The high stakes of the EU referendum

stakesFour weeks ago, the UCL European Institute launched the Brexit Divisions project – comprising two guest edited weeks with openDemocracy and two public debates – to explore the strategies and stakes of the upcoming EU referendum. Looking back, Uta Staiger, Deputy Director of the UCL European Institute, explains what we’ve learned.

There’s a referendum coming.

And as the director of British Future Sunder Katwala has pointed out, it may still be quite a good referendum, too. One that encourages democratic engagement. One that may increase people’s knowledge and understanding of Britain’s place in the EU. One that will pitch arguments against each other and let them battle it out in public to settle a thorny issue decidedly.

But it is not yet. Continue reading

Fighting the EU referendum online: strategies, frames and successes

European Leaders Gather In Brussels For EU Crunch Summit. Pool/Getty Images. All rights reserved.Simon Usherwood, Senior Fellow of UK in a Changing Europe, and Katharine Wright, Research Fellow of UK in a Changing Europe, argue that social media campaigning will be crucial to the outcome of the Brexit referendum. New research shows us what in and out groups are saying online. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s first guest editor week on openDemocracy.

As in all aspects of modern politics and indeed all aspects of the modern world, online activity is a crucial aspect of referendum campaigns. The possibilities of un-mediated messaging directly to voters and of creating interactive and participatory communities combine to offer a powerful incentive to move into online spaces for all political actors. In a referendum – a contest with a binary outcome – the potential to engage and mobilise supporters for a referendum vote is even stronger, so it comes as no surprise that the British referendum on the EU is being hotly contested online. Continue reading