“Does anyone really know what’s going on?”, asked event host Geert Maarse just as the event started. The whole crowd stared at each other, shrugged shoulders and responded with a unanimous confused grunt throughout the event hall. This worrying overall sentiment of confusion is, none the less, worrying considering Brexit officially started more than two years ago.

A crumbling glass cliff

Arminius brought Oxford Economist Rick van der Ploeg, EUR media scholar Etienne Augé and HR scholar Joana Vassilopoulou (RSM) to try and elucidate on the current mishaps, and predict how the political terrain will be shaped in the near future.

Augé looked into the past and analysed how the whole Brexit sentiment grew in scale and momentum through the clever use of propaganda. It was the use of appeals to authority as well as cherry-picking facts that led to strong beliefs for the ‘liberation of Britain’, he argued.

Vassilopoulou analysed female leadership roles by scrutinizing Theresa May’s tenure as prime minister. She argued how women suffer from the ‘glass cliff’ phenomenon in which women are chosen to lead under periods of crisis. “Is this a coincidence or completely deliberate?”, asked a worried female student within the audience. Vassilopoulou emphasized: “Theresa May was doomed to fail from the beginning, if it was deliberate or not can’t be known as of now.”

Finally, Van der Ploeg decided to take a step back and look at the bigger picture driving the whole issue. He remarked: “Free trade, technology and immigration are growing at a rapid rate, creating a division between the haves and have-nots.” He highlighted how globalization brought numerous benefits for the country, but it ultimately created a feeling of division with the people who feel are being left behind by these advancements.

Brexit refugees

Even with the serious talks from each presenter, the night focused on a lighter, humoristic tone to brighten the mood. ‘Love’ and ‘break-up’ music filled the room in between talks with the euphemistic use of the phrase ‘Brexit refugees’ to refer to the UK emigrants.

What do students think about this whole political process? “It has taken more than two years and we are still waiting to see the conclusion of this when Brexit is so near us”, a worried participant claimed. Even after the talk, confusion and unrest over the future still may be a predominant feeling. “I came here out of pure interest to be informed. Even after the event, I am still a bit confused over what will happen in the coming days”, commented Sebastian after the talk had finished.

What about the UK residents? British-Dutch EUR student Cara is definitely concerned: “It’s quite a big issue for my parents since my dad is from England and my mom is Dutch. We are still unsure about the effects Brexit will have, and it could ultimately force my parents to move to England or stay in Europe.”

Image credit: Victor Wollaert

A look into the future

Even with negative coverage surrounding the issue, Van der Ploeg is convinced that if a deal is struck a negotiation phase between the EU and the UK would probably end with a positive outcome. “It will be very important within the next few weeks. If Theresa May gets her deal it will probably be fine since they will have two months more of negotiations with some initial costs for both. It won’t be as bad as many people argue. Although, if the UK crashes out it could turn out to be a total mess.”