23rd Karlsruhe Dialogues - Speakers

Brexit and ‚Global Britain‘: A Historical Perspective on British Migration


Prof. Dr. Tanja Bueltmann


Prof. Dr. Tanja Bueltmann was born in Bielefeld and studied English language and literature, history and sociology in her home town. She gained her PhD, with the focus on the history of the Scottish diaspora, at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Since her return from New Zealand she has worked at the Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK. In her research work she concentrates on the British diaspora and migration history. Bueltmann is currently the Associate Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences.



1. In your opinion, what aspects of collective life (economy, politics, society) are affected the most by a lack of taking on responsibility?

In the United Kingdom, this is particularly true for politics! In Continental Europe, I believe, they still haven’t really understood just how destructive the EU referendum and Brexit have already proved to be. Proponents of Brexit, as well as Prime Minister Theresa May and Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, continue to lie to citizens day after day. Facts, truth and reality – these have been almost totally undermined by Brexit. Nobody wants to take responsibility. And it’s always the others who are to blame.


2. Do you see a continuing trend that democratic majorities increasingly often vote against our values of a tolerant society? If so, how does one respond to it?

Yes, unfortunately I see this very clearly. In the United Kingdom democracy is in the process of undermining itself because Brexit is seen as the only solution to the ‘migration crisis’ – which with respect to the United Kingdom is a purely fictional crisis. In fact, it’s all about this. ‘Cool Britannia’ is now ‘Cold Britannia’, and with the exception of Scotland and London there is a serious lack of tolerance in the country.


3. In your view, what circumstances preclude the assumption of responsibility? Is the main reason to be found in a loss of seemingly secure values, norms and regulations?

It’s certainly a contributory factor that we are seeing a fundamental decay of norms and values. But perhaps more as a kind of accident – my great-grandmother would put it like this: “You’ve got it too good”. Many people have simply got so used to certain things that they just can’t believe these could be lost again. But democracy and openness involve a lot of hard work. What’s more, many members of society don’t actually have it so good. Either because that’s really the case or because it seems that way to them. And this, of course, provides the perfect breeding ground for populists.