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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Neighbourhood responses to Brexit challenges

Aside

Barton Hill, Bristol. Synwell/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)

Ed Palairet has been a resident of Knowle West since 2009, where he raises his young family, leads a Christian community, chairs the Churches Together group and is a trustee of a local charity. Follow him on twitter @EdwardPalairet.

“Taking back control”, they said. If that means being active citizens and active listeners, there may be hope.

Brexit has presented us with a series of new challenges and revived some old ones. While these are of continental magnitude, very practical ways forward at the very local level (that people can engage with organically) can be more effective than grand solutions that too often seem ‘out of touch’.

Neighbourhoods are not the only unit of political organisation, interest or identity. Indeed, some people simply use their address to sleep and receive bills, while others use their address as a base around which to have meaningful social interactions, create community and become active in their neighbourhood. This means that not everyone will engage with the concept of ‘neighbourhood’, but here are a few good reasons from the #BristolBrexit discussions to start doing so. Continue reading

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How can universities tackle the challenges and exploit the opportunities of Brexit?

Phil Syrpis, Professor of EU Law, University of Bristol Law School

Brexit will present the UK with a vast number of political, economic, social, and legal challenges and opportunities in the months and years ahead. In this short piece, Professor Phil Syrpis reflects on the steps taken within the University of Bristol to begin to tackle the challenges and exploit the opportunities.

From the time that it became clear, on the morning of Friday 24 June 2016, that the UK had voted to leave the EU, academics have been absorbing, reacting to, and in some cases seeking to shape, the political agenda. Events have been occurring at a dizzying pace. David Cameron was swiftly replaced by Theresa May; Parliament, after Gina Miller’s Supreme Court victory, voted to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of exiting the EU; White Papers and Negotiating Guidelines were issued; and we are now set for a General Election on 8 June, which looks set to be dominated by Brexit (that’s one of the very few predictions I feel able to make). Continue reading

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Environments without Borders

Research Without Borders 8-12 May A week long series of events showcasing the work of postgraduate students. Free tickets: bristol.ac.uk/research-without-borders

Blog authors (and panel members): Laura De Vito is a postgraduate researcher in the School of Geographical Sciences.  Carlos Gracida Juarez is a postgraduate researcher in the School of Biological Sciences.  Alice Venn is a postgraduate researcher in the School of Social Sciences and Law.  Erik Mackie is a postgraduate researcher in the School of Geographical Sciences, working together with the British Antarctic Survey, and kept up a blog during his recent fieldwork in Antarctica.

The effects of climate change vary hugely across political borders, and have wide-ranging impacts on different communities and environments. Climate policy responses must recognize this global interconnectedness, and integrate international cooperation with effective local action. This is why global treaties such as the Paris Agreement are so important in the fight against climate change, but individual nations must also do their bit to achieve the objectives set out in the agreement. In Environments without Borders (part of Research Without Borders), a panel debate hosted by Bristol Doctoral College and the Cabot Institute on Wednesday 10th May, we will discuss some of these issues, using examples from our research on particular challenges facing our global ocean and water environments.

Continue reading

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Advising in Austerity

Professor Morag McDermont, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies, University of Bristol

Professor Morag McDermont, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies, University of Bristol

Ben Crawford, Knowledge Exchange Fellow (University of Bristol Law School)

Research led by Prof Morag McDermont of University of Bristol Law School has explored the ways in which advice organisations such as Citizens Advice (CA) have become key actors in legal arenas, particularly for citizens who face the most disadvantage in upholding their rights. Findings from a four year study in partnership with Strathclyde University, highlight the importance of free-to-access advice in enabling people to tackle problems and engage with the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern their lives.

The advice sector, however, is under threat, as a new book Advising in Austerity: Reflections on challenging times for advice agencies (edited by Samuel Kirwan and published by Policy Press ) demonstrates. The book, co-written by the research team and advisers in the field, highlights both the possibilities and the challenges for an advice sector that largely relies on volunteers to provide a vital interface between citizens and the everyday problems of debt, health, employment and much more.  Despite the skills and enthusiasm of the workforce, many services are caught between rising demand and large-scale funding cuts, as traditional sources of revenue from local authorities and legal aid are dramatically reduced. Across the network, reductions in core funding are forcing agencies to reduce or reconfigure services. In particular, the face-to-face, generalist advice model that provides a holistic assessment of client’s problems is under pressure as services are reduced in favour of telephone or online support. Continue reading

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