Wednesday, 29 June 2016


Although this blog is not about politics, I don't think I can avoid saying something about Brexit, given my very public support for the European project. 

On Thursday night I stayed up to watch the results of the referendum vote. I was expecting it to be close, and hoping for a majority to remain in the EU. About 3.30am it became clear to me that it was lost, and I went to bed. 

Since then I feel as though in a daze - so much has changed, but everything remains the same. The UK government has not yet triggered the leaving process via Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. It is not clear who or how the Labour party is going to respond to this situation, and the only politician that appears to be doing anything is Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. 

I am utterly dejected by the Leave victory. It is increasingly clear that the Leave campaign was predicated on several claims that turn out to be at best misleading and at worst knowingly deceitful. 

1. Control of borders and immigration - this is unlikely in European terms because continued membership of the single market and European Economic Area requires the free movement of labour. I cant see that the UK government will get far by demanding that this changes. 

2. The £350m per week for the NHS.  A huge whopper of a lie because the contribution that the UK makes to the EU is actually much less than that, and in the context of our overall national budget, it is only buttons. And of course, there has been lots of very hasty backpedalling on that particular promise. It is unlikely that the NHS will receive any additional funding as a result of Brexit, and is likely to suffer significantly in terms of its capacity to recruit and retain excellent clinicians. 

3. Regaining our sovereignty and reducing the burden of EU regulation - great, so now the UK can decide about glyphosate for itself. Except it probably can't because again, if we want to be part of the single market and EEA, then we will also need to play by the same rules as the rest of Europe - so it looks as though we will still need to adopt EU regulations, but we wont get to influence any of those requlations through our representatives in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. Norway and Greenland are not part of the EU - but they are part of the single market, and as a result have to accept EU regulation and small details like allowing the EU fishing fleet to fish in their waters.

Almost everything I can think of seems worse if we are outside the EU. We have already heard about UK researchers being asked to withdraw from European research projects and consortiums. Architects are losing projects. People in the finance sector are being told that their jobs will be relocating to other centres within European (Paris, Brussels etc). Incoming students from the EU and overseas are concerned or reconsidering their options and then there's the palpable rise in the confidence of the white power, far right fascism and racism.  I don't need to say that I despise this and will do my best to speak up for and support everyone's right for a life without fear or discrimination. 

You might not have seen a very powerful and moving perspective on Brexit for Northern Ireland, which has a 'hard' border with the EU and faces the prospect of returning to the not very distant and troubled past that people thought they had left behind. It was little discussed in the referendum campaigns, and seems likely to remain as a marginalised side issue. 

So, Brexit - poorly articulated and completely mis-sold to an electorate rightly concerned about jobs and housing. Carl Gardner has written an excellent piece on this, and why the UK parliamentary democracy needs to step up to resolve the situation. That does not necessarily mean overturning it, but it does mean scrutinising the options available to the country and forcing the leavers to be very clear about the path they wish us to take. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

I'm IN

I interrupt this blog for a partly political broadcast.

It's referendum day, and I'm in*. 

That's all. 

* After 4 years of writing a PhD about Europe, its policies and ideas on territory and spatial planning, and almost 2 years of living and studying in other EU countries, I am a very firm believer in all the brilliant things that being part of the EU makes possible. I am not going to give them up in the vain hope that this will magically fix all of the 'problems' we have in the UK. It is a vain hope. I can see no rational justification for thinking that quitting the EU will solve anything. It will (in all likelihood) make a lot of things very much worse.