The many Brexits of Bristol

Bristol strongly supported Remain but not all of its component parts did. Ward-level data reveals who voted for what, why, and thus how we might move forward as a community.

Figure 1 How Bristol voted in the EU referendum, ward by ward, with a high Remain vote in red and a low Remain vote in yellow. The original interactive map can be found on Bristol247.com who kindly gave us permission to use this image.

At odds with much of England, the City of Bristol voted overwhelmingly for Remain in the EU referendum, with 62% as opposed to 38% for Leave. Hundreds marched through the centre of Bristol to show their dismay the day after the referendum result. At the same time, recently available ward level data indicates the outer areas of Bristol including Bishopsworth, Hartcliffe and Hengrove were majority Leave. Just as a picture of a deeply divided country emerged on 24 June 2016, can we understand Bristol as a microcosm of modern Britain? And what exactly does it mean to vote Leave in a city which was enthusiastically Remain?

On 4 April 2017, the University of Bristol hosted a workshop on local communities as part of the wider initiative ‘#BristolBrexit – A City Responds to Brexit’. Working closely with local residents, city officials, stakeholders, practitioners and charities in Bristol, the workshop sought to include a balance of participants between central Bristol and the outer estates. The workshop participants identified the challenges we face post-Brexit with a particular focus on Bristol, including the racism and prejudice faced by minority communities, ensuring the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and the general sense of insecurity and uncertainty brought on by the Referendum result. Built into the design of the workshop, the conversation then turned to ‘who is missing?’. Large segments of our local communities, including young people, abstainers, and Brexiteers are still missing from the Bristol-Brexit discussion. Continue reading

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What will Brexit mean for the future of European student mobility?

The UK government’s stance on immigration will likely cost British students their access to Erasmus+. How will UK universities keep their students thinking globally post-Brexit?
As Brexit negotiations gather momentum, the time has arrived when we must consider how we can successfully navigate the next two years. The UK must think about how we will fill the Brussels shaped void, the implications of which will soon start to become clear. It’s a void that will loom large in my professional life as my colleagues and I consider the future of European student mobility without the Erasmus+ programme.

If the results of the referendum caught us by surprise, I’m determined that we will be prepared for any outcome that the negotiations deliver. And, moreover, that along with other stakeholders, we take an active role in helping fill that void and shape it into something that can be a worthy successor to Erasmus. I was recently invited to take part in an excellent workshop “Projecting Bristol and Britain to a Post-Brexit World” organised by Dr Nieves Perez-Solorzano and Professor Michelle Cini from the University of Bristol. This was a good opportunity to start thinking about how we can proactively participate in Brexit discussions and this short piece considers some of those ideas with regards to international student mobility.
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Bristol, Brexit and the creative challenge

Bristol’s creative industries give the city a strong starting point for taking the city global post-Brexit. But it will need support to succeed.

Graffiti on wall of person with a flower

Street art in Southville Bristol. Heather Cowper/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc)

Brexit is framed as both a threat and an opportunity – the loss of the EU market and the free flow of talent against the chance to work across the whole world. The creative industries already work globally – our music, films, TV, design and digital products and services are renowned. We also benefit from the free flow of talent – up to 50% EU citizens in sectors like visual effects – and investment from European cultural programmes. And, of course, Europe is a huge market and English remains the key language of the industry.

Combined with the devolution of powers within the UK, this has created a matrix of changes which all reinforce one thing – we’re heading for “the City and the World”. As a biologist with 30 years experience in factual TV, this resonates with basic ecology, which I believe provides the philosophy to deal with complexity and develop the right response to the coming change.

Creativity is a very human industry, in production and consumption. The energy within the ecosystem comes from individuals with talent, and there are skills shortages. We need to be able to draw on a wide range of talent, and ensure the Tier 2 visa arrangement aligns to needs – currently they are too restrictive in the definition of ability and salary level required. The industry exists predominantly as a collection of microbusinesses, and we do not have the capacity to sponsor individuals in visa applications.
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Automatic transformation of EU citizenship rights is the way forward

The British Home Office has created a bureaucratic nightmare for EU citizens applying for permanent residency. Might there be a better way forward?

According to official figures there are over three million non-UK EU citizens living in the United Kingdom, many of which live in Bristol. Following the referendum of 23 June 2016 and the notification by the UK government to withdraw from the European Union many of those citizens are naturally feeling anxious about Brexit and the future of their rights in this country. What will happen to them once the UK leaves the EU is still unclear. In the Guidelines Following the UK’s Notification under Article 50 TEU adopted on 29 April 2017, the EU 27 recognise that “the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the Union creates significant uncertainties that have the potential to cause disruption”, notably for “[c]itizens who have built their lives on the basis of rights flowing from the British membership of the EU [and] face the prospect of losing those rights”.

Clarifying the status of EU citizens could have been done unilaterally by the British government. It chose not to, however, arguing that the status of UK nationals in EU states also needed to be addressed and reciprocal rights offered. Although the issue was raised in parliament during the debate over the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill legal uncertainty remains. The European Union has on several occasions stressed that finding a solution to this issue was paramount and needed to be tackled at an early stage of the Brexit negotiations. Indeed as stressed in paragraph eight of the EU 27’s guidelines, “[t]he right for every EU citizen, and of his or her family members, to live, to work or to study in any EU Member State is a fundamental aspect of the European Union”.

This was the main theme of the workshop ‘Bristol in Flux: Suspended Citizenship’ organised by the University of Bristol on 3 April 2017 to which we, as lecturers in EU Law at the University of the West of England and authors of the textbook European Union Law, were invited. One of the subtopics broached at the workshop was the fate of long-term EU residents who seem to be most affected by Brexit. The debate predominantly centred upon two themes of immediate practical relevance: first, the conditions for obtaining a UK status, and second, the processes and practicalities of transforming their EU status into a UK status. Continue reading

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How can we resist post-Brexit racism?

What does one do when they feel their home turning against them?

Picture of graffiti on a wall - a girls face

SmugOne graffiti, Bristol. duncan c/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc)

“It’s good to be back home” said one of my friends after we had come back from a two-week holiday abroad. I looked at her not knowing how to respond and just smiled reluctantly. Before Brexit I would have said it too without hesitation, having lived in the UK for over ten years. But I could not share my friend’s excitement. It was three months after the vote.

A couple of days earlier, a Polish man had been killed in, what was believed to be, a hate crime attack. I found out about it from my parents who called me from Poland to check how I was doing and to ask if Bristol was a safe place for me to live. It was the first time they asked me this question since I moved to the UK in 2005. I couldn’t help but feel worried and upset upon my return rather than relieved and happy as my British friends did. Unfortunately, for me it was not so good to be back at not so home anymore.

Brexit questioned my feeling of belonging to British society. I started having doubts if British people had ever accepted me and other EU citizens. Not everyone voted to leave. And of course, not everyone who voted leave is racist or xenophobic. The hate crimes, even though rapidly increased following the EU referendum, are still relatively low in numbers. However, this is not to say that they are insignificant. The death of the Polish migrant was not an isolated incident. Continue reading

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How UKIP’s decline could provide a major boost for Theresa May

Ron Johnston, Professor of Geography, University of Bristol

The British prime minister Theresa May called a snap general election in the expectation that it will deliver her a substantially increased parliamentary majority. This in turn would give her the “strong and stable government” she hopes for as she enters the crucial Brexit negotiations.

So far, opinion polls suggest that the Conservatives have a large lead over Labour. But in order to attain the desired majority, they need to win a substantial number of seats from Labour. There were, however, fewer marginal seats following the 2015 general election than after any previous election since World War II – just 42, for example, where Labour won by a majority of less than ten percentage points over the Conservatives.

If the Conservatives were to win all of them, they would have 374 MPs in the new parliament compared to Labour’s 195 and a majority over all parties of 98.

So how winnable are those 42 seats? The likelihood of many Labour voters from 2015 switching to the Conservatives in 2017 is small, so the Conservatives will have to gain most of the extra votes from other sources. One likely source is those who last time voted for UKIP. Continue reading

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Brexit and unemployment: where bureaucracy becomes brutal

Receiving jobseeker’s allowance isn’t enough for EEA nationals to prove they are looking for work. But if that’s not sufficient, what is?

An image of people walking past a job centre plus

By J J Ellison (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) – anyone would be forgiven for thinking this is a descriptive term. An allowance – “a sum of money paid regularly to a person to meet needs or expenses”, as the dictionary terms it – for those seeking (looking for) a job. But according to the Home Office unit which processes applications for permanent residence from EEA citizens, this is not the case. For such applications, being in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance is not evidence of actively seeking work.

Many EEA citizens wishing to secure their status in post-Brexit Britain are applying for permanent residency, an essential step on the path to British citizenship. Immigrants from outside the EEA can usually get permanent residency (‘indefinite leave to remain’) after five years of lawful residence. EEA citizens also become eligible for permanent residence after five years of living in the UK. But although their residence may have been lawful, the government is placing additional barriers in the way of EEA citizens obtaining permanent residence, resulting in a state of ‘suspended citizenship’. Continue reading

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Brexit, Bristol and business

Business was never unified on its stance towards Brexit, and very few assessments have studied how it will affect local economies.  Might Bristol be the place to start?

Bristol city centre at night. Luke Andrew Scowen/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by)

Glenn Morgan is Professor of Management at the University of Bristol

In the run-up to the Brexit referendum, there was a common assumption that business was strongly in the Remain camp. This suited the purposes of those determined to paint the issue as one of the elites versus the people. It was never an accurate portrayal of the situation. Instead, businesses tended to line up along the narrow lines of their commercial interests or to remain on the sidelines (as was the case with large retailers such as Tesco and Sainsburys).

The City of London, which has gained from being inside the EU, predominantly backed Remain though some of the more activist hedge funds openly supported Leave. The car industry, predominantly owned from outside the UK but deeply integrated with the EU in terms of markets and supply chains, supported Remain. Other large manufacturers, most obviously Dyson – for whom the EU was only a small part of their overall market and whose supply chain stretched into Asia rather than the EU – were more critical of Remain. They were skeptical of ‘Project Fear’ and the idea that Brexit would cut off EU markets to any significant degree. They also saw advantages in getting out from under what had become portrayed as ‘gold-plated’ EU regulation. Continue reading

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Making sense of Brexit: foreigners in defence of foreigners’ rights

There are a reported three million EU citizens and more than five million non-EU citizenships in Britain. Why aren’t they organising ahead of the election?

People on a march with Brexit signs

Stop Brexit, National march to Parliament. London, UK. 25 March 2017. Ik Aldama/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

The triggering of article 50 on 29 March and the call for snap elections on 18 April 2017 represent the political consolidation of a conservative turn in the national agenda. Both issues also represent the political legitimation of a ‘hard Brexit’ and the correlative defeat of democratic and progressive forces. In almost a year since the referendum, political parties and organised sectors of civil society have been unable to articulate a successful opposition to the conservative turn and the political alignment of the country under the still fragile power of the current government.

In particular for foreigners (EU and non-EU immigrants), this alignment implies the radicalisation of an explicit agenda of reduction and re-evaluation of rights that leaves us without any significant representation in the British side of the negotiations. If the June election represents a new political opportunity, then the challenge is to organise our communities. In this article I would like to suggest some ways a social movement of foreigners might be able to defend the civil rights of immigrants and counterbalance the conservative turn during the Brexit negotiations. Continue reading

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#BristolBrexit: a city responds to Brexit

Stokes Croft, Bristol. Jim Killock/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)

Dr Jon Fox, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Jon Fox is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Sociology, Politics, and International Studies and the Assistant Director of the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol.  His research focusses on racism in relation to East European nationals living and working in the UK. He tweets @jonefox23.

Uncertainty is plaguing the transition to a post-Brexit Britain. Cities can, and must, address it head on in ways that work best for them.

The plot thickens. When Theresa May called a snap general election for 8 June she introduced the latest twist in the sordid Brexit tale that has been unravelling over the past year. The emerging plotline is peopled by a colourful cast of heroes and villains (though who fills which role is a matter of personal taste), teeming with intrigue and innuendo, and vacillating daily (or hourly) between tragedy and comedy.

We can ask how we got here, or prophesise about what the future holds, or pound the streets with our campaign of choice. We can also wring our hands, pray to our gods, and retreat into a life of Brexit-free asceticism. Or we can do something about the uncertainty that Brexit has produced. All these plot twists, the relentless manoeuvrings, and the onslaught of contradicting predictions have produced for many a paralysing uncertainty. Post-Brexit Britain has become a world of ‘what ifs’, and until documents are signed in Brussels it will remain as such. It’s not Brexit we need to deal with, it’s the uncertainty Brexit has created. Continue reading

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