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Waking up to a UK outside the EU

Dear All,

We cannot at the moment know what the full consequences of the separation between the UK and the EU will be. The emotions and desires on the issue on both sides cannot be dismissed. Either way, whatever the result of the referendum, a big group of the voting population would have been unhappy and this cannot be ignored. But what are the deep roots of this dissatisfaction? What does this vote really say about how we see our societies, about how we want to live together, about trust in authority, about identity?

I would like to invite you to reflect on these deeper issues and how you – personally – look forward to this new future – how it affects you personally. The discussion board in our meetup page is open as is our comments section this blog.

/Cindy

Discussion

5 thoughts on “Waking up to a UK outside the EU

  1. Thanks, Cindy. I have been deeply reflective all day, though only mildly surprised by the outcome of the referendum. I felt the two campaigns were aimed at emotions more than reason and a lot of misinformation was flying about. From here on, we can only be patient to see how all the changes unfurl. I hope all the deep rifts within the UK population can begin to narrow in the coming months.

    Posted by Monica Bignelli | June 24, 2016, 14:23
  2. I would like to share here some reflections by staff at University College London – message that came in from the UCL European Institute:

    Christine Reh, UCL School of Public Policy
    It’s Brexit. The shockwaves from an acrimonious campaign and a close vote against Britain in Europe leave the UK a far less united Kingdom; this morning, they will also hit Brussels and national capitals across the continent. Britain has always been an ‘awkward partner’, more flexibly integrated into the Union than most other members, and more deliberately at the margins of EU decision-making since 2010. But Brexit is about much more than the UK. For the first time in history a country wishes to leave rather than join the Union. Populism and nationalism, on the rise across the continent, may be galvanised. Hard-pressed governments in Europe may attempt better settlements and referenda in their own countries. Or Brexit may be a wake-up call for the remaining 27 member states to close ranks, to opt for openness and inclusiveness, and to reform a European Union that needs to connect better with its citizens. More mundanely, Brexit now means long and complex negotiations about the UK’s new relationship with Europe. Out means out—just not for a while, when London and Brussels are agreeing their divorce. Divorces are expensive, and this morning we may focus on the costs and the markets. But divorces also break hearts, and as a committed European, who believes in cooperation and compromise, my heart is broken today.

    Alan Renwick, UCL Constitution Unit
    Now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union, the process of withdrawal will dominate the work of Westminster and Whitehall for years to come. But other problems created or highlighted by the referendum campaign itself also deserve our careful attention. First, the political divisions created by a very fractious debate will need to be healed – which will be no small task, particularly in the Conservative Party. Second, the deeper social divisions that underpin the patterns of voting will have to be addressed. The widespread distrust of ‘establishment’ or ‘expert’ advice may be depressing, but it reflects a sharp disconnect between different parts of society and a sense many people have that no one listens to them. Third, a careful review is needed into how we conduct referendum campaigns. The debates around the referendum have been characterised by widespread, deliberate misinformation, and mechanisms to counter that have been too weak. Concerns have also been raised as to whether the roles played by the government and the media have adequately protected fairness between the two sides. Referendums will never be perfect, but we ought to be able to do better than we just have.

    Uta Staiger, UCL European Institute
    After two and a half years of preparations, four months of campaigning, a thundery poll day and a seemingly endless night of counting, the results are in. It is over. The UK is leaving the European Union. We are in uncharted waters and at this early hour, all is speculation. Who will replace the Prime Minister? When will Article 50 be invoked? What plan, what vision do the incoming leaders have for the UK’s future? What will the markets do? And Scotland? The plethora of open questions is only matched by the complexity of negotiating the UK’s withdrawal and trade terms, which now awaits us. But two things we know. First, the vote is a popular chastisement of our political system – of the public’s elected representatives, of the expert advice that informs it, of the received opinion on what’s in the country’s best interest. A historic vote was won on the back of very angry citizens in a highly divided, highly unequal country. This has changed politics; it will change politics. Second, the ramifications for Europe will be immense. Will the EU muddle through, as it has done on so many previous occasions? Will it rise to the occasion, tackle the thorny questions, and ultimately find a decisive way out its multiple crises? Or, and surely this would be most disastrous, will it become a lame-duck target for a growing popular disenchantment with liberal democratic politics on the right and the left across Europe? There still is everything to play for.

    Albert Weale, UCL School of Public Policy
    Writing at the end of the First World War, Max Weber asked what politics means as a vocation for those who practise it. He suggested that politicians sin against their own calling when their understandable urge for power becomes detached from reality, a form of personal self-intoxication not the serving of a realistic cause. In the referendum, Weber’s sin was committed time and time again. On the Leave side it was never made clear what realistically it would mean to leave the European Union. What new relationship with the EU was being envisaged? How realistic was it to suppose that new markets would open up? If the UK gained control over migration, would this actually mean a reduction in numbers? What would happen on the Irish border? Leavers behaved with all the responsibility of a bunch of teenagers left to party in their parents’ house. Yet the person with the greatest self-intoxication was the Prime Minister. If his campaign rhetoric was to be believed, here was a decision on which depended economic prosperity, democratic consolidation in Europe and the realistic projection of the UK’s presence in the world. How could the fate of such important matters be made to depend upon a needless referendum called solely to solve a problem of internal division in the Conservative Party? I write before the result is known. If the decision is to leave, then as Kenneth Clarke has said, the PM will not last 30 seconds. If the result is to remain, the temptation would be to breathe a heavy sigh of relief and allow Cameron to carry on in office. Nothing could be further from what is needed for responsible political leadership in this country. We have had too much of intoxicated politicians; can the Conservative Party not find some sober ones?

    Tim Beasley-Murray, UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies
    To understand one rather local, UCL facet of the EU referendum, consider this image: if you had walked into the UCL quad a few weeks back, in the midst of referendum campaign poisoned by xenophobic and racist discourse about migrants, and if you had looked up to the flagpole on top of the main UCL building, you would have seen a curious silver banner. This banner was an art project by UCL Slade students, “The New European Flag”, made out of the foil blankets used to drape refugees from Syria who wade ashore on the Greek of island of Lesbos. Raising the flag, its makers tell us, was “an attempt to create and disseminate a powerful social and humanitarian message marked by solidarity”. While the flag was raised on 9 June, moreover, a string quartet and singer performed Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’. Walking into the quad today, I half expected to see the New European Flag at half-mast. The results of the referendum tell us that many who voted Remain were predominantly young and educated and that their strongholds were the University cities of London, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge, Edinburgh and Exeter: experts, the liberal elite. The tragedy of the referendum is that many of those who voted out – those who rightly feel that they get a raw deal in modern Britain – were encouraged to do so by another elite: self-serving, mendacious, and illiberal. Remain voters feel upset, betrayed, and angry. But many of them were those who most obviously benefitted from the EU and its free movement for study and employment. This liberal elite will survive and most likely still prosper. Many of those who voted Leave, if the experts are right, will suffer. As the post-referendum dust settles, the liberal elite on the Remain side needs to move beyond mourning and consider the part that it can play in creating a society of productive solidarity – not only with refugees from Syria, but also with those in the shires, small towns and post-industrial cities of Britain.

    Posted by CwBTekiu | June 24, 2016, 14:53
  3. What I see is that over half of the British population have wrongly blamed all of their problems and ills of society on the EU and immigrants instead of looking on their own doorstep. Brits for the last 40 years have been voting in neoliberal governments who have been robbing the poor to give to the tax-dodging rich – and THAT’S why there’s low wages, precarious employment, inadequate and unaffordable housing, shambolic public services, high bills and transport fares, and NOT because of the EU and immigrants. That’s what trickle-down economics, deregulation, privatisation, offshoring and outsourcing gets you (ultimately the fruits of capitalism). Brits ultimately only have themselves to blame for the inequalities in their country by voting in governments that create such problems.

    I am not an ardent lover of the EU as it’s a corporate institution at the end of day but it’s the lesser devil compared to the UK. At least the EU reined in the worst of corporatism with regulations to protect our environment (wildlife, air, land and waterways) basic workers rights (annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave, work breaks, protections for part-time and agency workers) and consumer safety (ban of GMOS, meat hormones and unproven chemicals). Neoliberal governments in the UK over the last 40 years have generally opposed such EU regulations. 

    One thing I will very much miss about the EU is free movement. I actually loved and welcomed the opportunity to intermingle freely with so many different cultures across Europe and I loved that so many Europeans could come to the UK and bring with them their foods, music and traditions to share with us.

    To say that I am dumbstruck by the results would be an understatement. It’s turkeys voting for Christmas to fall for the propaganda of right-wing media barons and politicians who have their own agendas for stirring up hatred and suspicion of foreigners. Sadly, revealing from the demographics of the results is that the more educated that people are, the more likely they’d vote remain.

    Posted by Lily | June 25, 2016, 07:26
  4. Waking up to the news the UK will be outside the EU was like waking up in a nightmare. I felt my heart stopped a beat or two and then felt my eyes move very quickly without much focus. I found it increasingly hard to concentrate on one task. Even simple takes, such as choosing clothes to wear, reading a short email or talking about mundane things, became time consuming. I felt like I was in a fiction, things felt so surreal and one day I would wake up from this.

    After this I started to feel very sad and angry. I thought about friends with European nationality, and I felt worried and fearful to imagine how they feel themselves. This brought up sadness, sense of loss, disempowerment and very acute anger and annoyance.

    I am a Japanese national and I don’t have the right to vote. I felt disempowered and alienated by this result. I felt sadness as I felt I lost connection to society. I have a need to contribute to the society I live in. I hold this need of mine very dearly. I’ve viewed British society as the one that embraces the European Convention on Human Rights, which resonate with my values, and this has been an anchor to tie me with the society where I do not have the right to vote. I felt at loss.

    I then felt disgusted with some of the politicians who led the campaign to leave. I also felt very angry toward those who voted to leave.

    After the turmoil of the first two days, I was getting over the anger as I realised this creates more anger and division among us. What I see now is that the result showed there were many people who had been let down, frustrated, powerless and helpless by the current system (I’m not talking about ‘emotional votes’ but those who genuinely felt relieved with the result). Their voice and needs have not been heard, and there had been no proper dialogue, communication within the society before this result. I’ve also failed to see those people as ‘real people’, but people who were always featured on the Sun or Mirror.

    We got a blow by this, but I want to go close to those who voted to leave and want to understand how they feel about the result and hear their needs. This brings back to my own basic need to contribute to the society I live in.

    Posted by asakoishere | June 26, 2016, 18:09

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