Does Eastern Europe have lessons for Brexit Britain?

27678701211_6125a9b158_zSeán Hanley, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Central and East European Politics at UCL, examines lessons learned from historical political change in Central and East Europe, and asks whether any parallels can be drawn with post-Brexit Britain.

In the aftermath of the EU referendum a number of Central and South East Europeanists wrote blogs reflecting on possible parallels between Brexit and break-ups of multinational socialist states like Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in early 1990s.

There are certainly parallels to be drawn.  They lie, as Catherine Baker notes, often in the political dynamics of exiting a large multi-national structure: the desire of smaller nations (Scotland) to ‘exit the exit’; the woes of asymmetric federalism, where nations ina multinational union have varying degrees of autonomy; the changeable nature of public opinion; the EU as a symbol of modernisation and liberalism (the ‘March for Europe’, and the normalisation of  radical positions through by media coverage – and now social media ‘echo chambers). Continue reading

Some thoughts on the psycho-geography of Europe’s free movement

hoffmannEastern European migration takes place in a very different context than it once did. Eva Hoffman, author and essayist, asks what drives people to leave, and what drives them back again? This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership with openDemocracy.

Cross-national movements – as we are all too aware these days – come in different forms and categories, reflected in the various designations we use for those who leave one country for another. There are immigrants and guest workers, refugees and exiles, émigrés and expatriates – terms that point to distinct kinds of social, but also perhaps socio-psychological experience. The different circumstances surrounding individual migration and the wider political or cultural contexts within which it takes place can have enormous practical and psychic repercussions. It matters greatly, for starters, whether you choose to leave or were forced to; it matters whether you’re coming to a new land unprotected and unprovided for, or whether you can expect, or transport, some kind of safety net. For the countries of intake, it matters how many come and what they are able to bring with them, what they need and what they can potentially contribute. Continue reading