During the recent years I have been blogging mostly on our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time I leave it at the background. And normally I am not making comments on politics – not of my country of origin (Finland) or of my host country (Germany) nor of any other country. BUT today I cannot help picking up the topic “Brexit” due to various reasons. Let me give three reasons for this:
- The “Learning Layers” connection: It so happened that the referendum took place just one day after the LL project consortium meeting in Bristol. The two last days before the referendum we spent in a productive and collaborative project meeting – working towards common results and discussing prospects for follow-up activities. In our meeting we worked in the spirit of accustomed normality – partners from Member States among each other as peers among peers. There was no feeling that this could abruptly change (although the British colleagues were worried and acknowledged the risks). Now, after the results, we understand that things will not change overnight and that the future cooperation arrangements will not exclude the British universities from European research cooperation. Yet, the change of climate is taking place and we don’t quite know what to expect.
- The Pontydysgu connection: I am writing my blogs on Pontydysgu website as a result of long years of cooperation. I came to know the senior members of Pontydysgu staff (Graham and Jenny) in 1996 at the beginning phase of the EU funding programme Leonardo da Vinci. That was quite some time ago – and some years before the start of Pontydysgu. During the following twenty years we have had a shared history of working in and with European cooperation projects – mostly with focus on vocational education and training (VET). In the course of the time I have learned to appreciate the effort of my Pont colleagues to work as interpreters between the Welsh, British and continental views – and to get the best out of different projects. In this way they have become popular and successful as British partners in EU projects – with educational, labour market -oriented, regional or ICT-related themes. Now, in the new situation I understand that my Pont colleagues have more concerns about their European cooperation than the universities.
- The family connection: Finally, I have a personal reason: I have very close family members living as expatriates in London. To be sure, the adults of the family have double nationality and so have the children. They should not need to feel ‘outsiders’, they have got their proper places in the British society. Yet, they (the adults) have grown up on the continent and brought with them a common family language (Finnish) when they moved to Britain long ago. Now, after this heated referendum campaign there are more questions in the air, how expatriates are being perceived in their neighbourhoods (or how the neighborhoods with expatriates are being perceived). Up to now I have had no reason to raise this question, now I am not sure. As we recently learned it in the context of the tragic killing of the Labour MP Jo Cox, “rhetoric has consequences”. But, in the same context we should try build on her life work and her attempt to overcome the power of hatred and division with something grater – human values and solidarity.
I think this is enough to clarify, why I cannot leave the topic ‘Brexit’ aside like an old newspaper with news of yesterday and days before. This new period of uncertainty – on both sides of the Channel – is not a matter of some rapid negotiations and then back to ‘normal business’. Now it is time to rethink and reshape the mutual relations on a new basis – and that need time. Let us hope that this time will be used well. I leave my remarks here and try to get back to my usual themes.
More blogs to come …