Full steam ahead for Brexit – A personal elegy for a cosmopolitanism that perhaps never was

aspiration&revolution

Now it is almost official, after 461 to 89 MPs backed the government’s Article 50 Bill yesterday: Brexit will happen probably sooner than many expected, and more authoritarian and undemocratic than ever thought possible by those who believe in due democratic process.

Photo: Stefan Boness, www.iponphoto.com Photo: Stefan Boness, http://www.iponphoto.com

Brexit will in essence be negotiated by a Prime Minister not even elected by ‘the people’ in a real sense, ‘the people’ we hear so much about these days, and whose will the PM now proclaims to carry out. One can have different views on what democracy is, and how democratic a referendum, fought on a single issue and based on false facts (or ‘post-truth’), as later frankly admitted by those who propagated them, really is – and I am among those critical of such versions of democracy.

A remain-politician, before the first vote on Article 50 in parliament, explained why he would vote…

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EU & Academia: funding matters too – Prof Dame Athene Donald

Another leading physicist, Professor Dame Athene Donald of the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge has added her voice and a slightly difimage_normalferent perspective
to the discussion about Universities, academics and Brexit. She told me:
“As a member of the European Research Council Scientific Council I am very aware both of the
success of academics in the UK in obtaining ERC funding and also the
value people place on the ‘portability’ of grants awarded under these
schemes.

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The ACBs: the Administrative Consequences of Brexit?

by Colin Talbot and Carole Talbot

Most of the debate around Brexit focuses of the big policy issues.

What tends to get ignored is the impact it will have on the UKs “machinery of government”.

Some of these impacts are fairly obvious, some much less so. Some are purely regulatory, others administrative and some a combination of both. But taken together they amount to a seismic shift in the machinery of British Government. Continue reading

Brexit and EU27 academics in the UK – breaking up is hard to do

border-eu-citizens-facebook_social_mediaYou “should now make arrangements to leave” (Home Office)

The UK’s University sector is one of our most valuable national assets” Professor Brian Cox, the University of Manchester academic and TV presenter, told me last week. Brian said that UK higher education “is a genuinely global industry generating billions of pounds in export earnings, one of the necessary foundations of our innovation-led economy and perhaps our strongest soft power asset; political and industrial leaders from all over the world were educated here in the UK.

Which makes it all the more strange why the Government should be, accidentally or deliberately, undermining our Universities. Most of the commentary on Brexit will have on UK Universities has concentrated on issues of funding, research cooperation and students. Much less attention has been paid to what keeps Universities running – academic staff – and what Brexit will mean for the thirty-thousand plus EU academics in the UK. Here are some of their personal experiences and what it means for our Universities.

How this all started for me…. Continue reading

The many ways in which Brexit can become Wrexit for Britain [Book Review]

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BREXIT – What The Hell Happens Now? Ian Dunt. Canbury Press. 2016 

On June 23rd 2016 British voters delivered a slim majority (52/48) in an advisory Referendum on whether the UK should remain or leave the EU.

What happened immediately afterwards was even more shocking than the actual result (which not even the ‘Leave’ camp had expected). British politics suddenly did a screeching 180 degree U-turn on decades of commitment by both Conservatives and Labour to the EU – “Brexit means Brexit”. The Referendum was transmuted to unchallengeable Holy Writ – the people had spoken.

The problem is, as Ian Dunt’s book admirably sets out, “the people” and that includes most of our politicians, had no real idea of what had just happened and what the consequences would be. Dunt’s book tries to educate us all, in eye-opening and eye-watering detail.

I should say at this point I rarely read non-fiction books from cover to cover. I don’t have the time – as an academic you quickly learn to skim, dip and dive into books to gut them for what’s essential. I read this, all of it.

There is way too much in the book to review fully so I’ll just highlight what were the key “take-aways” (as we now say) for me. Continue reading

The UK after the Referendum: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air…..

The EU referendum result came as a shock to just about everyone, including the leaders of the “Leave” campaign (and me).

The aftershocks of this earthquake in British politics are still being felt.

Three of the central antagonists – the Prime Minister David Cameron, the leader of “Leave” Boris Johnson and leader of UKIP Nigel Farage – have all ‘resigned’. The leader of the Opposition is clinging onto office by his fingernails.

These individual dramas and excitements are, however, mere sideshows.

The real tragedy is the way the British constitution has been turned on its head. Continue reading

Britain after the EU Referendum: So Who Are ‘We’ Now?

[This is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts on the seismic events triggered by the EU Referendum result. This is my attempt to take a step back and take a broader look at what’s happening.]

The most fundamental question in politics – that comes before “how are we to live together and govern ourselves?” – is “who is the ‘we’ that will live together in this polity?”. 

I do not believe, with Rousseau, that humans were originally noble, isolated, individuals who come together in a ‘social contract’. Nor do I agree with Hobbes that we were likewise isolated, but ignoble, individuals and needed ‘Leviathan’ (government) to force us to live together in some sort of order.

We are a social species – we have always lived together in groups much larger than our immediate family. As Peter Singer so memorably puts it, “we were social before we were human”.

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