Cambridge Szeged Society panel “The State of Europe Now”

Cambridge Guildhall Council Chamber this evening — this free meeting was hosted by Mr. Mayor George Pippas, and featured a panel of local Labour MP Daniel Zeichner, LibDem MHL Baroness Julie Smith of Newham, and University of Cambridge historian Dr. Nora Berend of Hungarian origin. And because of the organisers, panel and audience the discussion gravitated toward local issues on Brexit and a view from a Hungarian perspective.

I missed Mr. Mayor’s intro. Mr. Zeichner gave a broad overview of Brexit in a European context from a parliamentarian perspective. ‘Julie’, as she likes to be called according to the twitter-verse, complemented this from a peerage view as well an academic and former councilor in Cambridge. And medievalist-turned-current historian Dr. Berend gave the East-European view on recent sociopolitical developments. That took a little over the first of the two hours.

After a break, questions from the audience were: from an EU national, what is the status of EU labour in England? From a British national, what is the status of the 48% Remainers in the UK? From two others, what were the future of Brexit negotiations and of political parties in the UK? Another person and myself asked about the broader context within Europe and with Russia? And two more finally, the chances of a new Referendum or election replacing the UK ruling party? The panel responded with an enlightening blend of views from the government and political mechanics, thru the historical and social ins-and-outs, to an historic and current-affairs perspective. That rounded off the two hours just about on time.

This was both a punchy and a no-holds-barred meeting, where the panel was very candid and the audience felt free to ask hard questions. But it moved along at a good pace without getting mired in controversy or side-issues — God knows if there’s enough media coverage in general and personal interest in particular — but I found many aspects I was either curious about and didn’t get to, or had not thought about in this devilish topic & time. Chatting with my neighbours suggest they thought so too.

It was an opportunity to meet with the Szeged Society and the Boyds who pretty well run it, and to introduce myself to Dr Berend as I’m an amateur medievalist myself, and to ‘Julie’ as I’m MoDem the French counterparts to LibDems. All in all a very useful and charming evening, everyone is to be commended for. Let me end on Mr. Zeichner’s words closing his response to my question on Putin’s role, paraphrasing, “Britain’s democracy may not be perfect, but it is pretty clean and robust”: That gives me some relief as a French national of Hungarian origin settled here with my British family…