Writing about Brexit: The Challenge of Uncertainty

This month we published the very topical Brexit and Tourism by Derek Hall. In this post the author talks about the challenges of writing about something uncertain and ever-changing.

To many, relationships between Brexit and tourism may not at first sight seem obvious or even significant. But the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, and the issues surrounding it, have influenced, and will continue to exert profound impacts upon, tourism and related issues.

The value of sterling, availability of labour and migration, agriculture, food and catering, visa policies, taxes, travellers’ health and welfare provision, transport, accommodation, regional development, imagery and identity are just some of the more obvious tourism-related dimensions of Brexit’s direct and indirect impacts that are addressed in the book.

Continued uncertainty and the successive postponement of a withdrawal date have posed an ongoing challenge in maintaining the book’s integrity. Such uncertainty was – and continues to be – exacerbated by the absence of any coherent medium- or long-term national policy for coping with Brexit’s consequences. The outside possibility that a UK withdrawal from the EU might not actually take place was also dangled, and that as a consequence the book could prove to be a hypothetical historical document, an exercise in writing alternative history.

Critical analysis within the book has needed to look beyond the superficial rhetoric and political mendacity that has surrounded so much of the divisive Brexit debates. Acknowledging that academics have their own vested interests in such debates, sustaining objective arguments within the book has also been a challenge.

As no sovereign country has previously left the EU, the precedent of Brexit opens up unknown territory and many intriguing questions to explore. Thus, for example, one chapter of the book is devoted to examining a range of possible theoretical frameworks that can be employed to understand Brexit’s impacts on tourism.

One objective of the book is to broaden and inform debate in areas that have been neglected or even ignored in the UK. Thus the position of Gibraltar, voting 96% to remain in the EU but tied to a UK withdrawal, has barely been mentioned in UK debates. This merits a chapter, as do the likely environmental consequences of Brexit. The roles and situations of EU nationals in the UK and of UK nationals living, working and retiring in (other) EU countries also receive close attention.

Long before the 2016 EU referendum, some Eurosceptics were arguing that the Commonwealth could replace the role of the EU if the UK left the latter. Such arguments later faded away, but the role of the Commonwealth has deserved further scrutiny, not least in relation to the appalling treatment the UK government has meted out to some of the ‘Windrush generation’ regarding their UK citizenship rights.

So, while the book’s focus is placed firmly on relationships between Brexit and tourism, these are set within broad (geo)political, economic, social and environmental perspectives that help to illuminate and illustrate the central themes.

Derek Hall

derekhall@seabankscotland.co.uk

For more information on this book please see our website

English as an Additional Language Conference

Last week I popped up the road to the University of the West of England where the English as an Additional Language Conference was taking place. This day event was run in partnership between the University, local councils and organisations to explore how schools can ensure learners of English as an additional language make the maximum progress possible and how their presence can have a positive impact on schools and settings.

The MM stand at the conference
The MM stand at the conference

The day was mainly targeted at teachers and educators working in schools in the area and it was great for us to have the opportunity to meet people working in these contexts. While a lot of our publications are targeted at researchers working in educational contexts or students training to become teachers, and we meet these readers regularly at research conferences, we do also have some books aimed at a more general readership and so the conference was a rare but valued occasion for us to meet the other groups of people who are actually using our books.

The day was an opportunity for teachers to refresh their thinking on the subject and take the time to think about topics that their busy daily schedule may not allow, to keep EALs at the forefront of their minds and to share expertise. I was really impressed with the positivity that flowed through the day and how teachers were encouraged to help their pupils feel that they have something extra and not to feel that they have to keep quiet or be embarrassed about the skills that they have. It was also stressed that it is important to make EAL pupils feel safe following on from the EU referendum result, which is a new challenge for schools.

Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol
Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol

Speakers at the conference included Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol who discussed “The London Effect” which is a term coined to describe how EALs in schools in London, where the proportion of EALs in schools is much higher than in the rest of the country, perform much better in terms of progress made from age 11 to 16, compared with their white British peers and with pupils in the rest of the country. When asked why EALs make such good progress he spoke of high aspirations, positive attitudes, effort and engagement. One quote that stuck with me from his talk was that migrants often have a “get up and go for it” attitude, after all, they did “get up and go for it” to take the plunge in moving to a new country.

MM author Anne Margaret Smith's workshop
MM author Anne Margaret Smith’s workshop

I also attended a workshop run by Anne Margaret Smith (author of Teaching Languages to Students with Specific Learning Differences) on how to tell if an EAL student is struggling due to the language learning process or because of underlying cognitive differences and another led by Bharti Joshi and Stephen Bray from the consultancy company Kick Start on how to ensure more advanced learners of English achieve their potential in both primary and secondary schools.

The final keynote was by Mark Sims from Ofsted and he spoke of how Ofsted inspectors are looking for pupils understanding, accepting, respecting and celebrating diversity, as shown by their tolerance and attitudes. This was followed by a session during which delegates could ask any of the speakers for their answers to questions they had. One of the most inspirational questions was when one of the delegates asked for examples of best practice and members of the audience chipped in with things that they are doing in their schools. Examples I heard throughout the day included a Somalian dads and children reading group, older EALs acting as buddies for new arrivals of the same language background, a school in Middlesbrough where new EALs are automatically put in the top set, breakfast reading groups, coffee mornings and many other ideas. It was, as one delegate put it, great to hear of all the initiatives already in action and the conference was a fantastic opportunity to share them with those who were looking for fresh ideas.

Laura