If British media is anything to go by, it is often hard to see the UK as anything other than a fractured and, at times, even directionless nation; heading into Brexit negotiations with the EU as a perceived “enemy” (to use Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond’s recent term). Moreover, when speaking to British people, it is clear that many are worried about the fate of the country. Some are more optimistic than others, but many feel concerned about the uncertainty that awaits the UK as it looks to a future outside of the EU. Many worry that – amidst the many points of discussion – issues that affect them personally may be low on the Government’s agenda.
Given this landscape, Agora has sought to champion a new way of commenting on the issue of Brexit in this debut publication. This work seeks to fill the void of fractured and ambiguous voices, often existing in echo chambers of Remainers and Leavers, by bringing together a range of opinions on restrictions to the free movement of people post-Brexit.
Using the contacts of Agora members’ networks as a basis, it gathered opinions from millennials and baby boomers, Brexiters and Remainers, people from across Europe and people from across the UK, including rural and metropolitan areas in the North as well as Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.
The collection of responses builds on two important assumptions that drive Agora’s work. First, that providing an objective platform can give insight into important and often ignored voices. Second, that there is a policy relevance to giving such voices a platform, not only revealing some of the areas which people are worried about but also providing some – albeit rudimentary – advice on future actions for policymakers and influencers.
We chose to focus on the free movement of people as it is just one aspect of the many political, economic, social and security issues that the UK Government must face. However, it is also an issue that touches most people: from UK citizens living in other member states and EU nationals living in the UK, to those that use doctors and tradesmen from other EU countries, to those that study abroad or have family and friends across the EU.
This report does not aim to address all the issues and opportunities restrictions to the free movement of people to and from the EU could produce. However, it does aim to offer an insight into some primary concerns as well as develop some initial suggestions for how to deal with these issues based on suggestions and concerns from a wide variety of people.
This work is basic and does not aim to make any broad claims about the British people or forgotten voices; however, it is a proof of concept. It reveals that these endeavours are important. Thus, this is the first report among many that will attempt to bring together a variety of people, providing a platform for unheard voices and tapping into valuable but neglected ideas.