Nearly two months after the verdict and I’m finally writing this blog.
It’s not a post that I take great (or any) pleasure in writing. Nevertheless, I feel that I owe some follow up comments, given my post before the vote.
Like many people I know, my immediate reactions were that of shock, sadness and anger. Even the city I was born and grew up in voted to leave by a majority of 51%. The day before the vote I stood up in front of my Macroeconomics tutorial class to give a presentation about the UK economy. I talked about how one of the polls predicted a 52-48 split in favour of ‘Leave’. I went on to say that such a result was highly unlikely; after all, nobody had correctly predicted the results of the Scottish independence referendum two years earlier, and these things were almost never right. The embarrassing truth was that just this once, they were.
At university the next day, I publicly mourned for my country, apologising for opinions that were not my own, trying to explain that I did not want to reject Europe and all of the people there who had welcomed me so well, not attempting to hide my feelings of disappointment at the decision.
As an economics student, I do think it will be interesting to see how the process unfolds and the economic implications of the verdict. I just selfishly wish it wasn’t happening to my country.
Apart from shedding a little tear every time I pass an EU flag, following the vote I have also become significantly poorer since my pounds are now worth next to nothing. However in my opinion, having less money is a relatively small impact when I think about the future of British students. My main concern through all of this is that British students in the future won’t have the same opportunity or ability to study abroad, particularly in the Netherlands, as I have. I feel less inclined to promote the great opportunity and experience that I have had so far to other prospective students. While the ESN (erasmus student network) have issued a statement that years/semesters abroad in mainland Europe will not be affected, the effects on people in my position studying a full bachelors or masters programme in a different country is somewhat more uncertain. Will we still be allowed to study here? Hopefully. Will fees be raised to higher, non-EU fees? Hopefully not. The answers to these questions are open to speculation, but no concrete answers can be given yet. There is room for negotiation regarding fees since some countries in Europe but not the EU such as Switzerland, also pay the same fees as EU students because they are a member of the EEA (European Economic Area).
By the time the UK officially leaves the EU, I should have graduated. In my own self-interest, I am glad of this and hope that it will prevent any negative effects on my time here. But for future students, I would feel immense sadness if they were not given the same opportunities that I have had, purely because of a narrow minded decision taken by a 52% ‘majority’. Although the cost of studying as a ‘non-EU’ student (in the Netherlands anyway) would still be significantly lower than the cost of studying in the UK, the lack of student finance for international students would likely prevent many from being able to afford to take the opportunity, provided it is still given.
But we do have a choice left. We have a choice to stay angry, to resent the people who didn’t think enough about which way to vote, the people who voted in protest, the people who voted because the campaigns failed to inform them, the people who gave in to fear, the people who voted because they had nothing left to lose and took a chance on a change. Or we can move on, stay engaged with the political process, choose to forgive those who voted the opposite way to ourselves, choose to make the EU citizens already settled in our country feel that they are still welcome, choose a Britain that is great not because of world standing or status but because of the people in it.