Brexit and publishing. A personal comment of a British German

(This is the translation of a blog post which was originally written in German.)

Today is “Brexit” day. Supposedly. And what does that mean for this country?

Today we will leave the EU, they said. Apparently we aren’t.

When the British were asked to vote in a referendum three years ago, everyone knew that it would be a close result. That’s what it was indeed (52% to 48%) – why in such an important issue, no two-thirds majority was mandated, remains a mystery to me until today. Many Britons were fed up with the EU, its bureaucracy and inflexibility. The refugee crisis had reached its peak and there was a fear of alienation, which was irrational and independent of the EU, but wonderfully fueled by the so-called “Brexiteers”. A magical transformation of a struggling health system had been promised, and other promises were being made elsewhere that could never have been kept. The population did never hear about economic chaos, rising prices and a shortage of skilled workers until it was too late. All in all, starting from David Cameron’s referendum call, to the subsequent campaign, right through to its implementation, it was all about one thing only: party politics. About status and power of individuals. No one has cared for the well-being of the people and the future of the country. The people have finally realised this and the parliament is stuck in a dilemma, from which it will be difficult to escape.

More and more of my British fellow citizens are realising that it was not worth the chaos, uncertainty and risk. Yes, the EU has its weaknesses. Yes, it would sometimes be easier and perhaps desirable to be able to make decisions without the dependence on Brussels. But the times of the British Empire are over, and changes can only be made from within the system.

The mood in this country is different than it was three years ago. The population has been woken up by the Brexit process and is now better informed. Unfortunately, the government is dominated by former public school boys (and girls) who live in their own world and are out of touch. Real life is alien to many of them.

Today is “Brexit” day. Supposedly. And what does that mean for me?

For over 13 years now I have lived as a German in the UK, almost 7 of which were as a British passport-holder. At the time when I became British I saw my future here, and as a taxpayer I wanted full voting rights. And because Germany allows dual citizenship, as long as the other is an EU one, I did not hesitate too long – at most the relatively high costs of getting it made me think for a moment whether it would be worth it. “I’m an EU citizen anyway, so a British passport is not really necessary. A rather expensive right to vote, but that’s all.” That’s what you would have thought back then. And “back then” was only 7 years ago.

I wouldn’t have thought that only 4 years later I would be glad about not having to worry about residence status, work permit and health care as an EU citizen. “Brexit” had changed the picture and even today the situation is uncertain for many of my fellow EU citizens.

Today is “Brexit” day. Supposedly. And what does that mean for the publishing industry?

Since moving to this country, I have been involved in academic publishing – I have worked with libraries worldwide, for and with big, small and tiny publishers, industry bodies, technology companies and charities. Most of them are British and Brexit has direct implications for them.

Especially in academic publishing, the impact is immense. Due to the ever-increasing globalisation of science, authors and readership are not limited to the English-speaking market, but have become international collaborators. Of course, the EU plays a big role here: not just regarding customer relationships – the ambiguities over trade agreements, customs clearance, VAT, etc. slow down distribution and the weakening of the British pound associated with Brexit means direct losses in sales – but also, and above all, regarding authors. Much of academic publishing is based on research; research that is largely funded by the EU. For British scientists, it has already been harder since the referendum in 2016 to participate in international projects, as their funding was and remains unclear. The British government does not provide nearly enough money to fill this financial hole in future. To what extent European scientists can live and work in a post-Brexit UK is equally unclear. Copyright directives take place on an EU basis – no one knows if and how the new copyright directive that the EU adopted only this week will take effect in the UK. Not to mention international cooperation in the enforcement of intellectual property rights outside the EU.
The EU sets guidelines – whether in the area of ​​open access (Plan S), the equality of VAT for digital publications, or the international market of online goods and data transfer. If this country is no longer part of the EU, all these questions remain unanswered and the uncertainty about how these areas will continue is clearly felt by all publishers.

Today we will leave the EU, they said. Apparently we aren’t.

At least not today. Maybe in two weeks, maybe in two months, maybe in two years. Maybe never.

The appalling way in which Government has approached Brexit leaves me speechless. Rarely has the word “Fremdschämen” [to cringe; to be embarrassed for someone else] found a better application; and I am grateful that I still have this other – non-British – identity. And yet, I love living in this country that I have called home for 13 years. Germany has become a stranger to me during this time – and yet it is so close to my heart.

Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf