We share six Oxford academics' responses to the EU referendum result, including social media’s role in the debate, the future of immigration, the language of the Leave campaign, and the disintegration of the West.

Migration Observatory

 

Impact of social media on the outcome of the EU referendum

Vyacheslav PolonskiVyacheslav Polonski, DPhil Candidate, Oxford Internet Institute
When Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation this morning following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, it was impossible not to notice the irony of his situation. In a 2009 data speech, he described the Internet as an “amazing pollinator” that “turns lonely fights into mass campaigns; transforms moans into movements; excites the attention of hundreds, thousands, millions of people and stirs them to action.” This power has now been turned against him, as millions of people were motivated, persuaded and mobilised through the Internet to vote for Brexit.

For several months, the Leave camp has been building momentum online and has been setting the tone of the debate across all major social networking platforms. As a researcher, I have been collecting large-scale social media data on the EU referendum to better understand the impact of the Internet on this referendum. Our analysis shows that not only did Brexit supporters have a more powerful and emotional message, but they were also more effective in the use of social media. This has led to the activation of a greater number of Leave supporters at grassroots level and enabled them to fully dominate platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, influencing swathes of undecided voters who simply didn’t know what to think. Using the Internet, the Leave camp was able to create the perception of wide-ranging public support for their cause that acted like a self-fulfilling prophecy, attracting many more voters to back Brexit.

This can be explained by a combination of factors. On the one hand, the main Leave camp message was much more intuitive and straightforward, which is particularly important for social media campaigning. On the other hand, their message was also highly emotionally charged, which facilitated the viral spread of Leave ideas. There is evidence to suggest that high arousal emotions such as anger and irritation spread faster than messages focusing on rational or economic arguments, particularly on social media. In this regard, we have observed many instances where people expressed utter confusion about the economic arguments on both sides. Considering that the reasons for Leaving were more emotional, and that the average Internet user was exposed to a deluge of Brexit posts on a daily basis — both from friends and strangers online — we warned that a British exit vote could be a real possibility on June 23rd.

Remain lost the battle online long before it lost the political battle on the ground. The overwhelming Leave sentiment across all social networking platforms was consistent and undeniable, yet many Remain supporters chose to ignore the voice of the Internet as something that has no connection with the real political world. They believed that Britain would never vote to leave the EU and discounted social media as a playground for trolls and teenagers.

Instead of responding with more relatable emotional messages, the official Remain camp continued to rely on calculated rational arguments and a relentless tide of economic forecasts. When #CatsAgainstBrexit started trending, we saw a glimmer of hope for Remain, but sadly the whimsical power of Internet cats was not enough to turn around the debate. In fact, the volume of tweets that urged Britain to #VoteRemain was quickly dwarfed by the enormous turbulence caused by the trending #IVotedLeave hashtag on the day of the referendum.

Social media has changed the nature of political campaigning and will continue to play a key role in future elections around the world. As more and more people spend a significant proportion of their everyday lives online, social media is becoming a more powerful force to assist and influence the spread of political ideas and messages. What the EU referendum has taught us is that this accelerating technology is open to all and can be used to shape the public agenda and drive social change — for better or for worse.Migration Observatory

Misinformation and miscommunication in the EU referendum debate

Stephen Fisher, Associate Professor in Political Sociology The UK’s vote to leave the European Union yesterday was an extraordinary decision with major economic and political consequences. Some of these have already happened, many are still to come. A widStephen Fisher, Associate Professor in Political Sociology

The UK’s vote to leave the European Union yesterday was an extraordinary decision with major economic and political consequences. Some of these have already happened, many are still to come. A wide range of scenarios that would once have seemed far-fetched now seem plausible. What the vote means for the future is far more important than what it means in itself. But it is still important to learn the lessons from the referendum campaign and the outcome it produced.

It is commonly believed that no matter what they may or may not tell opinion pollsters, people will ultimately back the side that will make them financially safer and better off. Yesterday a majority voted for Leave despite it being widely acknowledged as the more risky option. They did so because not enough of them were convinced that the UK would be worse off if they left. Still less did they think that they would be worse off personally.

Why not? David Cameron and George Osborne are being criticised for issuing hysterical warnings that provoked more ridicule and scorn than they did the fear intended. But given that the dire estimates of the economic consequences were backed up by reasonable macro-economic analysis supported by nearly all other macro-economists, it would perhaps be more appropriate to ask why the politicians did not explain and defend their positions more robustly.

Instead of actually outlining the not so very complicated logic behind the economic estimates, appeals were made to the wisdom and authority of experts. But trading names and numbers of expert backers does not persuade many people if it ever did.

Part of the difficulty with trying to explain things is the lack of time and space in a contemporary media environment. Rarely are politicians quoted at length or given more than a couple of minutes to answer a question. The need to speak in sound bites to reach a large number of people is unavoidable.

It is not guaranteed that more time to speak means better content. The four set-piece speeches in the two-hour debate before the 1975 European Communities referendum were not clearly more informative than this week’s Wembley Arena debate.

Nor should it be assumed that the public would have been persuaded if only they had known more about the issues. The Remain cause were facing a major challenge in trying to persuade a public that did not identify strongly as European to vote for a problematic set of EU institutions they do not like.

Ultimately the outcome of the vote depended on leaving the EU being seen as the solution to a problem. The perceived problem was unlimited and indefinite EU immigration. A clear majority have long been concerned about these things and they believe that immigration will go down no that we are leaving. On that basis it is easy to see where the majority for Leave came from.

But now the referendum is over, Vote Leave campaigners are already pointing out that they never said they would reduce immigration, only that the British people could if they wanted to.

Farage 

Immigration and the EU referendum

Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory Immigration was a defining issue in the referendum debate, and will be widely regarded as the main reason the UK voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd. The vote follows just over a decade Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory

Immigration was a defining issue in the referendum debate, and will be widely regarded as the main reason the UK voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd.

The vote follows just over a decade of elevated migration from EU countries following the 2004 and 2007 enlargements and the Eurozone crisis in Southern Europe. While Europe has traditionally not been the major source of immigration to the UK, EU citizens made up just under half of estimated net migration to the country by 2015.

Perhaps the most immediate question the vote will raise concerns the status of EU citizens already living in the UK and British citizens overseas. Politicians on both sides of the referendum debate have supported the idea that those who have already moved should retain their rights, and lawyers have argued that it would be legally difficult to take free movement rights away from people who were already exercising them. However, the details remain unclear — particularly with regard to very recent arrivals and those who become unemployed for significant periods. This may therefore be one of the first immigration-related questions the UK and the EU will face as the negotiations on EU exit proceed.

The vote to leave also raises fundamental questions about how immigration policy will be designed for prospective migrants in the years to come. At this point, the future of UK migration policies is far from clear. Possible options range from no change at all to a complete upheaval of the immigration system. On one hand, it is possible that the UK could join the European Economic Area and — following the Norwegian model — continue to implement free movement in return for access to the European single market. On the other hand, the decision to leave could usher in significant new restrictions on EU nationals’ right to live and work here.

Assuming that free movement comes to an end, what immigration policies will be introduced for EU citizens? At this point it is very difficult to know. The system that regulates non-EU migration to the UK has become more restrictive over the past five or so years. This system was designed in a very different environment — one in which free movement was the status quo. An end to free movement may well, therefore, prompt a review of the entire immigration system. 

 

The disintegration of the West

Erik Jones, Professor of European Studies and International Political Economy   The British vote to leave the European Union (EU) is the first step toward formal disintegration that the West has experienced. The closest parallel is France’s decision to stErik Jones, Professor of European Studies and International Political Economy
 
The British vote to leave the European Union (EU) is the first step toward formal disintegration that the West has experienced. The closest parallel is France’s decision to step outside the integrated military command structure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1966. But France remained a member of NATO; that decision was more like Britain’s opt-out from the single currency or Schengen, even if the shift of NATO’s headquarters from Paris to Brussels made it seem more dramatic. By contrast, the British have now decided that they do not want to take part in the EU and that they want to renegotiate their relationships with the rest of the world on a case-by-case basis. The West has not gone through anything like this since the end of the Second World War.

This move toward disintegration is going to have a powerful impact on the West as a community and as a concept. Certainly it will have an impact on connections across the Atlantic. NATO will still exist, of course, and so will the special relationship shared between Britain and the United States. But what remains of the EU will have a larger population and greater resources than the UK and so it will also loom larger in US foreign policy. That will change if other countries choose to follow Britain’s example. It is not clear that will happen, but it is possible. As the EU diminishes, US disenchantment with Europe will only increase. Eventually, the West will cease to exist beyond formal security guarantees. That is a bad scenario for both sides of the Atlantic.

Disintegration will have a powerful impact on globalization as well. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was supposed to be the platform for projecting western norms and values for manufacturing and commerce across the globe. That agenda was already running into trouble before the British referendum. Now it is unlikely to recover. That is an important opportunity that will be missed. Instead we are likely to see a Balkanization of the rules that govern the global economy. Britain may win back some cherished privileges in such an environment, but what is more likely is that many of those rules will be created in emerging market economies where the people have different objectives and priorities.

Identity and solidarity will also be affected. This was a very emotional referendum, steeped in identity politics. That was always expected. The result will have emotional resonance across Europe and it will change European perceptions of the UK. That should be expected as well. Hopefully it will not result in some intemperate reaction. It is hard, however, to see how the UK can avoid becoming an ‘other’ for the rest of Europe. The British have always been different in an idiosyncratic and quirky way, but so have the French, the Germans, the Italians and all the rest. Formally withdrawing from Europe is a different matter. Britain will not long be just different, it will also be ‘not one of us’ for many other Europeans. Britons may be proud of that new-found distinction but it is a sad day for the West.Migration Observatory

‘Independence Day’: some worthier candidates

Philippa Byrne, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Medieval History Went The Day Well is perhaps the most exquisite propaganda film ever produced. Made in 1942, it depicts a quiet English village infiltrated by German fifth-columnists. Those whom the villagers beliePhilippa Byrne, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Medieval History

Went The Day Well is perhaps the most exquisite propaganda film ever produced. Made in 1942, it depicts a quiet English village infiltrated by German fifth-columnists. Those whom the villagers believed were their friends have all the time been Germans in disguise, preparing a silent invasion. The villagers fight back. Many die in the struggle, but the infiltrators die too. ‘This is the only bit of England they ever got’ intones the narrator at the end, the camera panning over a row of German graves in a leafy English churchyard. The country remains free, independent.

In a campaign dominated by World War Two analogies, I found myself thinking of Went the Day Well. But this morning, I’m not sure what vision of Britain has been saved.

Victorious Leavers are hoping that the 23rd June will become our ‘Independence Day’. I’m normally a sober historian, but faced with the rhetoric of ‘Independence Day’, I can’t hold my tongue. It represents the giddying heights of delusion in a campaign built on delusions. It is almost as meaningless as the phrase ‘Take Control’.

So, Happy Independence Day — on 52% of the vote.

But, in declaring ‘Independence’, the Leave campaign seem to have ignored, or forgotten, the historical context of other independence days. A large number of countries won their freedom by struggling against Britain. At least 49 nations — from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe — celebrate independence days from Britain as a colonial power. Winning a referendum is not equivalent to throwing off the yoke of foreign government. Withdrawing from the single market is not akin to a long struggle for self-determination.

Calling 23rd June ‘Independence Day’ is to adopt the mantle of persecution. Leave has co-opted the language that in the mid-twentieth century was being used to critique British policy. It is often said (rightly) that Britain can’t bring itself to address the legacies of Empire. The Leave ‘Independence Day’ idea goes one step beyond ignorance, into brazen appropriation.

Nor is it surprising. Our political discourse is mired in the language of 1930s and 1940s. We ask whether Cameron was a Churchill or a Chamberlain(although his resignation may have now confirmed him as the latter). The campaign was dogged by endless argument over which way Churchill himself would have voted. Michael Gove complained that Remain-favouring economists were akin to the German scientists of the 1930s who had persecuted Einstein.

So, on our day of liberation, I find myself frantically scrolling through Wikipedia searching for alternative things to celebrate on 23rd June. There are a number of alternatives. As a historian, I’m tempted to opt for the Feast of St Aethelthryth, an inoffensive 7th century saint. I prefer harmless obscurity to the posturing nonsense of an independence day.

Still, other options are available. Let’s celebrate Peter Falk Day (d. 23/06/2011), Selma Blair Day (b. 23/06/1972), or Joss Whedon Day (b. 23/06/1964). Take control — make your own pick.

The Brexit Challenge for UK Universities

The Brexit Challenge for UK UniversitiesKatrin Kohl, Professor of German Literature

The EU Referendum result catapults us into uncharted territory with respect to the effects it will have on our internal political landscape and our relationship with other countries within the EU and beyond. It will certainly create a more hostile environment for all those organisations and people in the UK that rely on international cooperation. For universities it will have a negative impact on access to funding and freedom of movement for academics and students. British universities form part of an educational context that has always been European in spirit, and predicated on cultural exchange that flourishes with open borders. Many cooperations, exchanges and funding opportunities will disappear or become more expensive and bureaucratically fraught. And we do not yet know what the impact will be on the huge number of individuals from EU countries who have made their home in the UK.

Most troubling internally is the divisiveness of the vote, the boost it gives to the far right, and the prospect of the long grind of dismantling links in order to forge new structures predicated on insularity. The impact on our international relations will be huge as other countries come to terms with the fact that the UK has voted for separation at a time when Europe needs to respond with a strong and united voice to the political, cultural and financial pressures of globalisation. It has yet to be seen whether the impulse of separation also results in undermining the unity of the British nation.

Given the advice of all major British and international institutions that the impact of Britain’s exit from the EU will be negative rather than positive — an effect we are already seeing on the stock markets — the challenge ahead will lie in accepting the democratic result of a process that was misguided in its conception, the outcome of an ill-judged gamble designed to placate discontented backbenchers. Universities have a vital responsibility to give a real voice to those 48% of British people who — notwithstanding criticisms — expressed their commitment to the project of the European Union, and recognised the advantages of moving forward within current structures. Above all, they have a responsibility to the young people who overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU.

In the time ahead, it will be necessary to work closely with government, schools, cultural institutions and business to counteract the spirit of disengagement that will be associated with dismantling the UK’s integration in the EU, and inject positive energy, new thinking and cross-cultural engagement into a process that risks being backward-looking and isolationist. More than ever, it will be the job of universities to champion the values of openness, tolerance and mutual cooperation, and ensure that young people can feel part of the changing world rather than being isolated from it.

Successive policy mistakes in recent decades have meant that our young people have been sold short on language skills and the breadth of cultural understanding that comes from learning about other cultures. In the years ahead, it will be more important than ever to nurture an appreciation of diversity and cultural agility. The humanities will be as vital in that process as the social sciences and sciences, since we will collectively need all the historical knowledge, articulacy, language skills and creative imagination that we can muster if our young people are to have the opportunities they need in the world of tomorrow.

Universities and academics should do everything in their power in the months ahead to mitigate the negative effects of a referendum outcome that hinged on fewer than 650 000 votes, and advocate integration rather than separation.

This article originally appeared on Oxford University's Medium page.

Images: Oxford University Images, John Cairns, Shutterstock

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Comments

By David
on

Brexit is a victory for freedom, democracy, national sovereignty and people power.

Consider the excessive concentration of power and law making in the EU commission and ECB, the domination of the EU by Germany and its interests, the loss of national sovereignty for many nations, the destruction of Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal through imposed debt burdens and austerity, the enforcement of austerity throughout Europe and refusal of Germans to print money and write down debts (germany cannot remember debt forgiveness for Germany - london debt agreement 1953, marshall plan, etc), the refugee crisis caused by the 'regime change ' policies of some EU / western nations and their war industry and banking interests

By christine merbach
on

Madness - thy name is Brexit! And I just hope it will come to - nothing.

By christine merbach
on

Madness - thy name is Brexit! And I just hope it will come to - nothing.

By Hugh
on

Brexit is a victory for ignorance, intolerance, racism, isolation and nationalism. Change comes from within, not without.

By Peter
on

Sad to see Oxford academics wallowing in the woes of Brexit. At my time at Oxford (62-65) the academics and the students that I remember would have been hailing the return of democracy. Have today's academics lost the passion for one person one vote? Do they really want a super state ruled by democrats?

By Simon
on

Many rational and internationally-minded people voted Leave to force reform or change. It was very clear that a Remain vote would have been used by Cameron and the EU as an endorsement of the status quo.

By Jenny Woodhouse
on

The same old canard about 'sovereignty'! Please remember that the UK has (had!) a voice in Europe, a veto, and that EU legislation has to be adopted by national parliaments. As for 'democracy' and 'people power' just read the articles above. What comes over, alas, is that decisions were made emotionally rather than rationally and on the basis of a great deal of misinformation, not to say downright lies (that £350M to take just one example.

By Richard Condon ...
on

Will you please explain "the excessive concentration of power and law making in the European Commission and ECB"? This is typical of the LEAVE campaign's lies and I would suggest you look at this video recorded by Michael Dougan, Professor of Law at Liverpool University:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dosmKwrAbI
So far as I can see the countries that you describe as "destroyed" still exist and indeed they are climbing out of the dire situation into which the financial crisis of 2008 plunged them. I won't bother to address your other tendentious claims but could do so. As one wag suggested, we could actually remain in the EU but tell the LEAVE people that we've left it: they seem willing to believe any lie.

By Gervais Angel
on

Thank you for these instructive analyses and views. I am intrigued that all appear to deplore the UK leaving Europe. Is this generally true of dons and post-grads currently in the University. I matriculated in 1955.

By Alan Polak
on

David's comment is correct. My main regret is that although there is a rational left-wing argument for Brexit, this was only employed by a very small minority. The referendum result will therefore go down in history as a victory for the xenophobic right. This need not and should not have been the case.

By Philip Goldenberg
on

Er, not quite. We've impoverished ourselves, not only short-term but also (if we come out of the Single European Market) long-term. We now have a dis-United Kingdom, with probable Scottish independence and the damage that will be done to the Northern Ireland peace process. And we've destroyed our geopolitical position. And on the basis of a pack of lies told by the Leave campaign. As Goebbels said, "the bigger the lie, the more likely it is to be believed".

Even more tragically, the politics of reason and logic have been Trumped by the politics of emotion and identity, whose best exponent was Hitler.

By Anselm Kuhn
on

Post Brexit, the UK certainly has a stony path ahead. Surely we always knew that. Yet the EU itself is gripped by conflicting tides. Those on the one hand wishing to emulate the UK or otherwise to loosen EU ties. And those on the other, who now emerge unashamedly with plans for a united Europe, fiscal harmonisation and the rest. That Brussels could even contemplate Turkish EU membership is ludicrous. Turkey is not a European nation. It still hankers for the glories of the Ottoman Empire. The bottom line, in many ways, is how much one values the Nation State, how much, in terms of values and customs, we really share with Serbia (a candidate) or even France. I didn't care much for the views expressed above. They reeked too much of vested self interest, or a lack of knowledge and sympathy for those outside Oxford's Lotus Land, for whom EU membership and free movement has not been a good thing.

By Geoffrey
on

David's criticism of the EU is occasioned by the reluctance of governments to seek alternatives to 'austerity' as a means of 'balancing the books': a fair, thorough, & transparent tax regime is needed.
We now seem bound to honour a 52-48% decision, opposed by 2 constituent parts of the UK, which is being acknowledged by more and more as a disaster. But surely you do not just help a man to kill himself 'while the balance of his mind is disturbed'. If 'Exit' is for suicides, 'Brexit' is for national suicide.

By John Speller (T...
on

Letter from America

I have been living in the USA for the last 34 years. I have always been a supporter of Britain's membership in the EU, but the degree of dismay I felt at the Brexit vote surprised even me. One contact in the UK asked me if the Americans were gloating over the decision. I told him that I had discussed it with dozens of Americans and not a single one of them thought Brexit was a good idea. I think the decision is largely dictated by racism and the sad thing is that most racists don't realize that they are. Quite honestly if the British public are daft enough to vote for Brexit, the American public may well be daft enough to vote for Donald Trump.

By Peter Hopkins
on

If Mr Polonski is right about the impact of social media on the EU referendum, I should have expected younger voters (under 25?) to dominate the Brexit vote, as they are surely the heaviest users of Facebook, etc., yet they were apparently the most enthusiastic supporters of Remain. Older voters are presumably much less likely to use social media, yet the statistics suggest that support for Remain diminished decade by decade up the age scale.

By Frank Robinson
on

HMGovt Ministers (DEFRA, Foreign& Com, etc) will now have to make policy instead of applying policies made elsewhere. The courts can shake themselves free and recover judicial backbone. With free EU movement in doubt, maybe we can prioritise asylum seekers, in line with our history that took in 300,000 Huguenots and a good number of Jews from Russia and Germany, all to our benefit.
The EU is a gravy train - great if you're on it.

By Michael
on

The next edition of The Oxford English Dictionary will have to include all the new words that can be formed by adding br to ex: brexcess, brexclude, brexchequer, brexcoriate, brexcuse, brexecrable, brexecute, brexempt, brexercise, brexile, brexistence, brexodus, brexotic. brexpect, brexpeditent, brexpel, brexpense, brexperiment, brexpedient, brexpert, brexplode, brexpletive, brexploit, brexpose, brexpel, brextinct, brextort, brextract, brextricate, brextreme, but not brexpand or brextrovert.

By Michel Van den ...
on

I feel very sad because the emotional British vote to reject solidarity with the european continent will deprive the EU of Britain's important contribution to shaping an alliance which, notwithstanding its often clumsy bureaucracy, has been one of the few constant political forces to the good in the post war order. I am not too worried about the economic consequences, neither for Britain, nor for Europe, because surely common business sense will prevail in the end. But witnessing a great nation deciding to stay aloof, not to engage any more in shaping a better world for all, in a spirit of cooperation with its neighbours, is truly disappointing.
The government which decided to subject this strategic choice in the most simplistic terms to a referendum must have had little confidence in its own democratic mandate to govern. The Brexiteers want Parliament to recover its sovereignty, but clearly neither them nor the elected government felt it could be trusted with an important strategic decision. Now that europhobia, whipped up by politicians , has been allowed to prevail, shall we see the new lot enact the "will of the people", by putting up barriers against Europe, particularly european migrants, and building bridges to increase trade with all other countries across the oceans ? I doubt that it would be a realistic strategy, but then the winners are so stunned that they do not know what to do next. Increasing trade with the United States, China and India would certainly be a good thing, but I did not think belonging to the EU would be an obstacle.
On the immigration question, the shocking reality is that only Germany's leaders have had the guts to accept a million refugees while the UK's have concentrated on complaining about an "invasion" of east europeans who nevertheless seem to contribute positively to their economy, including the NHS.
We are all the worse for the British voters' decision, and I hope that somehow a way will be found to limit the damage to us all.

By Willim Hughes (...
on

My first observation : not all leavers were emotionally driven by system1, and not all remainers were arguing rationally using system 2. The people I met were all struggling with a mixture of arguments, evidence and emotions and finding it very difficult to decide, eg, "I want to strengthen the sovereignty of GB, but not at the cost of the Union", and "The EU and NATO are all that stand between us and Putin, but my instinct is for out!".
My second observation: our young people had a good grasp of the arguments, but if they declined to vote, they explained to me that the crude way the question had been posed had put them off.
My third observation: perhaps we should reopen alternative voting systems that would allow us to find the common ground in the centre? (Look at the RCA work on citizen economics).

By Willim Hughes (...
on

My first observation : not all leavers were emotionally driven by system1, and not all remainers were arguing rationally using system 2. The people I met were all struggling with a mixture of arguments, evidence and emotions and finding it very difficult to decide, eg, "I want to strengthen the sovereignty of GB, but not at the cost of the Union", and "The EU and NATO are all that stand between us and Putin, but my instinct is for out!".
My second observation: our young people had a good grasp of the arguments, but if they declined to vote, they explained to me that the crude way the question had been posed had put them off.
My third observation: perhaps we should reopen alternative voting systems that would allow us to find the common ground in the centre? (Look at the RCA work on citizen economics).

By Roger Hawkins
on

Polonski, Fisher and Sumption seem to me to be analysts of the situation since the Referendum result. Jones, Byrne and Kohl, in contrast, are clearly disappointed Remainers.
We do not cease to be Europeans following Brexit, and I've already signed a petition in favour of protecting the right of European citizens already in the UK to remain, leave and return at will . A big-hearted gesture of this sort is what's needed now.
And there will still be a place in Britain in future for suitably qualified mainland Europeans, from care workers to top-flight academics, as there will be for suitably qualified people from any other continent.
Most interesting is Polonski's revelation about the campaign on social media. I've always understood, ever since there were social media, that they are the natural domain of the young. So what happened? Why do the social media appear to have bucked the trend for the old to support Brexit and the young to support Remain?
P.S. I'm looking forward to seeing Tasmanian Braburns in the shops again.

By christopher moss
on

The views expressed above by your selection from acadaemia simply demonstrates how out of touch these people are with society as a whole. They might care to reflect on the fact that the only reason why we are in the EU at all is because the political establishment (aided and abetted by their academic predecessors) over many years lied blatantly to the populus as to the nature of the European Project. They did so because they knew that if the British electorate had been asked at any time whether it wanted to become a constituent part of a Federal European State, there could only be one answer. At last democracy has triumphed despite the influence of people like these.

By Simon
on

I'm sure that Professor Erik Jones could have decided to use a less intemperate word than "disintegration".

By James
on

It is remarkable that Oxford has been unable to find a single pro-Brexit voice for an article like this. Yes, of course, there are reasonable arguments on both sides of the debate, and issues that can hopefully be discussed in a mature manner via such a magazine article, but frankly this piece falls into a worrying trend within the mainstream British media, both before and since the referendum. There is an assumption running throughout this piece that it is self-evidently the case that leave voters are wrong and motivated only by narrow prejudice against migration, and that therefore Brexit is a problem that can at best be mitigated, with no effort at all made to see the positive potential of the new situation. There is no conception of the fact that the larger part of Leave voters who I know (and this is backed by polling done by Lord Ashcroft after the referendum, so not merely anecdotal), were motivated by concerns of democratic accountability, and the necessity of having the means to control those who claim to govern on our behalf, rather than simple anti-immigration prejudice. The piece by Katrin Kohl is especially repellent - apparently the universities need to represent the 48%, but I wonder whether they also need to represent the 52%? Could it be, that the main reason young people overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, voted 'remain', is that they are constantly exposed to only the attitudes presented here, and that universities would better serve their function if young people were exposed to a genuine range of opinions, rather than merely shades of establishment left-liberalism? What has been thoroughly exposed by the referendum is that it seems to have become the normal attitude amongst a large section of the politico-media-educational establishment that the people are not to be trusted, and that it is therefore better to have a good king than a bad parliament. The result of this attitude is that the anti-democratic basis upon which the EU was formed is held up as a positive thing, for it takes power away from the people and puts it into the hands of the political classes, big business, and organised special interest groups. In this light contra-Philippa Byrne the 'Independence' idea seems entirely fitting. The British Empire, like the EU, was sometimes a 'good king', but it was better for the peoples of Asia, Africa, and the rest to have self-government for the same reason that it is good for us to now be freed of the EU - because when the king turns bad there is nothing that you can do about it, but when a parliament acts against the interests of the people, they can.

By Gerry
on

The failure of the EU to ensure proper audits, the stupidity of shifting the EU Parliament between Bruxelles and Strasbourg, the undemocratic Commissioners - these are my reasons for voting Leave. But I still will spend my winters in Spain and I still like my European membership. While Spain is trying to get more organised, their citizens will grab any chance to avoid paying their VAT. I am regarded as mad and stupid because I insist on paying it. I know there will be economic consequences but I am confident we will eventually overcome them.

By Robert Dunn
on

Farage reaped all the glory, but it should not go unnoticed that it was Alan Sked (Merton College 1968) who fathered UKIP.

By Robert P Bruce
on

It's very easy to dismiss the Leave vote as a huge mistake brought about through emotional manipulation and clever use of social media. However, the referendum has exposed a very real and deep divide in British society. Remain voters generally have a positive view of the new Global era, with 73% believing they are better off than 30 years ago, and a majority who think life will be better for their own children. However, Leave voters are much more pessimistic, with 58% saying they are worse off today, and 61% who believe life will be worse still for their children.

Globalisation under current UK policies has been very polarising, creating strong economic rewards and new opportunities for those with education and advanced skills. Meanwhile many manual-skilled and unskilled workers have been left behind, with few benefits and even fewer options to improve their prospects. Workers on minimum wage don't really care about losing freedom of movement in Europe as they don't have either the money to retire to Spain, or the skills to get a new job in Paris or Brussels. The "elephant" chart from Branco Milanovic confirms that many workers in Europe and America are correct to believe they have been left behind in the new model of Global capitalism http://tinyurl.com/hnn6yuv.

This has implications far beyond Britain, as the future direction of automation threatens to divide human society into those who are part of this new revolution, and those who will increasingly become socially and economically excluded. If we are to learn anything from the Brexit vote it must be that we cannot continue with such a divisive economic model, but must instead find ways to deliver a society in which everyone has the opportunity to both contribute to and share in the huge economic benefits that will come from building a more integrated Global society.

Robert P Bruce - author www.TheGlobalRace.net

By chris erwin
on

In the in/out result coloured maps, Cambridge and Norwich (home of UEA) stand out- assume Oxford the same. What Universities, and Londoners do not get is that in the rest of Britain, British people can't get jobs because their wages are undercut For example, in my Norfolk village, ordinary people worked at Birds Eye frozen peas or Bernard Matthews turkey factory They were unpleasant jobs, but people were used to them. Now, not just the jobs, but the whole Birds Eye factory has moved to Poland, and I have heard there is virtually nobody who speaks English at Bernard Matthews- anything to do with the minimum wage??
The answer is the Australian & New Zealand system, which gives points for education etc so an Indian Doctor comes straight in, but an unqualified immigrant does not, unless there is demand in excess of British supply.. Older people can come in if they bring enough money to provide x jobs for British people.
There is a disconnect between politicians and the non London non university voter. Boris Johnson was offered the constituency of Bury St Edmunds and turned it down on the grounds he "is London man who does not know anything (or care??) about the countryside." It shows. There is little sign of knowledge of the real problem and thus the solution.

By Arthur Stockwin
on

Oxford voted 70% for Remain, Hartlepool 70% for Leave. 18-25 year-olds voted 73% for Remain, the elderly (not me) voted heavily for Leave. My 25 year-old granddaughter, previously uninterested in politics, is incensed at the result, so incomprehensible to someone of her generation. Support for Remain correlates with moderate to high education attainment, those with less education tend to support Leave. This country is deeply divided and will become more so as the adverse impacts of Brexit intensify. We may lose Scotland, the border issue in Ireland is troubling given the history. Marine Le Pen is rejoicing and could become President of France. The European Union created structures, however imperfect, that pulled Europe together after the terrible divisions and wars from 1914 and 1991 (essentially the lifetime of my parents). But people ignore the lessons of history and focus on their narrow local interests. Since the 1950s this country has been semi-detached from Europe, to its detriment and shame. Brexit is the culmination. I am deeply saddened by what has happened.

By Adrian Waite
on

I thought it was the UK that had a regime change policy in Iraq that was opposed by France and Germany! Or is the writer describing Europe's successful policy of promoting democracy and freedom in the former Soviet bloc as 'regime change' policy? Also I thought it was the UK that had the largest military budget and military export business in Europe.

By David Pearn
on

The six academics all appear to share the view that the referendum was won by the less rational, more emotional side.
This is patronising stuff. Where is the evidence?
I hope that those mulling over the lessons and implications will start to study the substantive arguments in favour of the LEAVE vote, including why member states allowed the EU bureaucracy to accumulate such extensive powers (so that national sovereignty was seen to be being rapidly snuffed out), why the EU failed to get their accounts audited, why they allowed unsuitable countries to adopt the euro, why they failed to introduce sensible adjustments to the immigration regime when it became clear that their open doors approach lacked popular support, why they provoked concerns about interference by the EU bureaucracy in the direction and control of the Armed Forces, and finally why are we still waiting for the resignation of Mr Juncker?

By Colin
on

I am sure it is no coincidence at all that each of these academics undoubtedly benefits from EU funding.

By Stephen Cunliffe
on

Thank you David, for so clearly marking our path from Great Britain to Little England.

By RH Findlay
on

A vote of 48% against and 52% for from 72% of voters is hardly an overwhelming vote "for" whatever it is that is being voted on. And any vote for something supported by UKIP is a vote for the rule of idiocy.

The European Union was not just about evil bankers and loss of whatever sovereignty petty-minded nationalists might have idealised, but it was also about a common purpose that included a great deal concerning the civli liberties and protections of European citizens. The austerity imposed throughout the EU is the result of a right-wing mindset about Victorian English laissez faire market economics that first re-reared its ugly head under the Thatcher government in the UK and in the USA under Reagan and which received increasing governmental support by Tory-style and Labour-style parties throughout the western world, backed by a "free press" that has become increasingly centralised into the hands of a very few owners. An alternative EU was and may still be possible; the "Brexit" was an act of despair that wil do nothing to change 'austerity politics' in the UK.

By anthony
on

A good result for those happy to stand alongside Farage, Carswell, Trump, Putin, the EDL, Katie Hopkins, and all those who prefer building walls to building bridges.

By James Young
on

On the influence of social media, it seems strange that it was so influential for the Leave vote, while the younger voters (most likely to use social media) were Remain voters, while the oldies, less social media savvy voted for Leave.

By Alex Keller
on

why was my comment not accepted-I gave the same email address on which I read your magazine

By Gerald Wood
on

Thank you to Madeleine Sumption and Stephen Fisher for thoughtful and neutral pieces. Otherwise, all we are offered here is prejudice dressed in academic garb. It is a pity that Oxford Today did not feature even one academic with something positive to say about Brexit.

By W R T Woods
on

If younger people were so convinced that it was vital for their future that we stayed in the EU why didn't more of them bother to vote?

By Simon
on

"Brexit is a victory for ignorance, intolerance, racism, isolation and nationalism. Change comes from within, not without."

Two observations.

1. Your conclusion seems to me to be at odds with your argument, if so it can be called.

2. Various of my proud and voluble "liberal and progressive" friends have also spouted this disgustingly illiberal, ignorant, intolerant and, in its own way, racist vilification of 17 million of their fellow citizens. I have been deeply disappointed to the point of feeling shamed and sullied by the naked aggression towards, and arrogant dismissal of, everyone who voted Leave by the likes of Hugh.

I wonder what Oxford is spawning.

By anthony slessor
on

How poignant that the vote to leave came one week before the centenary of the bloodiest day in British history on a battlefield within earshot. It would interesting to know the views on the EU amongst the elderly of Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Italy, and so on - those for whom tramping through the mud and blood of another people's country is not just an abstract concept. "Project Fear"? I hope so, but it's too dangerous and too likely to merit such a facetious label. The demagogues are already on the rise: Le Pen, AfD.... tribalism and racism are never far beneath the surface.

By John Brooke
on

Two points that seem overlooked. (1) Britain is so attractive to immigrants above all because our 19th century Empire and the USA's 20th century commercial dominance mean that these insignificant off-shore islands are the only place in Europe where people can be sure of being able to use the world's most widely used language. (2) Now that we are "one with Nineveh and Tyre" as Kipling warned, big countries like India and Brazil are not going to accept for much longer that this backwater, no longer representative of its continent, should continue to have superior status, such as permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

By John Doubell
on

I am surprised by all the learned analyses, as I feel that the principal reason for a large part of the leave vote was psychological.

I was born in 1948, and probably was conceived on about the date when the British Empire ended.

However, I was born up to believe in and reveer the British Empire. I would imagine that many people in my generation ands those following it had a similar upbringing.

Winston Churchill coined the phrase "The United States of Europe" in his speech at the Zurich Conference in 1946.
However, his final words clearly showed a "them and us" attitude:-

"Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and I trust Soviet Russia - for then indeed all would be well - must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine."

This attitude was maintained by the leading Labour politician Herbert Morrison at the time of the Messina Conference in 1955 (which established the EEC and to which the British had sent only junior representatives, withdrawing them before the end of the conference) when he opined that Britain's joining the EEC would be:-

"The end of Britain as an independent European state…….the end of a thousand years of history."

Had Britain joined then, it would have had a leading voice in establishing the workings of the EEC and later the EU.

I discovered the truth about Europe when I spent the academic year 1969/70 in France. Since then all my life other than 2 short spells of 3 years each has been spent living and working in Spain, and Italy. Indeed, for some years now I consider myself a citizen of the United States of Europe, a state which must surely be born, but probably when I am no longer around to see it.

I now have Spanish Nationality but the UK is very close to my heart, and the day I saw the results of the referendum was, apart from the death of my parents, the saddest day of my life. It will probably lead to the end of both the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" and also of "Great Britain", leaving only the "United Kingdom of England and Wales".

Indeed, I also fear that this "little England" may well end up becoming a state of the USA.

The judgement on who is responsible for this seems to lie clearly on the shoulders of those over 50, whose upbringing may well have been similar to my own, and I have great pity for the younger generations who have been prejudiced by this vote from the heart.

However I feel that much of the blame rests with those who established the 2015 Referendum Act requiring only an unqualified majority..

How can it be possible for such a slender margin to determine such a radical change.

When the Brexit negotiation have finally concluded, it will require the vote of 60% of EU member countries to approve them.

In Spain, if we wish to alter our written Constitution, I believe that a qualified majority of 66% is necessary.

I cannot help feeling that the UK has been hoisted by its own petard.

By Andrew G.
on

Looking back at the EU's record over the last ten years, it's a wonder that anybody voted to stay in it.

Maastricht may have set worthy goals, but there has been no commitment to acheiving them, and rescuing a financialized economy from itsself has taken priority over everything. Everything that is apart from an aggressive and disjoint foriegn policy that has laid waste to the MENA region, that supports a far-right coup in Ukraine, that is willing to engage in war with Russia, all for the goal of maintaining a necessary illusion of growth in the absence of any real hope that things will get better in the future.

The EU's only success, apparantly, has been to allow a small number of well-educated youngsters to freely move to other countries without having to go through all that messy paperwork of applying for citizenship. All the better for their employer's to keep wages down.

By AlexKeller
on

@Leave' comments leave me more depressed than the results themselves: the UK was free and independent for the past 40 years-and is no more independent today. We gave up more of our 'sovereignty' by joining NATO-in that special relationship with the USA,, we are the weaker, subordinate partner-as shown by our sending even now fresh troops to Irak and Afghanistan.
More important surely than social media were the popular papers ,particularly Daily Express and Daily Mail, which have been running anti-EU and all too often [still] anti-immigrant stories for years.

By Arthur Jonath
on

A view from the colonies:

This Brexit business is exactly a consequence of the intense malaise brought on by the "Austerity Solution", which the EU enforced in its failed attempt to recover from the 2008 collapse. And along with the consequences no one seems able to disentangle, the UK, also a proponent of Austerity, will provide little help to allay its citizens' economic fears.

And who else? One other is our beloved US of A, where the opposite of Austerity, namely Stimulus, is a word to be avoided more than the "C" word...... "Compromise".

By Peter West
on

The "Remain" campaign amounted to little more than a constant shout of "racist" at anyone who put forward the "Leave" case.

Katrin Kohl´s diatribe, including the remark about "the boost it ( Brexit ) gives to the far right" continues this theme.

I hope that the Right ( not the "far right") WILL be given a boost. The Far Left, as personified by the likes of Katrin Kohl and the cult of "Political Correctness," has dominated for far too long.

By Jenfair
on

What a dreadful article.
Does Oxford Today really think that lumping together a biased batch of identical opinions constitutes an academically interesting or rigorous analysis? Pitiful.
I guess it yet again highlights the left wing liberal elite's anti-democratic assumption that only their views can possibly count and that their academically coddled opinions are more valuable than those of the populous.
Brexit won. At a grassroots level and despite the establishment machinery.
'Academics' should stop trying to justify their selective 'democracy' (ie. Only the things they like) and for goodness sake, O.T., as the magazine associated with our illustrious university, have the intellectual calibre to at least pretend to have a balanced discussion.

By Louise Gooch
on

The period of British membership of the European Union and the Brexit vote to leave of 2016 are moments in history, nothing more and nothing less.
What we must now do as a country, in whatever form, is to see the long view. The only possible trajectory for the survival of our planet, our environment and all its life-forms is greater global unity and equality of opportunity. It might take hundreds of years to arrive at a point where people can move freely across this world contributing to every community they join and are welcomed into. Utopian and idealistic? Yes, but without a destination, we have no hope of finding the right path. The European Union might be the beginning of this global community or only ever an exclusive club; only time will tell.
(My hope is that it is the former; hence, I write this as a saddened 'Remainer', but I also write this as a teacher and Labour Party Councillor determined to do what I can to promote the values that will foster a safer, more trusting and less divisive global condition.)

By Dunstan Vavasour
on

For many of us the argument for Brexit is simple: the EU is rotten to the core and incapable of fixing itself. When so much policy about trade and the environment is made at a global level, our voice is more effective as proud internationalists than having little Europeans speaking on our behalf.

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