Before I get into any of the research that I was able to complete, I’d like to give myself a small introduction, but first I want to thank Mr. Paul Gilbert and Mrs. Patricia Romeo-Gilbert for supporting my work on the project. My name is Matthew Lawlor and I’m currently a senior here at St. Lawrence. I am majoring in economics and planning to minor in both Italian and statistics. On campus, I am a member of the Men’s Soccer team. I come from a neighboring state in a small town called Glover, Vermont, though originally, I am from Burlington. This spring, I was lucky enough to study abroad in Rome for one month and in my bedroom for about two more. Despite this, I fortunately managed to complete my CIIS travel grant in what turned out to be the weekend before the program was halted due to the dangerous early outbreak and corresponding lockdown that resulted from the coronavirus in Italy.
On February 27th I flew to London, staying until the 1st of March. My proposal aimed to gauge if the social and financial implications that have arisen as Britain negotiates its departure from the EU were tangible in what is widely considered to be the financial center of the continent.
In an attempt to experience an aspect of Brexit’s social impact, I attended EFL Championship match (the country’s second division) QPR vs Birmingham City, a football(soccer) match in what is considered to be one of the toughest leagues in Europe. My choosing of this match was due to the association of nationalistic pride and football in the UK, with this league in particular having many fans coming from working class backgrounds in working class cities that voted majority leave. Many see Brexit as the resultant of the pervading nationalism and xenophobia which, though having always existed, has become less muted in recent times. Some highly publicized exemplifications of the extremes of these sentiments have actually arisen in stadiums both in the UK and across Europe. In fact, the week prior to my trip I watched a team from Rome known as Lazio. Throughout the stadium I saw flags with the logo of the Irriducibili, a group of superfans known for their far right and fascist ideologies with political and social influence that stretches far beyond the pitch. I didn’t see the same sort of extremes at the QPR game, as it was mainly only the usual foul-mouthed tirades towards players and referee. However, it was still an enriching experience to participate in a foreign country’s social event with tens of thousands of raucous locals.
I began the financial portion of my trip by visiting the most important spots and sights of London’s Financial District as well as Parliament. To be quite honest, it was difficult to derive too tangible an atmosphere from walking around as it just seemed to me like the usual hustle and bustle of the city. However, touring the different components and buildings of the financial capital of the world was still a rewarding and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My concrete source of information on the economic impact of Brexit came from a conversation with a family friend named John O’ Hara at a Sunday roast in a pub directly before I left. Mr. O’ Hara runs the European branch of an international data company known as NICE, with Brexit obviously having an extensive impact on both him and his company. His branch of the company operates out of England while covering Europe, and he was very fearful and disappointed with the outcome of the vote. He added that he has seen many companies relocate to the mainland as a result. He shares the sensible opinion that this exodus of companies and the rising trade costs will end up having a serious negative impact on Britain’s economy. He mentioned that his company is having to find solutions to mitigate all monetary losses that have been/will be incurred.
I’m very thankful for the opportunity that I was given to travel to one of the great cities of the modern world. Getting the chance to work on this project gave me the chance to experience an influential moment in the history of Europe firsthand. Gaining a further understanding of complexities of this issue was very rewarding and gifted me the chance to utilize different societal and economic techniques I’ve learned at St. Lawrence for the purpose of analyzing a real-life situation.