On October 13, 2016, BiE, in collaboration with Brunel University London, brought together a panel of prominent academics and key business leaders to debate the fundemental challenges facing the UK after Brexit.
The public debate was attended by an audience of approximately 400 people, including University students and students from local schools, Brunel academics and members of the local community, including members of local chambers of commerce, Brunel alumni as well as the Mayor and Mayoress of Hillingdon.
The event was opened by Brunel University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Julia Buckingham.
'Britain in Europe' Director, Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, set the scene, arguing that anti-federalism could not provide a convincing explanation for the outcome of the Referendum, and that the UK had a lot of soul searching to do about its future role in Europe and the world. Politics Professor Justin Fisher, Head of Department of Politics, History & Brunel Law School, pointed out that the outcome of the Referendum will inevitably lead to feelings of discontent and disconnect, and that there was a significant risk of parliamenatry paralysis, and threats to the Union, as we are moving forward with Brexit. Sir Geoffrey Nice QC delivered an emotional and inspiring speech, speaking of a grand new landscape where there might be few constraints to sliding towards populist excesses, and heavily criticising an emerging culture of isolationism and exclusion. Tim Boag, a Managing Director at NatWest, drew a mixed picture about the effect of Brexit on financial institutions, highlighting that it is still early days, but also pointing out that confidence was quite fragile. Will Higham, Communications Director at London First, stressed that success in the services industry hinges on the free flow of workers. He argued that 'if there’s one thing the UK government can do to show it is looking ahead in good faith, it would be reassure EU citizens in the UK their rights will be protected here.' Professor Philip Davies, Professor of Intelligence Studies, Brunel University London, pointed out that Brexit was practically irrelevant to defence and national security, but the picture was more nuanced in relation to domestic security because of existing successful collaborations with Europe.
Julia Onslow-Cole, Partner and Head of Global Immigration, PwC, called Business to take urgent action, noting that freedom of movement was absolutely crucial. She predicted a hardening of immigration rules and discussed 'regional visas' as a potential solution. She also stressed that transtional agreements were going to be extremely important for ensuring the stability of businesses. Professor Andrew George, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education and International), Brunel University London, explained that the impact of Brexit on higher education would have a variable effect, hitting different institutions in different ways. He predicted that the UKHE's international outlook will 'take a punch', and urged UK Universities to focus on e.g. forging bilateral agreements with European Universities. Professor Geoff Rodgers, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research), Brunel University London, described the process for a significant re-orientation of funding, towards countries with which the UK will want to trade in the future, and explained that he was confident that UKHE institutions would succeed in finding alternative ways of funding. Professor Sarita Malik, Professor of Media and Communications, Brunel University London, pinpointed the risks inherent in a 'nostalgia of an irretrievable past' that could partly explain the result of the EU referendum. Matteo Bergamini, Founder & Director, Shout Out UK, reflected on what Brexit meant for young people, and how they need to fight to maintain a link with Europe.
All presentations are available to watch on BiE's youtube channel.
NB: pictures are copyright of Sally Trussler.