By Rhydian Morris
Like many students today I am devastated by the result that played out all through the night. All through the day I have been reading Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts from students and young people disheartened, but also angry at what this vote is going to do to their future.
The anger among students is almost universal, and that outrage is completely justified. We have seen from analysis of the vote today that young people voted between 65-75% in favour of remaining in the EU while almost the reverse happened for the over 50s. Student’s future prospects have been decided by people who will not bear the full reality of this decision. One of the worst parts of this result is that Swansea. Yes Swansea, a city that is classed as a city of sanctuary and is a net beneficiary of EU funding. Voted to pick up a gun and shoot itself in the face.
So how bad is this vote for students? Extremely. The country has decided to hand over decision making to a cabal of extreme right wing voices and literally anything is up for grabs. Worse case scenarios of workers’ rights erosion and withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, seem more probable than ever before.
So on the first instance let’s talk about free movement. Many people have been taking solace in the fact that any future deal with Europe will involve free movement. Personally, I don’t believe for a second you can take that for granted. Much of this result occurred as a result of deep rooted anti-immigrant, anti EU, and anti-refugee sentiment. I don’t see a situation in which the population that voted to leave, would accept politicians allowing the current migration settlement to continue. One of the major talking points of leave’s campaign was to “take back our borders” and there was clear rhetoric against immigrants and refugees throughout the campaign. Students should be extremely worried about free movement being under threat, you only need to look at leave voters opinions after the result to know that there is a strong drive to restrict immigration and to “kick out” immigrants from the country.
Now about the economy, a topic by which leave voters accused the remain campaign of “scaremongering”. Let’s call a spade a spade here, the economy is going to suffer in the short term. We have already seen it in the span of only 4 hours, where the value of the pound dropped to pre-1985 levels against the dollar. The leave side throughout the campaign continually downplayed the economic effects of a leave vote, insisting that the EU would not impose tariffs or other barriers to trade, as it would not be in their self-interest. Even if you concede that it’s not in the best interest of the EU to impose trade barriers, it also wasn’t in Britain’s interest to leave the EU. I don’t think anyone can rely on human beings capacity for rational thought in predictions on the current future. Not to mention it might very well not be in the EU’s interests to provide us with a strong trading deal going forward. It is entirely possible that the EU will fight Britain tooth and nail in trade negotiations in order to prevent destabilisation of the continent.
But it’s okay right? We will have a strong leader who is capable of taking the EU on and secure the best interests of the British public! Yeh right. Who is going to lead? Jeremy Corbyn for Labour is either going to be deposed or at the very least severely weakened by his lacklustre, half-hearted leadership in the referendum. Whoever takes over will be leading a party divided, with no realistic hope of government. Tim Farron is leading a party that is very much a non-entity, which nobody still trusts after the Conservative- Liberal Democrat coalition. The only nationalist parties that are not extreme right wing are localised entirely within the respective constituent UK countries, with Nicola Sturgeon already making significant strides for a second Scottish independence referendum. We are in a situation where if there was a general election within the next few months UKIP would mop up votes, being seen as the only competent united party to support.
But I guess we can count on a conservative leader to pick up the pieces of this broken country? Well who are the candidates? We have David Cameron who has announced his resignation, George Osborne who might be the most universally hated politician in Britain, Theresa May who wants to withdraw us from the European Convention on Human Rights (which the UK established), Michael Gove who famously said in the campaign that he doesn’t pay attention to experts (his disastrous run as education minister now makes a lot more sense), and Boris Johnson, a rank opportunist that will literally say or do anything for power. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.
Are you considering going to the continent to get a cheaper degree? Or spend a year abroad under the Erasmus program? Well I’m sorry to say those deals are most likely gone. Unless it is part of the negotiation (considering the political establishments lack of any interest in protecting young people’s interest, it’s unlikely), at some point students could end up paying international rate fees at European universities and losing the ability to study temporarily in Europe through Erasmus. The EU gave students the ability to easily study, work and live anywhere in Europe and this vote has in many ways ripped young people of their future.
But it’s okay for students who have just graduated right? We can escape this shit show and apply to work abroad? Actually no. The vote has already left European companies very hesitant to employ British graduates, due to the uncertainty of their legal status over the next few years. And what about research graduates hoping to work in the UK? Well the research grants to British Universities and other organisations are likely to be entirely gone post 2017-2018. I think it would be a very naive position to take, to expect the British Government to match that lost research funding.
How will this affect Swansea University? We know the bay campus expansion was heavily funded by EU investment and the local area receives a significant sum through regional funding. It’s very unclear what will happen now, but I can’t imagine the outcome will be positive for the region or the university. The university itself released an email to students regretting the decision of the country, but emphasising it will do everything to mitigate the damage on future student’s prospects. The full text of the email has been posted below the article.
Let’s be honest here the Leave campaign have had a head start of decades on influencing the minds of the nation, the campaign by some newspapers has not stopped since the last referendum in the 70s. The EU has been demonised for everything from the mythical “EU army” to “Bendy Bananas”. Frankly people should be surprised that the remain vote was even as high as it was. There were some arguments that were perfectly reasonable for voting leave in the campaign, concerns about democracy and wanting the ability to completely govern our own affairs are entirely fair points. The issue is that trying to imply that the majority, or at least all of leave voters voted on that basis, is patently dishonest. We can already see that immigration and myths about the EU were very much prevalent in making people’s minds up.
If it wasn’t inherently obvious from the tone of this article, I am despondent. As should many of the young people that compromised the 75% that voted remain. We are in a situation where a slim majority of the country have made an uneducated vote on our entire future based on dishonest or outright fabricated information. As young people we have been the collateral damage from the political establishment’s deliberate ignorance of working class voters concerns. The media campaign against the EU for 30-40 years has cemented itself in the minds of the British public, and no amount of honest reporting on the benefits of EU membership will challenge that.
But that said Britain, I and many young people, hope we are bloody well wrong.
Swansea University’s letter to students and staff:
“Swansea University is an outward looking community of researchers and students and we value and celebrate our links with Europe and beyond. We have many European collaborations supporting student and staff mobility, research funding, and capacity building. Following the UK referendum outcome, I want to reassure all staff and students, especially those that are from Europe, that Swansea University will continue on a business as usual basis.
Provided that no unilateral action is taken by the UK government (which is unlikely), there will not be any immediate material change to the UK university sector’s participation in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+, nor to the immigration status of current and prospective EU students and staff. We expect existing project grants and contracts to be honoured.
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty foresees a two-year negotiation process between the UK and other Member States, during which time the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union will be decided. It is likely that there will be a temporary moratorium on new grants and contracts but that this will be lifted for a period when the exit process is agreed.
There will be many questions from the Swansea University community and its partners about what this vote means. We will address these as a matter of priority as the details become clear.
We know that university staff and students across the UK were overwhelmingly in favour of Europe, many passionately so, including myself. However, along with the uncertainties and challenges we now face are new opportunities. We are well-equipped as a University to respond boldly and effectively to opportunities.
Professor Richard B. Davies, Vice-Chancellor, Swansea University”