On the eve of a referendum which will bring UK citizens face to face with one of the most critical decisions in the modern history of the country, key members of the ‘Britain in Europe’ (BiE) think tank, along with BiE guest commentators, including Brunel University's Vice Chancellor and two Brunel Deputy Vice-Chancellors, as well as other leading Brunel academics, offer analysis of some of the key themes in the debate and take a stance on whether the UK would be stronger in or outside the European Union.
Brunel University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Julia Buckingham, commented on the importance of staying in the EU for the higher education sector:
A day earlier, Professor Buckingham had co-signed a letter to the Independent, signed by another 102 Vice Chancellors in the UK, which argued, among other things, that ‘cutting ourselves out of the world’s largest economic bloc would undermine our position as a global leader in science and innovation’.
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, the leading international barrister who led the prosecution of the former President of Serbia, Slobodan Milošević, for genocide and crimes against humanity, said, in a
statement issued as the spokesman for BiE on human rights, appearing in the Solicitors Journal this morning, that the UK should stay in the European Union to strengthen international law and justice.
‘Immigration, is, of course, the ultimate neighbour issue’, he added. ‘It is in our own best interest to treat your neighbour as yourself.’
Professor Andrew George, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education & International) at Brunel University, noted:
The acclaimed poet, novelist and playwright, and Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London, Benjamin Zephaniah, made an emotional appeal to UK voters:
Eminent Shakespeare expert, and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Professor William Leahy, observed:
The Dean of the College of Business, Arts & Social Sciences at Brunel, Professor Thomas Betteridge, added his voice to those of other Brunel academics concerned about the future of the UK outside the EU.
The Head of Brunel Law School, Prof Arad Reisberg, drew upon his personal experiences in academia, going back 15 years, to strongly express a view for remaining in the EU.
Other key BiE members used this as a final opportunity to provide analysis of substantial issues relating to the Referendum.
Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, founder of BiE and Brunel Law School academic, noted that ‘with a few exceptions only, the bigger picture aspiration had been strikingly absent in the referendum debate’.
‘This is telling of the possibly irreparable damage that the European project has suffered in the hands of the populist media, mainly as a result the Conservative’s irresponsible adoption of UKIP’s anti-immigration, anti-European, and sometimes plainly xenophobic, rhetoric’, he added.
‘The Conservatives had in recent years travelled so far on the road away from Europe that it was no longer plausible for their MPs on the Remain camp to find a way back’, he explained, concluding that, despite all this, the UK could still lead in Europe and there was a positive case for remaining in the EU:
‘From the economy, to law, to free movement and culture, Britain has contributed hugely to what Europe represents today. The EU, from its part, brings very considerable benefits to the UK: on the economy (including through immigration), political clout, the environment, security and human rights… Europe will not be the same without the UK. The UK will not be the same without Europe.’
Julian Petley, Professor of Screen Media at Brunel University, provided analysis of reporting by the British media on the referendum, which he found to be to a considerable degree populist and heavily biased.
Prof Petley was highly critical of the BBC, for allowing itself to be swept along by the agenda set by the press.
He also argued that even if there was a vote to remain in the EU, the debate would never go away, and pointed out the significant risks that could derive from a potential split of the Conservative party as a result a potential decision to leave the EU.
‘Labour can be blamed too’, he concluded, for the tactical decisions they have made, notably the decision to leave the initiative entirely on the Conservatives, with the hope that Labour would gain political capital from the bitter fighting within the Conservative party; 'Labour failed to see that there was a real risk that something to the right of the Conservative party might stand to benefit in the end', he concluded.
Coming into the debate from a human rights angle, Brunel Law School academic, Prof Alexandra Xanthaki pointed out that ‘the EU ensures an added layer of protection for the human rights of all its citizens. For example, it has been the EU that had pushed states to take specific measures for equality between men and women in the workplace. It has been the EU that has pushed States to ensure that there is no discrimination on the basis of religion in the workplace. Contrary to international law instruments that do not have clear enforcement mechanisms, non-compliance with the EU directives results in sanctions to states. For this reason, human rights included in EU directives are stronger than human rights provisions of the United Nations and even the Council of Europe’.
On security, Prof Valsamis Mitsilegas, BiE member and Head of QMU Law School, drew upon his research on the complex relationship between UK and European Criminal Law, reaching the very interesting conclusion that a potential Brexit would limit the avenues of co-operation between the UK and its Member States, while at the same time continuing to impose into the UK the requirement to comply with EU law, should the government wish to continue co-operation with its European partners that is.
Britain in Europe remains committed to undertaking analysis, and public engagement, around the relationship of the UK with Europe, starting with analysis of the Referendum result and the way forward for the country.