Students’ say on the upcoming EU referendum

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Since the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, whether or not Scotland – and now the UK as a whole – should remain as part of European Union has been a well discussed debate.

The debate did, however, initially start as early as 1973, when the UK entered the European Economic Community. A referendum was held in 1976 and the result was that 67 percent of voters supported the membership.

The European Union Referendum Act 2015, approved on 14 December 2015, allows another referendum to be held before the end of 2017. It was recently established that this will take place on June 23rd this year.

A current poll shows that 45 percent of voters support Brexit – which is an increase from 36 percent last summer. 55 percent of voters want to remain in the European Union.

While politics is not one of my strongest suits, I do have strong opinions about whether or not the UK should leave or stay in the EU. Perhaps it is easier to be opinionated about a topic without knowing a lot of facts about it.

Above all, whether or not the UK is part of the EU is of crucial importance to me personally.

Being from Sweden and not yet having attained a British passport, if the United Kingdom was to leave the EU, chances are that I will be deported like many Americans and Canadians who contribute to British society.

As for Europeans, to be eligible to apply for British citizenship you must have been a permanent resident in the UK for five years consecutively – without having left the country for more than 450 days in those five years.

While it seems unacceptable that equal human beings who contribute to a nation’s society no longer will be allowed to stay simply because they happen to have been born on the other side of man-made borders, it seems even more unreasonable that Europeans no longer might be able to move between the borders within Europe.

Having lived in the UK – both England and Scotland – while working and studying for five years, it has become not only a necessity but also a de facto normalcy that I can do so.

Many people’s lives will be changed and affected if the United Kingdom were to leave the European Union. This is evident even to those of us who are less politically-wired. Another student here at the University of Stirling, Emma Lagarde, who is originally from Germany, also has very strong opinions about the upcoming EU referendum:

“Obviously I am worried what it would mean for me if the UK left the EU. I am worried about what it might mean for my education and my tuition fees, because SAAS is paying them at the moment.

“But also because I would like to stay in the UK after graduating and with the UK as part of the EU that will be relatively easy but I have no idea what the UK leaving the EU might mean for me and how easy, or hard, it would be for me to stay here.”

Because I initially lacked political knowledge about the referendum, I wanted to hear what British students had to say on it. A friend of mine, Emma Stevens, from Durham, England, studying at the University of Essex (but currently on a year abroad in Hawaii) agrees on that many people’s lives will change drastically if the UK leaves the EU – and not necessarily for the better.

“I believe it is very important for the UK to stay within the EU. I believe the UK has remained a very stable and strong country because of our alignment with the European Union, and to leave would mean only to weaken us,” Emma says.

Emma also mentions many other important factors that the UK being a part of EU makes possible:

  • Free movement between European countries has become a normal luxury. Not only are we able to move between countries, we can also easily jump from one country to another for short holidays thanks to cheap flight tickets. This is one of the main luxuries Americans, Australians and other far-off people envy about Europe.
  • The fact that European students can study in Scotland without having to worry about expensive tuition fees is another benefit UK’s membership in the EU gives us.

EU membership is, of course, not only beneficial to Europeans. A lot of Britons work for European companies without knowing it and the many EU students contribute to Britain’s economy and society.

Britain also imports a lot of food and goods from other countries – thanks to membership, taxes can stay relatively low. If the UK were to leave the EU, export and import taxes would increase.

While it seems to be a controversial issue over whether the UK should remain as part of the EU or not, the benefits of being a part of the larger union is beneficial in the utmost. Personally I cannot see why Brexit would be to Britain’s advantage.

by Cecilia Johansson


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