Why I chose to interview British citizens about Brexit

“Brexit portraits” is a long-term project that finds its roots in the aftermath of the UK membership referendum results. When the news of the end of the partnership between the UK and the EU sparked in the media, reactions across both countries where so extreme that I was surprised nobody tried to capture more closely how voters felt about politics and their representatives at that historical time.

I believe that the sentiment arising from such decisions over citizens’ daily lives has been completely omitted. Of course, the research has already extensively (and brilliantly) written about the reasons explaining the votes. As a matter of fact we already know that votes differed from one another regarding the level of development of a region, the extend to which a voter benefited from globalisation, the level of his/her education. However the impact of Brexit on the way we consider politics and relate to each other as citizens today has been understated. This was nonetheless, already noticeable during the referendum campaign. “Remain” or “Brexit” arguments were rather expressions of interests of a political group on its economic and political relationship to the European Union than the confirmation of what the EU had or had not brought to voters until then. In other words, citizens of the UK and the EU were completely ignored in their role as economic, social and political actors to be part of the policy decision-making process. Some British political leaders have spent more time convincing citizens to act on their behalf when casting their ballot than assuming their role as “representatives” whose responsibilities would have implied to translate growing concerns into tangible political speech and policy making. On the other hand I would add that voters did not vote to secure public policy objectives but rather to constrain, contest, or sentence to death this or that politician as spectators attending a deadly show.

This is why I wanted to confront us, politicians, Europeans, citizens of the UK to the contradiction that lie beneath Brexit results.

Brexit has already had a deep impact on Britain’s society and Britain’s politics. I have no attempt to provide explanations on vote intentions, as social scientists would do. I leave the accuracy of a scientific approach to those with more tools for such measurements at their disposal. My approach is different: I wanted to give a voice to those who will be or are already affected by the consequences of Brexit so that the lack of trust in politics that is largely widespread can be tackled. I am thinking about ordinary people with no intention to take on responsibilities attached to political power, but with a profound dedication to building a better sense of community and the belief that their voice matters. I wanted to show the scarce that were left behind by the outcomes of the vote, the inequalities that are dividing Britain at a time of globalisation failures, and the confusion arising from the lack of political responsibility.


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