As Brexit debates reach crucial stages, the two MWG-NW directors are fully engaged in disseminating the preliminary findings of their Brexit-focused study ‘EU Migrants in the North West: Continuation and Disruptions in the post-Brexit Era’. The project focuses on the impact that the referendum and the developments in its aftermath are having on the lives of EU nationals living in Liverpool and Southport. Preliminary findings are speaking about various forms of vulnerabilities as well we strong geo-political positionality of EU citizens following Brexit, which has had an impact on their imaginaries as well as political engagement and mobilisation. Refugees and Migrants, behind the headlines.

On the 6th of February Dr Zana Vathi was invited to give a talk as part of the monthly meetings of WorldWide Wednesdays, alongside other migration stakeholders in the region. The event aimed to increase awareness on migrants and refugees in by drawing on Liverpool’s long history of (im)migration. It was also focused on collecting donations for a local charity – Warm Welcome – that works to welcome refugees and improve their initial experience in the local communities where they settle.

Zana’s talk focused on EU nationals’ sense of betrayal after Brexit vote and their mobilisation. She outlined the key findings on the change of attitudes among EU nationals and the many instances of increase of awareness and engagement with UK and EU politics. Her fieldwork in Liverpool was facilitated by different stakeholders and leaders of pro-EU lobbies in Liverpool, as well as the generous and proactive attitude of many ‘ordinary’ EU nationals that live in the city. She made reference to their lived experience, closing with a strong message on the importance of the mobilisation of the EU nationals for the future relations of the UK with the EU member states and EU institutions.  Watch Zana’s talk.

Among the speakers was Ms Nadine Daniel BEM, National Refugee Welcome Coordinator. Her talk was focused on the role of faith-based organizations in the UK. She emphasised the massive contribution of the church in welcoming refugees in the country, while the social protection from the state has retracted.

Lauren Cape-Davenhill of the Right to Remain group spoke about the enormous challenges that asylum seekers face due to their deportability – a fascinating talk that emphasised the importance of reception of formerly detained migrants from communities.

A young refugee – Yaman Awaz who is Member of Schools’ Parliament, summarised the international response to the Syrian crisis. Despite his young age, he offered specialist analysis of the international law framework and inconsistencies in the interventions in Syria, highlighting the cost for civilians, communities, and the physical environment.

The evening close with an endearing and inspiring talk by Gordon Pennington, Our Warm Welcome Charity. He shared his experience of trying to provide a positive experience to the new-coming refugees and the well-wishing attitude of the locals, despite the negative political discourse and the competing discourses in the North West.

Brexit Night with the Merseyside Skeptics Society

On 21st February 2019, Merseyside Skeptics Society organized a ‘Brexit Night’, which featured members of the Migration Working Group – North West.

Ruxandra Trandafoiu (EHU Media) was invited to give a talk and spoke about the emerging results of the two-year project during which Zana and Ruxandra interviewed fifty EU nationals and key informants in Liverpool and Southport. Ruxandra explained what the EU nationals’ responses to the current political and media contexts had been, particularly in relation to perceived loss of rights, as well as the legal and psychological impacts of Brexit. She described the various forms of political engagement that EU nationals have embarked on in the aftermath of the EU membership referendum. She also detailed a number of issues that EU nationals see as particularly worrying: the hardening of anti-immigration attitudes in public discourse, the failure of the British political class to act rationally, bureaucratic harassment, uncertainties around free movement but also pension rights and property ownership, future difficulties linked to family reunification, and the vulnerable position of certain categories of EU citizens that Settled Status has failed to address.

The night was also attended by Prof. Michael Dougan (University of Liverpool), who spoke about the long-lasting negative impact of Brexit, in both political and legal terms. He analysed the ‘Leave’ campaign, pointing out that the campaigners used four main tactics: ‘lie’, ‘sell fantasies’, ‘abuse the opposition’ and ‘find scapegoats’. He deplored the dismantling of rational thinking and scientific values by the pro-Brexit campaign and pointed out that not playing by the rules and dismantling the rules leaves the UK particularly vulnerable, as the UK has no Constitution and therefore no constitutional protection.

Dr Sara Clement, a lecturer in environmental management at the University of Liverpool spoke about the future of environmental protection after Brexit, pointing out that Brexit poses a number of worries around new legislation, protection frameworks and quotas, but could also, in principle, provide an opportunity for improved environmental protection if future governments recognise its importance.

Dr Raphael Levy (University of Liverpool), a biochemist who has benefited from EU funding throughout his career, spoke about the importance of EU grants for research and innovation, but also bringing the best people together into networks and collaborative projects. He pointed out that the future of scientific research in the UK is jeopardized by Brexit.

Nicola Throp, who has spent almost a decade in the energy sector, working as an energy analyst for a utilities consultancy, spoke about the impact of Brexit on energy security. She said that the sector predicts a rise in energy costs, likely to be passed on to the consumer, due to additional administrative and infrastructure costs once the UK exists the common energy market. She explained that at the moment the UK is particularly vulnerable to the European energy context, as it has low storage capacities, fewer own resources and reduced nuclear energy capabilities. She explained that although energy will continue to be available, the Northern Irish grid is particularly vulnerable to supply problems and blackouts might result.

Overall, the experts on the night provided a number of clarifications and raised further questions about the likely impact of Brexit.

A link to the event website is available here: