Coming to terms with ‘Brexit’

Maybe most people didn’t see that one coming, but I had harboured a suspicion for several weeks that the UK electorate as a whole would vote to leave the European Union; and in that belief had urged people supporting that position to be clearer about what it would mean in practice, and what the consequences would be.

And now, several days have passed since the vote and nobody knows anything at all. We don’t know, even in outline, what kind of relationship with the EU those who campaigned for Brexit actually want, or what the UK’s negotiating position will be. We don’t know whether the UK can or will be in the EU’s single market. We don’t know what the actions of investors will be, or indeed of domestic consumers. We don’t know what will happen to the UK’s currency, the Pound.

I imagine that many of those who voted to leave will have done so in the expectation that immigration (from the EU and indeed everywhere else) will fall dramatically; and yet we must suspect it almost certainly will not, whatever new regulatory framework emerges.

And of course we don’t know what will happen to Scotland – will it now leave the UK, or will there be some accommodation that allows Scotland (and maybe London?) to keep special ties to the European Union within a United Kingdom that has left?

In the university sector, a large number of questions now arise, some of them of fundamental importance. Will they still be able to recruit faculty and students internationally, in the EU and beyond, as before? Will they still have access to the same research funding? What about Erasmus and other student exchanges? How will our friends and partners across the world now view us?

I began my academic career in 1980. Over the years since then I cannot recall any period of such uncertainty as the one we face now; made more difficult by the fact that almost none of our questions will be conclusively answered any time soon. We will be living in very interesting times.

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4 Comments on “Coming to terms with ‘Brexit’”

  1. […] Coming to terms with ‘Brexit’ […]

  2. jeffollerton Says:

    Agreed, these are worrying times for the country, and particualrly for Higher Education. Can I add another uncertainty to your list? Much of the UK’s environmental legislation is driven by EU directives:

    Those of us researching and teaching in this area have significant concerns about what Brexit might mean for our natural environment. From my own perspective of biodiversity conservation, NGOs such as the Wildlife Trusts are trying to put on a brave face, but behind the scenes I know that they are very worried by events:

  3. Vincent Says:

    There’s a notion abroad that because the vote was for out that the bunch of nutters and thicko’s have taken over. There is no reason a exiter needs to be PM anymore than last week. Nor is there a reason why an exiter needs to head to Brussels.
    No mandate has been handed to that shower in any way whatsoever because of the recent vote.

  4. Alan Says:

    We don’t even know who it will be who will lead the UK’s negotiations with the EU! However, we can assume that one of those in the Conservatives who urged the electorate to take this decision will be chosen and than from rumbling and mutterings reported since, a almost a cross-brexit camp roll back on the dog whistle and loud hailer (you know who) references to immigration, that whichever one is chosen they know, all of them, that the immigration issue won’t be what many of those hoped it would be.

    It woudl seem to me likely then that we’ll continue on as associate members of H2020/FP9 which is probably the best outcome we can hope for in light of the terrible decision taken last Thursday.

    However, if a harder line is taken with the foreigners (and I speak as one) it could be possible that we’ll be relegated to Third Country status. Which I wonder would be an even worse situation than it might first assume. Under H2020 rules a third country can’t host EC funded projects. The many thousands of projects lead by UK institutions would then need to transfer coordinator-ship to EU partners and, most crucially for many UK universities, we would not be in a position to host ERC grant-holders.

    This would be my professional focus. I think the social and environmental impact is much more worrying on a personal level. We’ve already seen some horrible examples of hate and xenophobia around the country, thankfully Scotland seems to have avoided this so far, and as mentioned above much environmental protection legislation comes from the EU. The other issue relates to fishing which could, with EU rules lifted, so irrevocable damage to already vulnerable fishing stock.

    Of course the list of such concerns grows by the day and the list of unanswered questions grows with it.

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