit who edited a book of poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Victorian poet, and tends her grave each day, seems to wish the whole notion of Brexit could somehow be buried, too.

“It’s absolutely awful, it’s so retrograde. I hope they just throw it out and realise it was a terrible mistake.”

https://www.ft.com/content/8dccc714-...c-9588e51488a0
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Old Sep 18th 2017, 11:23 am   #2
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The Central Market is a good place to eat in Florence.
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Old Sep 22nd 2017, 7:13 pm   #3
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Default Re: Florence split

For residents who don't support Brexit....
https://www.facebook.com/britishinitaly/

And a message from Jill Morris the British Ambassador in Rome....
https://www.facebook.com/notes/ukini...4066736615393/
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Old Sep 23rd 2017, 8:09 am   #4
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Default Re: Florence split

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Originally Posted by philat98 View Post
For residents who don't support Brexit....
https://www.facebook.com/britishinitaly/

And a message from Jill Morris the British Ambassador in Rome....
https://www.facebook.com/notes/ukini...4066736615393/
Brexit is the best thing to happen since sliced bread!
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Old Sep 23rd 2017, 9:02 am   #5
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Default Re: Florence split

Yep, I never really like sliced bread either!
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Old Sep 25th 2017, 10:01 am   #6
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Default Re: Florence split

Sliced bread & Brexit: one is a peculiarly tasteless and parochial British obsession and something the Europeans don't seem to have ever particularly taken to, popular with only a small minority. And the other is....
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