BREXIT: WHAT THOSE WHO WANT TO JOIN CAN LEARN FROM THOSE WHO WANT TO LEAVE
While some countries are working hard to join the EU, others (or, one other in particular – we all know who you are, Great Britain) vote to leave. Right-wing populism on the rise across Europe is to answer for the wave of Euroscepticism that has swept the continent. In Polish media the catchword ‘Polexit’ has been appearing more frequently, especially in the context of the recent local elections. Many of us are observing what’s happening in the UK, eager to learn from the experiences of the British and to avoid the chaos that followed the Brexit referendum – the defend the EU.
With this in mind, the Schuman Foundation published a report at the beginning of November 2018, entitled ‘To defend the Union. Brexit campaign as a lesson for Polish non-governmental organisations’. In short, the authors of the report argue that facts are not enough. In their opinion, supported by an in-depth analysis of the Brexit campaign, Polish pro-European actors should concentrate their efforts on creating media outputs which would invoke positive emotions in the citizens. The authors identify two primary mistakes made by the Remain campaign (but not the Leave campaign), which pro-European organisations in Poland and elsewhere should take care not to repeat. The first one is targeting people based on demography or geography rather than ideology. This way, the pro-EU campaigners were less effective at reaching the non-voting population. Secondly, the Remain campaign was based purely on facts and presented the EU as the ‘least bad’ option. In opposition to this, the Leave campaign appealed to people’s feelings – invoked fear over immigration, and promised positive change. As the referendum results showed, the latter proved to be a much more impactful approach, and one that should be now adopted to the needs of pro-European institutions.
The release of the report took place in the city centre of Warsaw, on November 7th 2018. The presentation of the main findings was followed by a Q&A session with the report’s authors and our special guest, Madeleina Kay, a British pro-EU activist known also as the EU Supergirl. Kay is a part of a broader anti-Brexit movement which erupted after the for some surprising results of the referendum came in. She reminded the audience that the majority of the younger Brits, born and raised in the EU, feel European and voted remain and expressed her hopes of the UK rejoining the EU in the future. Madeleina Kay also performed one of her songs for us. See the video below:
Marta Jurczak, the Polish Robert Schuman Foundation