Generation Brexit

How to catch a falling star?

Niklas Sievers
Niklas Sievers | Jun 25, 2017 | in Breaking Up/Paying Up

For me, Brexit is a brilliant case for illustrating how policy narratives powerfully affect and shape public opinion. Multiple arguments were framed in highly contrasting ways. On the one side, strong EU-UK relations for a strong economy and prosperous labour market opportunities and, on the other side, strong EU-UK relations as strong constraints on UK national policy making, interfering deep into national sovereignty, especially in the matter of migration politics. These policy narratives did not always play fair games and the argument that "Brexit was a lie" finds widespread acknowledgement.

I argue, that divorces are much easier to negotiate, if both partners know, what they want and why. However, the UK is internally torn. The public has not yet retraced what led to Brexit and how wild mixes of facts and fiction have led and misled public opinion. For this argument, I would like to state just three out of many illustrating examples. First, the UK's special opt-in opt-out deal in the EU, still, is widely unknown. Second, it yet seems questionable for many that the UK will not remain in the single market without having to comply to ECJ jurisdiction. Third, the fact that push factors for undocumented migration flows to the UK are not decreasing with Brexit, still, does not receive much public attention. Thus, I argue, that before facing the negotiations of the divorce, the UK and the EU should face the facts of reality and seek to alleviate the misguidance and confusion left over from the turbulent times of campaigning.

The most promising way for me to pursue this would be easy accessible documentaries, which shine light on the tools and actors of politics that led to the Brexit vote of the 23rd of June 2016. Obviously, again, these documentaries require careful consideration to prevent a further misleading policy narrative, yet, with sufficient academic support, I am convinced that a strong fact-based narrative can be achieved. This fact-based narrative, to conclude, is exactly what I believe is what is needed for ensuring calm, honest and productive divorce negotiations most beneficial for both parties, the EU and the UK, which may aim for the seemingly impossible - to try and "catch a falling star".

edited on Jun 25, 2017 by Niklas Sievers

Niklas Sievers Jun 25, 2017

Further information on the examples:

Valeria Vigilante Jun 27, 2017

I find your point very interesting. It applies also to many cases of current politics across Europe and the U.S. Still, the idea of strong fact-based narratives arguably need some experts, to which the so-called 'common man' seems to be hostile, at least as the latest trends in politics show. Besides easily accessed documentaries, do you have any further suggestions on how this can be overcome? And more importantly, how essential do you think it will be in the negotiation talks?

Niklas Sievers Jun 29, 2017

Hey Valeria, I think this point will be absolutely crucial in the negotiation talks, since tensions in public opinion further protests and demostrations which means additional burdens for the negotiating partners. Further ideas to consilidate the public after the campaigning turmoil, obviously, are secondary school and university education, literature, quality media, peers... However, since most of those entail high accesibility barriers, yet I would put documentaries forward, since they are simple to distribute and to access.

What do you think? Do you have any further ideas?

Valeria Vigilante Jun 29, 2017

I agree with you on its importance within the negotiations, especially if we consider that there might be a possibility for another referendum concerning the definitive deal. Considering your proposal of documentaries, I find that visual media have the greatest potential in terms of communication to wide and broad public. Just think about the increasing use of videos in most notorious newspapers on social media, like the Guardian.

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Isabel Flanagan Jun 29, 2017

Interesting idea Niklas. I agree that there are distinctly different narratives existing in the UK at the moment, with media outlets contradicting and dismissing viewpoints. I also agree that facts should be encouraged by all media outlets. You propose to "seek to alleviate the misguidance and confusion left over from the turbulent times of campaigning," but to what end? Do you think the referendum result was simply a case of misunderstanding by the British public?

Niklas Sievers Jun 29, 2017

Hey Isabel,

I believe, it lies in the most original nature of campaigning, that political actors seek to attract favour of public opinion, thus, majority of ballot outcomes for their sides. In this game of politics, yes, blurred lines between fact and fiction often is the outcome and many misunderstandings occur. It goes without saying: These misunderstandings may go both ways, as well as for remain as for leave. Yet, it is well possible, that non-fact policy narratives may have had a bigger influence on leave then on remain voters, particularly when considering that the UK will never be able to gain as sufficient "sovereignity" over its borders to shut down undocumented migration - which was one of the most controversial topics prior the referendum.

Very best,