Staff from UEA react to the result of the EU Referendum based on their expertise. This page will be updated as more reactions come in. Please share your thoughts using the comments below.
Marina Prentoulis on the future of Europe:
“This vote opens up a world of uncertainty, uncertainty that will be felt across the globe. In the difficult times ahead, we have to continue working together in order to defend migrant rights across Europe. We should not allow this vote to strengthen neither nationalism nor intolerance!”.
Mark Wells on the campaign:
“From a media viewpoint, the conduct of this campaign has raised a number of questions about the constraints placed upon broadcasters to deliver ‘impartial’ coverage of a binary choice. The requirement for such balance has made it very difficult for broadcasters to bore down into the claims of either side, and up-hold or refute their claims, without having to immediately follow up with a comment of the “but on the other hand…” variety. The result has been a very confused electorate. At the same time, old media, the press, divided up on traditional lines and spoke to their own constituencies. Social Media did that in spades. Those supporting “Leave” were deluged with leave postings, those supporting “Remain” were similarly flooded by remain posts. All of that did little to advance genuine debate”.
Elizabeth Cobbett on the UK and global markets:
“The decision to leave means that Britain’s economy might actually be more closed to the world rather than more open as argued by the Leave campaign. London is already the world’s leading financial centre, highly connected to global markets and Europe’s main financial trading market. The decision to leave the EU will not resolve Britain’s biggest issue of economic inequality within its borders. We can no longer blame our economy on everyone else. This is a political question that needs to be taken up seriously by Westminster.”
Peter Handley on UK-Australian relations:
“There’s been some talk amongst those wishing to leave of the possibility of the UK reinvigorating its trading links with Australia in the event of a ‘leave’ result based upon some Brexiteers’ assumption that Australia and the UK still retain ‘special’ ties of kinship left over from the time of ‘imperial preferences’ before the UK joined the then-EEC. The Australian government, however, has expressed the view that while relationships with Britain remain very cordial a vote to leave the EU is not one it would welcome and it will be less than enthused. Much like the USA, Australia views the UK as a useful conduit to the EU. Leaving the EU would mean having to set-up time-consuming and costly negotiations of new bi-lateral arrangements with the UK. Australia has much bigger fish to fry, being on China’s doorstep. Given the historical animosities stirred up when the UK joined the EEC in the ‘70s Australia’s meek compliance with Brexiteers’ assumptions cannot be taken for granted.”
Rupert Read on the Precautionary Principle:
“The UK has voted to leave the EU. The EU is the source of our law on the Precautionary Principle: the main way in which we guard ourselves collectively against potentially grave threats to our existence, threats such as dangerous climate change, ‘geo-engineering’, nuclear devastation.
Therefore one crucial implication of the Brexit vote is that the Precautionary Principle must now come into focus. The UK Government may, in the light of the Brexit vote, seek to bring in a direct UK-US version of the controversial ‘TTIP’ treaty, a treaty which has been designed to attack the Precautionary Principle: https://www.uea.ac.uk/about/media-room/eu-referendum/ttip-and-eu . In any case, if the Precautionary Principle is to survive and prosper in UK law, it now needs to be defended and brought properly and permanently into UK law. A secure future for us and our children depends on this.”
“The referendum’s devastating result is the culmination of a vicious campaign period that has unleashed powers of xenophobia and racism, which would have been hard to deal with, even if the result had been different. These powers have been fed with decades of anti-immigrant, anti-Islam and nationalistic rhetoric by tabloid and right-wing media but were overtly legitimised since the referendum was announced. The result is also the culmination of years of media coverage of the European Union as Britain’s ‘other’, a union to resist to or benefit from, but still distinctly different from the UK and its politics. It is also the consequence of media’s disproportionate attention to Farage and his xenophobic claims, as well as their consistent coverage of Boris Johnson as the buffoon-next-door rather than the ruthless elite demagogue that he is. Left-wing media not only did not manage to challenge such representations but they often played along with them. Focusing on internal conflicts within the Left and trying to rebuke the fear-mongering campaign of the Leave camp by employing similar threats about the country’s future did not leave enough space for progressive voices to provide rounded information about what Europe really means and what the place of the UK is in it. This has been a highly emotional campaign period and voting result and the media have contributed to this in a significant and toxic way.”
“When I woke up Friday morning, my Facebook friends—pro-Remain university lecturers, mostly—were quoting Yeats: “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”
There was an easy explanation for what had just happened. As former Europe minister Keith Vaz told the BBC, “emotions” had triumphed over reason. This is certainly how most people understands Yeats’s poem: the reason anarchy is loosed upon the world is because of the danger of passion itself.
The political theorist Michael Walzer has a different reading of the poem. The problem is not that the worst are full of passionate intensity. The problem is that the best are not. Conviction is itself a form of passion—an intense, passionate commitment to the truth.
One of the strangest features of our politics is that we all know passion is indispensable, but are ashamed to admit it. While we all appeal to emotion in political argument, we are quick to deny our opponent’s accusations that this is what we are doing. Remain accused Leave of appealing to nationalism and xenophobia, Leave accused Remain of appealing to fear and economic anxiety. Both accusations were correct.
The main argument for Remain was that it would be in the self-interest of British voters to stay part of the EU. All the experts said so. Since we’re already seeing the economic devastation that a Leave vote brings, they may actually have been right for once. Surely voters were irrational to reject this.
But it’s not reason that makes us care about our own economic interests. Reason can’t make us care about anything. Caring is an emotion. The Scottish philosopher David Hume argued almost three centuries ago that it is not contrary to reason to act against even my own acknowledged self-interest, choosing my own lesser good over my greater.
Of course, most of us have a passionate commitment to our own interests. This passion, however, is a surprisingly weak one. While economists have long assumed that people act in their own self-interest, when they actually began to test this assumption experimentally they found that this is the case far less often than they expected. We can take these experiments as yet more evidence for the sad fact of human irrationality. Yet at least some of these experiments might be explained another way: People might not care about their own interests as much as we thought they did.
For most of us, our governing passions grow from our connection to something larger than ourselves: our families, our communities, our countries, for some even our species or our planet as a whole. Both the best and the worst are full of passionate intensity, whether they’re sacrificing current comforts to give their children a better future, or sacrificing their lives to some ideological cause.
The great irony of the Brexit referendum is that it was the Leave campaign that spoke most powerfully to this passionate connection to something larger: the connection to Britain, which can take the form of either a noble passion for national sovereignty or a deeply ignoble hatred of immigrants and foreigners. Remain had a golden opportunity to emphasize the connection to something larger still—to Europe, and by extension, the wider world. There were moments when they did so—Gordon Brown’s viral video on war and peace was a good example—but these were too little, too late, overwhelmed by the economic rhetoric of self-interest.
As an American, I can only hope that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party do not fall prey to the same mistake. Donald Trump is advocating a wide array of incoherent, irrational positions, ones which would do real harm to American interests if he ever got the opportunity to enact them. Clinton has self-admitted wonkish tendencies, and might be under the mistaken impression that the passionate intensity of Trump’s followers can be countered by the overwhelming evidence she has for the superiority of her policies and leadership skills.
But if the best have only convictions of this sort, while the worst remain filled with passionate intensity, there may indeed be a rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouching toward Washington to be born.”
Alexandria Innes on Immigration:
“It’s impossible to know at the moment how the referendum result will impact immigration. A lot depends on how our membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) is negotiated. It is possible to be a member of the EEA and not the EU. The free movement of European workers is an EEA rule rather than an EU one. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if European immigration does slump in the midst of the uncertainty, particularly because the fall of the pound and related recession is likely to make the job market contract.
In terms of other types of immigration, the ‘leave’ result is likely to have a bearing on the UK’s ability to participate in the Dublin Regulation. Other European countries are unlikely to see an incentive in receiving removed asylum seekers from the UK if they do not have to under EU law, which is what currently stands. Since this means more asylum seekers will have to stay in the UK, I would like to say that this will have a positive humanitarian effect, but the current track record of the government indicates that limiting immigration is of greater importance to the government than recognising humanitarian need. However, it is impossible to evaluate the outcome with any certainty until we have seen the direction of the coming negotiations.”
“Things were looking grim for ‘mainstream’ parties in European countries before Brexit, but this event may prove to be a game-changer in party politics across the continent. Populist and anti-establishment parties in France, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and Austria, which have been challenging the dominance of established parties over the last few years, will be further emboldened by the developments in the UK. The UK vote is another testament to a major shift in European party politics; multiple political topics such as identity, economics, Europeanization and immigration are becoming intertwined and more salient. This creates new coalitions of voters and makes it more difficult for the old, ‘establishment’ parties, to maintain power.”
“The idea of a liberal democracy assumes that voters make rational decisions based on having been provided with or sought out information relevant to those decisions. This does not describe what has just happened in the UK. The media failed miserably at providing accurate information, continuously repeating misinformation and outright lies. Even the broadcasters obliged by impartiality rules did little to investigate claims or provide explainers, instead simple giving equal time to each sides claims and unfounded predictions. At the same time, voters seemed not to be voting on reason, not making a rational informed choice. Instead voting they were voting on emotion. Often it was a general anger towards elites that was channelled so expertly into anti-EU feelings, ironically by individuals many of whom could hardly have been more elite themselves.
The consequences for the rest of Europe will go much farther than those related to the trade arrangements and UK contribution. This win, based on a populist campaign that was anti-elite and anti-immigrant will give fuel to similar such campaigns across Europe. It will strengthen the hand of populist right-wing leaders that have already been elected in the East and those that have been gaining strength in the West. It is a sad day for the UK, for Europe and for democracy.”
Hussein Kassim on the uncertainty to come:
Despite the coming together of Conservative MPs, the Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement that he will leave office in October, and calming words from some pro-Leave Conservatives, it is by no means clear that the process of leaving the EU will be orderly or that a new leader will be able to satisfy the hopes that the Leave campaign has raised among disenfranchised communities. Unlike a general election, referendum campaigners do not need to spell out the policies that they intend to implement in the case of victory. Not only is it unclear what kind of trade agreement a new PM will aim to negotiate with the EU or whether Conservatives who supported Leave will be able to agree easily on the negotiating terms, but the outcome of the review of existing UK policies that are built on EU law will not please all in the coalition that triumphed on 23 June.