Brexit: Implications for Social Policy

Wednesday 15 November 2017, 3.00PM to 5pm

Speaker: Zoe Irving (chair), Nick Ellison, Dan Horsfall, Majella Kilkey, Antonios Roumpakis, Kevin Farnsworth, Chris Holden

The referendum vote to leave the European Union has left in its wake uncertainty and new challenges for social policy. In this special symposium, a panel of social policy experts will analyse the implications of Brexit for various policy areas, as well for the UK economy and society as a whole.

Each panel member will offer a short presentation of no more than 10 minutes, to be followed by questions and an open discussion.

Chair: Zoe Irving

Speakers and abstracts

Nick Ellison: Citizenship after Brexit

When it comes to Brexit, there is an understandable tendency to think in the binary terms of ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’, but this depiction of the Brexit landscape fails to capture the fractured character of British citizenship that the referendum result has exposed. This presentation does not (cannot) provide a neat reconceptualisation of citizenship as an abiding theme in social and political analysis – but, in an effort to understand the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ of social and political belonging in the Brexit era, it presents a schematic model of ‘citizenship positions’ in what has become a highly fragmented socio-political landscape.

Dan Horsfall: El Dorado lost? Ex-pats, health, Brexit and return

Almost half of all those who travel to the UK primarily for medical reasons are ex-pats. Why this is the case and how ex-pats access health is an under-researched area, but what we do know is that health-seeking behaviours are shaped by specific health needs, the relationship individuals have with the UK and the NHS, the nature of any reciprocal arrangements with the country of residence, a person’s residence and citizenship status, and whether they have reached statutory retirement age.

Initial findings from a pilot study into the health-seeking behaviours of ex-pats in Spain suggests that while many will utilise the Spanish (or Canarian) health system, most have a mosaic of cover drawing on UK, Spanish, public, private, and insurance-based provision. Satisfaction appears to be high, but uncertainty – precipitated by ‘Brexit’ - is settling in. Furthermore, access to social care is a major concern of many ex-pats and is the number one boundary condition for return. 

Majella Kilkey (University of Sheffield): Conditioning family life at the intersection of migration and welfare: The implications for ‘Brexit families’

European Free Movement (EFM) was central to the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. Under a ‘hard’ Brexit scenario, it is expected that EFM between the UK and the EU will cease, raising uncertainties about the rights of existing EU citizens in the UK and those of any future EU migrants. This presentation is concerned with the prospects for family rights linked to EFM which, we argue, impinge a range of families – so-called ‘Brexit families’ (Kofman, 2017) – beyond those who are EU national families living in the UK. The presentation draws on policy analysis of developments in the conditionality attached to the family rights of non-EU migrants, EU migrants and UK citizens at the intersection of migration and welfare systems since 2010, to identify the potential trajectory of rights post-Brexit. While the findings highlight stratification in family rights between and within those three groups, the pattern is one in which class and gender divisions are prominent and have become more so over time as a result of the particular types of conditionality introduced. We conclude by arguing that, with the cessation of EFM, those axes will also be central in the re-ordering of the rights of ‘Brexit families’.

Antonios Roumpakis: Hearts and minds up for grabs: the challenges and opportunities of the Brexit vote

The Brexit vote manifested an attempt to reclaim national sovereignty from -what many perceived as- the unaccountable governing institutions driving the EU project. In reaffirming the importance of the nation state, the vote did not voice how either choice would be implemented ensuing thus an interregnum, an open and unstable context in which Brexit can be read either as the rejection to market neoliberalism and as an opportunity to redistribute power and wealth, or as a nationalistic variant of market neoliberalism that safeguards rising profits through lower corporate tax and subsidies for corporate investment.

Kevin Farnsworth: Fighting over the spoils: Winners and losers in the post-Brexit capital grab

Brexit has triggered a ‘Dutch’ auction (a phrase that no longer has just figurative meaning) where an increasing number of EU governments are shifting their own public policies in order to persuade British investors to move to them. Having witnessed a new window of opportunity, big business is either shifting investment outside the UK, or is threatening to do so, unless the British government cuts them a deal. Smaller businesses hold fewer chips and are unlikely to win such favours. And citizens will be left to pick up the tab. There is hope if the UK abandons its low-tax, low-pay business model, but the short-term costs will be high. But business as usual will be more painful still.

Chris Holden: Confronting Brexit and Trump: Towards a socially progressive globalisation

The vote in favour of Brexit in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as president in the USA must be understood within the context of two interlinked social processes: the steady growth of inequality in most high-income countries since the 1980s, and the enduring legacy of the 2007-8 financial crisis. The political resurgence of a nationalistic right wing in this context is in part a response to these two phenomena, and is manifesting itself in the form of two distinct (though overlapping) paths. The first, represented by the Conservative UK government under Theresa May, involves the further pursuit of neo-liberal forms of liberalisation and globalisation, even as an appeal
is made to nationalism and ‘taking back control’. The second, represented by the Trump presidency, is a resort to economic nationalism, an unwinding of globalisation and the undermining of contemporary forms of global governance. As an alternative, I outline the contours of a more socially progressive form of globalisation.

Location: ARC/014 (ARRC main auditorium)