As a British MEP for the Labour Party, Julie Ward begins her Spotlight Session by explaining that Brexit was not a vote against the EU, because many people actually did not understand what the EU was doing for them. Brexit was a protest vote, because communities were feeling like they were being left behind. She finds shameful that, throughout the Brexit negotiations, EU citizens rights have become bargaining chips. This whole process has shown that the EU does not currently safeguard the rights of its citizens whose lives have been made difficult by Brexit. She therefore believes that citizenship should be put at the heart of the next Parliament’s programme. According to Julie Ward, the United Kingdom EU membership referendum was lost long before 2016, because of the United Kingdom’s failure to provide citizenship education. She points out that politics is not a matter that can be left to politicians only. There is a strong need for state-funded programs on citizenship education in all levels of public education. She also supports the ideas of a European common education area and of informal education, as well as the integration of media and digital literacy in education programmes in order to prevent fake news, social media trolls and breaches in cyber security.
As part of the Culture and Education Committee, the MEP is proud to have contributed to the increase of the EU budget for culture. She also wants to fight for the United Kingdom to stay in the EU’s Creative Europe. However, as this programme is embedded in European values, it is unlikely that the United Kingdom’s conservative government will continue to support the Creative Europe programme.
During her Spotlight Session, Julie Ward also provides her definition of culture. She describes it as something that is fluid, constantly changing and not always tangible. Culture is very closely linked to identity. Because today’s battle in Europe are a lot about identity, politicians are more and more aware of the important role culture will play in the future of Europe. As the EU is first and foremost a peace project, she believes that Europeans should be proud of their cultural diversity by welcoming others and recognizing Europe’s difficult history.