Roman oratory and the EU referendum campaigns

ciceroIn addition to marking a politically decisive moment in British history, the campaigns in advance of the referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU were exciting objects of study for Classicists in terms of the political use of oratory, writes Gesine Manuwald, Professor of Latin at UCL.

In addition to marking a politically decisive moment in British history, the campaigns in advance of the referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU were exciting objects of study for Classicists in terms of the political use of oratory. This applies in particular to students of the oratory of the Roman Republic, mainly the orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BCE), as such scholars tend to have a specific perspective on contemporary speeches and argumentative techniques, shaped by their experience of the ancient world; they are also often interested in comparisons as these can be illuminating both ways. Approached that way, the campaigns and the strategies used turned out to display all sorts of unexpected parallels between rhetorical argument in Republican Rome and present-day Britain. Continue reading

So what does Angela Merkel think? Germany’s reactions towards the new British government

6996023785_a7766e6000_zNina Trentmann, UK Business Correspondent at Die Welt, takes a look at the recent appointment of Boris Johnson as UK Foreign Secretary and the reactions of politicians in Germany to this news, particularly in the context of future negotiation tactis between the UK and the EU.

It was a shock. German politicians, their French counterparts, EU representatives – they all shook their head in disbelief when it became known that the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, would become the UK’s new foreign minister. German TV commentators were reportedly confounded by the appointment. Others, such as the French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, described the Prime Minister’s choice as a sign of the political crisis in the UK, and branded Johnson a ‘liar’ for his behaviour during the referendum campaign. Continue reading

You can’t blame Brussels for Brexit

EU flagRonan McCrea, Barrister and Senior Lecturer in Law at UCL, argues that it is not clear that the EU is any less accountable than national governments.

The claim that the EU is undemocratic and unaccountable is made so often it seems to be an accepted background to any discussion of the union. The charges levelled against it assert that EU institutions are unelected, unaccountable, and that EU democracy is a sham.

These critiques are only partially true and in many cases apply equally to the government of member states. Continue reading

Exit plan: how Scotland and Northern Ireland can remain in the EU

stakesPublic discussions about how the UK is to exit from the European Union have been too simplified, and have failed to come up with any solution that recognises that only England and Wales in fact voted to leave. Brendan O’Leary, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, outlines a way forward where those nations wanting to remain in the EU might be able to do so.

There has as yet been no Brexit, and there will not be – because there is no such entity as ‘Britain’. There could, however, be a UKexit. But those who insist that a 52-48 vote is good enough to take the entire UK out of the EU would trigger a serious crisis of legitimacy.

England and Wales have voted to leave the European Union, but Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar have voted to remain. These differing outcomes have to be the central focus of political attention while we wait for the debris of broken expectations to settle. Continue reading

Brexit: The mother of all uncertainties

BrexitIn the aftermath of last week’s EU referendum, the only thing we can be certain of is uncertainty, writes Professor Paul Ekins, Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, as he outlines two absolutely contrasting scenarios.

So the British people have voted by a margin of around 4%, a little more than 1 million votes, to leave the European Union (EU). Where this will lead lies somewhere between two absolutely contrasting scenarios.

On the positive side, we can imagine that the months before the election of the new British Prime Minister in October see some healing of the great divide that has opened up in the UK, a decision by Scotland not to pursue independence, and Sinn Féin not to pursue a referendum on Irish reunification, a steadying of the economy by the Bank of England and current Chancellor, and therewith a steadying in both the stock and currency markets. Then, in October or November, the new Prime Minister presses the button on Article 50, to be met by a conciliatory European Commission which, over time, makes it clear that UK Associate Membership of the Internal Single Market can indeed be accompanied by restrictions on EU freedom of movement and less need for the UK to implement EU legislation. This takes the heat out of the UK Brexit impulse, so that agreement on UK/EU terms of engagement, which involves minimal disruption to trade and investment, swiftly follows. Businesses and the financial sector heave a sigh of relief and get on with business as usual. The damage of Brexit to the UK and EU economies, and to the UK and EU politically, is minimal, far less than was forecast by practically everyone. ‘Experts’, especially economists, become the butt of more jokes. In five years’ time the UK’s position in Europe is a bit like Norway’s, but immigration has been restricted by the new curbs on freedom of movement. Leavers are delighted and say ‘I told you so’. Remainers are mightily relieved that the meltdown they feared has not occurred. The curbs on the freedom of movement of labour are used by other EU Member States to take the heat out of their populist movements. The ‘reformed’ EU continues more or less as before. Continue reading