We seem to find ourselves in an inevitable conundrum when it comes to the dreaded B-word. Two years have passed since the polarising referendum that divided the country. Despite the relentless media noise over Brexit, it feels like we are as clueless as to what Brexit will actually mean for us students during this political upheaval. What we do know is that Brexit remains a highly contentious issue with the British public. We only need to look at the recent People’s Vote march that took place in London last month with over 700,000 protesters taking part, calling for a second referendum on Brexit. As the March 2019 deadline for leaving the EU looms, should we be allowed to revote? How will Brexit affect UK students?
It is understandable as to why such contention remains around this issue. After all, the voting margin in the referendum was 51.89% to 48.11% in favour to leave, a 3.78% advantage. Although it is a sufficient mandate for the government to go ahead with Brexit, the nature of it being such a close result leaves grounds for complacency among some as to whether the outcome will really be worth hassle and if we will truly be better off leaving the EU. Voting trends show that between 70-75% of under 25’s voted to remain and so statistically speaking, our demographic is the one that would want to see a second referendum the most.
“This would cause restrictions on students studying abroad”
One area where Brexit concerns this demographic is the loss of free movement within the EU. This would cause restrictions on students studying abroad. There has been concerns of needing to acquire a visa to visit and study in EU countries. In September, the Government released their White Paper, ironing out this problem: under a revised Youth Mobility Scheme, the UK-EU’s future relationship includes lenient visa rules for students. It seems that both the UK and EU have come to a mutual understanding that students studying abroad can improve their graduate prospects and thus allow their own economies to equally flourish.
“UK universities receive around £500 million per year from EU funding for research”
What remains unanswered is whether we will get a deal with the EU by the time the March 2019 deadline comes around. The outcome of a ‘no-deal’ could have a significant economic impact on UK universities as EU funding may be cut. Since UK universities receive around £500 million per year from EU funding for research, which is why many academics argue that we are better off in the EU.
Although the government could boost university funding with the £10 billion saved from our net contribution to the EU budget, Russell Group calls the EU “an irreplaceable source of funding for UK universities”. There is a cause for concern that the economic repercussions of Brexit may affect the global standings of UK universities. Amid these anxieties, as many as 2,300 EU university staff members resigned from UK universities in 2017, a 19% rise. So with funding and employment woes among universities, it isn’t difficult to see how student’s studies will be affected depending on what deal the UK government can secure with the EU.
“…the Brexit result was a product of hateful campaigning in regards to immigration and misleading statistics”
After looking at how Brexit could affect UK students, it is important to note that they are not exhaustive reasons for wanting a revote. The current consensus among “remainers” is that the Brexit result was a product of hateful campaigning in regards to immigration and misleading statistics and thus an undemocratic result that should be overturned.
“These broken rules, fake news and political gaffes could have been the 3.78% difference of swinging the result”
To be honest, they are not wrong. In July this year, the campaign group Vote Leave was fined £61,000 and have been referred to the police after breaking electoral law i.e. overspending and hiding it through funnelling funds to another campaign group. Let’s not forget about the big red bus that was paraded around the country, emblazoned on the side, the promise of £350 million that the UK pays each week to the EU will be invested into our NHS.
After the result, this political stunt quickly turned sour when avid Brexiteer Nigel Farage described the pledge as a “mistake”. Along with Dominic Cummings, the mastermind behind the claim on the bus admitted the referendum was a “dumb idea” and leaving the EU could be “an error”. Even the UK Statistics Authority labelled it a “misuse of statistics”. The accumulation of these broken rules, fake news and political gaffes could have been the 3.78% difference of swinging the result the other way.
Brexiteers may laugh at the claim I have just made. But the stats reiterate this consensus with Channel 4’s biggest survey since the 2016 referendum. The results revealing that if we were to have a revote now, the UK would vote to remain in the EU by a majority of 54% to 46%. Although the stats suggest a revote would produce a different outcome, pollsters were wrong in the original referendum. So would it really be worth putting the country through another referendum if we end up with the same result?
“I was annoyingly one week too young to vote in 2016”
Democratically, a second referendum would enable more young people to vote. It is estimated that around 1.4 million people who were too young to vote in the first referendum could vote if there was a second. I am one of the 1.4 million, as I was annoyingly one week too young to vote in 2016. I feel agitated at the thought that I couldn’t voice my opinion on something that could profoundly affect my everyday life and I am sure that many people in my position feel the same. Our future has been chosen for us, unless the People’s Vote gains further momentum.