Brexit Conference: “The Future of Freedom of Movement is in Question”

European newspapers front pages in the context of Brexit - Activation of Article 50

No one knows how post-EU Britain will look like. Yet, AEGEE wants to shed some light on this top­ic and dis­cuss the poten­tial con­se­quences – in the con­fer­ence “Brex­it — What’s next?”. It will take place in Sheffield and Man­ches­ter from Novem­ber 29th to Decem­ber 4th. You can be one of the lucky 25 peo­ple who will have the chance to par­tic­i­pate in this unique event. The Gold­en Times asked Oksana Prokopchenko, Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Sheffield about the pro­gramme of the con­fer­ence.

Oksana Prokopchenko

Gold­en Times: “Brex­it — What’s next?” — the title of your event is a ques­tion. What is the answer?
Oksana Prokopchenko: I guess it will not be very sur­pris­ing that we do not know the answer our­selves. By organ­is­ing the event with this title, we raise the ques­tion, which wor­ries many, and us in par­tic­u­lar. I am not too sure either that we can give a clear answer after the event, but that is not the pri­ma­ry aim of the event any­way. We want to raise aware­ness, to attract AEGEEans to the issue, to exchange ideas on the top­ic, but also to show to British soci­ety that we care and that we want to do some­thing about it.

GT: Why do AEGEE-Sheffield, AEGEE-Lon­don and AEGEE-Man­ches­ter organ­ise this event?
Oksana: I believe that it is the right moment and the right place for such event. We all know that vast major­i­ty of young Brits have sup­port­ed the Remain cam­paign, and many of them feel extreme­ly uncer­tain about the future now, after the ref­er­en­dum. On the oth­er hand, many of them also feel much more attached to Europe, which is not just an abstract idea any more. I believe that AEGEE can become the right plat­form for these peo­ple. AEGEE can be a plat­form, which can keep them con­nect­ed them to Europe, even when the coun­try ceas­es to be a mem­ber of the EU — after all, our asso­ci­a­tion is not at all lim­it­ed to the EU coun­tries, as we know it full well in Ukraine, for exam­ple. And who knows, maybe through our con­fer­ence new enthu­si­as­tic mem­bers from the UK can bring to AEGEE the new mean­ing and the new per­spec­tive, which seem to be so nec­es­sary nowa­days.

Also AEGEE-Lon­don is involved in the event.

GT: The Brex­it has many aspects. Which ones are in the focus of your event?
Oksana: As Brex­it is a huge issue, which can’t pos­si­bly be tack­led in depth dur­ing the six days of the event, we decid­ed to focus on more spe­cif­ic top­ics – the Free­dom of Move­ment and Youth Mobil­i­ty. They are in the core of AEGEE iden­ti­ty, but also impor­tant for British young peo­ple. Free­dom of Move­ment is often tak­en for grant­ed, but now that its future is in ques­tion, now that we do not know what will hap­pen to Eras­mus+ and oth­er mobil­i­ty pro­grammes in Britain, we should def­i­nite­ly raise these ques­tions and talk about them, as loud­ly as we pos­si­bly can.

GT: You focus on the youth aspect and will also have sev­er­al ses­sions where the par­tic­i­pants will meet local stu­dents. What do you expects from these ses­sions, what will hap­pen there?
Oksana: The idea was to bring two sides togeth­er – Euro­pean youth and British youth. I have a feel­ing that there might be cer­tain mis­un­der­stand­ings and ten­sions between them, which can only be resolved by tack­ling them. Thus, we plan to involve British stu­dents in some of the event ses­sions, so that they could par­tic­i­pate in dis­cus­sions, voice their con­cerns and exchange ideas with Euro­pean par­tic­i­pants. More­over, we also plan to cre­ate some inter­ac­tive activ­i­ties so that par­tic­i­pants could meet local peo­ple right on the street and hear their opin­ions.

A large part of the con­fer­ence takes place in Man­ches­ter.

GT: Three anten­nae are involved — who is doing what? What will take place in what city?
Oksana: I am hap­py to say that in the last months we could build quite strong con­nec­tions between all three locals in the UK, and the idea to organ­ise some­thing togeth­er was in the air. The event itself will take place in Sheffield (2 days) and in Man­ches­ter (3 days). We plan to have more cul­tur­al and fun activ­i­ties in Sheffield and to switch to the­mat­ic dis­cus­sions and work­shops in Man­ches­ter. As our cities are very close, we want­ed to use the oppor­tu­ni­ty to involve them both. Mem­bers of AEGEE-Lon­don are help­ing remote­ly for now, but will join us dur­ing the event.

GT: How much will the par­tic­i­pants expe­ri­ence to see the UK?
Oksana: We want to use time in Sheffield to show peo­ple some typ­i­cal Eng­lish things and places, — after all, York­shire is a per­fect place for that! We have the beau­ti­ful Peak Dis­trict right next to the city, and are also prepar­ing some work­shops on British cul­tur­al speci­fici­ties, as well as pubs and oth­er local attrac­tions.

Don’t miss your chance to meet the Bris­tish AEGEE mem­bers!

GT: What kind of con­se­quences do you expect of the Brex­it on the British soci­ety in gen­er­al and young peo­ple in gen­er­al? Will the effect by dam­ag­ing?
Oksana: I am afraid the con­se­quences can be very dam­ag­ing indeed, most­ly in terms of oppor­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple, but also for the life in the coun­try itself. It seems that for­eign­ers are large­ly present in most fields of UK life, espe­cial­ly in big cities. Los­ing those peo­ple may have a major effect on the coun­try, but also on the gen­er­al atmos­phere – I can hard­ly imag­ine cities like Lon­don or Man­ches­ter with­out the dynam­ics and the vibran­cy that are brought here by for­eign­ers.

GT: How do you as Ukrain­ian liv­ing in the UK observe and expe­ri­ence the gen­er­al atmos­phere in the coun­try?
Oksana: As I am study­ing in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sheffield, I think I might live in a sort of a bub­ble here – all aca­d­e­m­ic staff is extreme­ly help­ful and kind, all local stu­dents are friend­ly and wel­com­ing too. So I can say I nev­er feel uncom­fort­able or dis­crim­i­nat­ed as a for­eign­er liv­ing in the UK. I real­ly enjoy being here, and I hope our par­tic­i­pants will feel the same!

GT: How many peo­ple can take part in the con­fer­ence?
Oksana: We are expect­ing 25 par­tic­i­pants from oth­er coun­tries — AEGEEans and non-AEGEEans, as we opened the appli­ca­tions for a wider audi­ence. In addi­tion, there will also be British stu­dents tak­ing part in the con­fer­ence slots.

GT: How much is the fee and what does it cov­er?
Oksana: The fee of the event is 120€ — unfor­tu­nate­ly, the UK is quite an expen­sive coun­try. It cov­ers accom­mo­da­tion, three meals per day, trans­port dur­ing the whole event, as well as the the­mat­ic and social pro­gramme.





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