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

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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Lies, Damn Lies and Leave.EU Leaflets

brexit muffinsAs the Brexit campaign heats up, many of us are receiving leaflets urging us to vote either “in” or “out”. Whilst it is to be expected that each camp will attempt to frame the argument in a way that favours its cause, the Leave.EU leaflet makes claims that are clearly misleading. UCL academics Randoph Bruno, Filipa Fiquiera and Jan Kubik set the record straight.

Leave.EU Leaflet: “In 1975 we voted for a Free Trade Area known then as the Common Market”

The first sentence and already we have been misled. The European Economic Community (also known as the Common Market) which the UK joined back in 1973, was not a simple Free Trade Area and this was made clear to voters at the time of the 1975 referendum. The official UK government pamphlet, which was sent to all British homes prior to to the referendum, stated prominently the following:

The aims of the Common Market are: to bring together the peoples of Europe; to raise living standards and improve working conditions; to promote growth and boost world trade; to help the poorest regions of Europe and the rest of the world; to help maintain peace and freedom.

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Selling referendums in Ireland

 William Murphy/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by)The Irish have a lot of experience voting on EU treaties, and veteran campaigners there know that attention spans are short and personal experience powerful. Joe Costello, former member of the Irish Parliament and Minister for Trade And Development, says much can be learned. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s first guest editor week on openDemocracy.

We are approaching the end game: a date has been set for the Brexit Referendum. On 23 June the UK will go to the polls to decide whether to say yes or no to Europe. If the people vote yes, the provisions of the “New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union” will take effect; if they vote no, the UK will cease to be a member of the EU. Continue reading