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21 July 2016

A millennial response to Brexit

A millennial response to Brexit

Last week at the Alliance headquarters in London, threads an initiative of the Evangelical Alliance, held an event for millennials to discuss the issues around Brexit and what our response should be going forward in this next tumultuous season.

There was a good turnout of people from all walks of life, and after talking and munching on our pizza (yes there was pizza provided because we're good like that), we proceeded to the main event. Director of communications and membership at the Alliance, Chine McDonald, introduced the event and touched upon BB (before Brexit) and AB (after Brexit) and the implications of those events on the landscape of our country. She then introduced our panel of 4 guest speakers who work in different areas of the community and they proceeded to give 5 minute informative talks on their views and ways to move forward.

David Barclay, Faith in Public Life Officer for The Centre for Theology & Community, kicked off by doing a blind straw poll of the way people had voted. He said that he wasn't surprised by the result; the majority of people he knew were shocked at the result the morning after the EU referendum. He felt a sense of alienation and that it appeared that he didn't really know this country. Shortly after the referendum, he explained that he went for dinner with his friends and realised that one of them had voted leave. Even though they differed on their views, they were able to have a frank and honest discussion and that for him it turned out to be a cathartic experience, in which they engaged with the issues at hand with patience and grace. David encouraged us to have those conversations with others- that we can still have relationship across difference. He also talked about the fact that we have to be encouraging and supportive of our institutions and use that to come together.

Our second special guest Kiri Kankhwende, a political journalist and blogger specialising in immigration, was next. She touched on the racism and xenophobia that has apparently manifested since the result, but reminded us at that it has been bubbling away under the surface for a long time.  Nigel Farage's 'breaking point' poster did not help and as an immigrant herself, she has felt the pressure the result has brought. However she went on to focus on the attitude that we need to adopt - that we can get the work done and move on from the division this has caused.

Joshua Harris, our third special guest and senior researcher at the Institute for Government spoke about the ever changing times in our government. By the end of that week we had a new PM and a new cabinet. He recognised that the government did zero contingency planning for Brexit and that there is a sense that we are not sure where this is going. He also commented on the fact the focus on Brexit means that we are missing that it's a great time for women in leadership. He talked about the fact that politics as we know it is not going to solve the problem and that community relationship is the thing that will save us. He identified that our hope is placed in something greater than politics and that only way of moving forward is to disagree well.  He also spoke passionately on us encouraging our MP's and remembering the rest of the work that they do on delivering public services.

Finally, Katherine Maxwell-Rose, writer, speaker, activist and editor at Tearfund, spoke about the implications of Brexit on our environment.  She talked about the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015 where 195 countries united with each other and adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. She discussed the issues surrounding climate change and the impact of Brexit on it. We heard that in the past EU rules have forced us to become kinder to the environment so there is now more pressure on the UK to uphold these rules. Katherine explained that the church needs to speak out in a united justice movement and demonstrate love to our neighbours AND our enemies.

We then went into a time of open discussion and questions where we covered issues such as how we can support those in politics, when and how Article 50 would be implemented, how we can call public figures to be held to account personally and how we can reimagine some our institutions. We talked about how the UK can be defined economically as a nation after Brexit, as well as the dis-unity we are experiencing in terms of Scotland and our national identity.

The event seemed to leave us all coming away a bit more informed on some issues and definitely with a sense of wanting to continue these conversations with our friends, colleagues and church communities. The talks from the panellists and the conversations that came afterwards were filled with hope.  Despite differing views, even within the room that night, one thing is clear. The way to move forward is to be in community, to support those public figures making difficult decisions and to disagree well.

You can read some of the blogs posted on the EU referendum on the threads website.