The heart of the matter: passion, politics and the EU referendum

Credit: Quinn DombrowskiBoth Leave and Remain have appealed to voters’ hearts and guts  – to the extent that reason itself has become suspicious. Emotions will rule the day on 23 June. But at what cost? This piece by Uta Staiger, Executive Director of the UCL European Institute, is part of our commissioning partnership with openDemocracy on ‘Brexit Divisions’.

Politics today is suffused with emotion.

There is anger mixing with angst in the German Wutbürger, the Spanish indignados, and the French labour law protestors. There’s Donald Trump riding on a wave of demagoguery, hurling disgust at Mexicans, hatred at Muslims and disdain at women. There’s fear vying with grief and defiance in Orlando, Paris, or Brussels.

And then there’s Brexit.

Now, referendums are never one for nuance. They are yes or no, black or white, in or out: they are a “conflict-maximising mechanism” if ever there was one. But the extent to which passions have become, literally, the beating heart of the UK’s vote on EU membership is quite extraordinary to observe. It is also, I wager, a sign of things to come.

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The rise of euroscepticism in the United Kingdom or the failure of Europeanism

A boat forming part of a pro-Brexit "flotilla" makes its way along the River Thames in London on 15 June. John Stillwell/Press Association. All rights reserved.The European Union has severely undermined perceptions of sovereignty and it will fail unless EU citizens regain their voice in the policy process, argues Sophie Heine. Might fully-fledged federalist project do just that? This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership with openDemocracy on ‘Brexit Divisions’.

Many observers have pointed to the unexpected consequences of David Cameron’s decision to submit British membership of the EU to a referendum: the prime minister wanted to use this referendum to shut down once and for all the internal row within his own party over Europe. He was convinced that the reforms he had negotiated with the other member states would persuade the British people to vote in favour of staying in the EU. However, this bet has proven more perilous than he anticipated. Continue reading

Not seen, not heard: the implications of Brexit for children

brexit sandcastlesExiting the European Union has the potential to severely, negatively impact children living in Britain today, yet so far Brexit has remained a discussion between and about adults, writes Helen Stalford, Professor of Law at the University of Liverpool. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership ‘Brexit Divisions’ with openDemocracy.

On 23 June 2016 adults will decide on the future of the UK’s membership of the European Union. While proposals to extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds were defeated in the House of Lords in December 2015, they reignited debate over the substance and scope of children’s democratic participation and their capacity to make informed political decisions. None of these discussions or, indeed, any of the wider debates surrounding the forthcoming referendum have considered the impact that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU might have on children’s rights and lives. This is in spite of the fact that children, who make up one fifth of the EU population and nearly one quarter (approximately 15 million) of the UK population, have the biggest stake in the outcome of the referendum. As current and future citizens, consumers, movers, workers, parents, and carers, children will bear the full brunt and, indeed, the benefits of any decision to either remain in or withdraw from the EU. Continue reading

Migration, the lightning rod of the EU referendum

utaUta Staiger, Deputy Director of the UCL European Institute, argues that the EU-Turkey deal should have no role in the Brexit debate, yet it brings the crucial question of the European Union and migration into focus at an inopportune time.

Migration has not been out of the news in months. Net migration into Britain has never been higher, despite the prime minister’s promises to reduce numbers “no ifs, no buts”, and it consistently clings to the top spot in British voters’ list of priority concerns. Inextricably linked with EU membership, given the principle of free movement, it has become the touchstone of the Brexit campaign.

Arguably, however, migration today has found its most wretched visual symbol in the millions of people risking their lives crossing the Aegean in order to escape their war-torn countries of origin. And it has found its most troubling political symbol in the EU-Turkey deal, sealed on 18 March to stem precisely this flow. Continue reading

Migration, border security and the EU referendum

The Leave caBrexit-migrationmpaign argues Brexit would give Britain back its control over immigration. Even if that were true, the current situation suggests control best comes through cooperation, says Conservative MP Damian Green. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership with openDemocracy.

Migration is one of the most emotive topics in the debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union. For those who favour leaving, the UK’s membership has become synonymous with uncontrolled migration. They believe that only by leaving the EU would the UK be able to restore control over its borders and reduce migration. As a result immigration is assumed to be one of the stronger cards held by the Leave camp. I think their analysis is simplistic and wrong, and that the weight of the argument for those worried about levels of immigration is in favour of remaining in the EU and using it to increase our ability to cope with immigration. Continue reading