Two weeks on, what can we learn from the Brexit Living Library Experience?
On Friday, January 14th, JEF North-Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) and YEM UK launched their first-ever joint-event. The aim was to convene 20 participants around a virtual table to discuss Brexit’s consequences, one year after its coming into full force.
Just another Brexit event? For a few vital reasons, not really.
First of all, this event was marked by intergenerational interactions and dialogues between UK citizens, German ones and other EU-citizens. If you follow UK news, you might have noticed that intergenerational dialogues are quite rare, even more so in the public sphere and especially when participants are no longer part of the same union! One needs only to look at how differently the UK’s youth and UK’s elderly voted in the Brexit referendum to understand the current contrast in attitudes to the European Union (EU).
Secondly, participants could explore a variety of topics under a rather original setting: a living library! What is a living library event?, I hear you ask. The principle is very simple: each speaker is assimilated to a book which can be read, and questioned by the audience. To make sure that the dialogues were as deep and comprehensive as possible, each speaker could organise their own virtual “salon” as they wished, allowing time for a range of questions to be answered at length. The themes were diverse, such as studying in the UK pre and post-Brexit; living in the UK post-Brexit; rethinking Brexit’s economic consequences, and exploring Britain’s new political relationship with both the European continent and the EU.
So, if you did not attend this event, what did you miss?
Brexit has consequences on one’s ability to move, such as for travelling outside the UK, for living and working abroad and even for visiting Irish neighbours. It also has numerous consequences on one’s daily life. Economically and commercially speaking, it has drastically reduced the range of products available in supermarkets, created labour shortages in key sectors and has either severely complicated – or cut the UK off from – well established supply chains. In terms of politics, the UK government denies any Brexit-related impact on UK-US relations, whilst simultaneously acknowledging growing tensions between the EU and Britain over trade, fisheries, migration and a great deal more.
In their feedback, participants were extremely satisfied with the experience: an opportunity to freely and sincerely exchange ideas about Brexit, which is vital given that it is not the hottest news for news landscapes across Europe. Participants also underlined how poorly informed they are on the subject, which is quite remarkable given that British citizens are – admittedly – the first people to compare and contrast UK life with, and without, the EU.
Lastly, this event, which portrayed speakers from the Brexit Reality Portraits season 1 (find all episodes here), was marked by an announcement: that it will be back with a brand new second season mid-2022! Stay tuned for the next instalments of this vital conversation, one which crosses borders and generations.
Alexiane Terrochaire – – Barbançon