27 May 2016
The EU Referendum (Brexit) – Should you vote in or out?
Feeling overwhelmed by all the Brexit chat around you? We've summarised the main arguments from either side to help you decide what to vote on 23rd June.
Credit: Thijs ter Haar
If you're feeling in a muddle about whether to vote to stay in the EU or leave it in the upcoming referendum on Thursday June 23rd, we don't blame ya.
There are a lot of confusing Brexit-related discussions currently going on in the media, and probably at your uni, and amongst your friends, too.
Aside from the fact that the name of the campaign sounds like something Kellogg's would come up with on a bad day, it doesn't help that UK voters are being constantly bombarded with arguments from either sides of the campaign that are, for the large part, totally speculative.
Hell, even the experts can't claim to be 100% confident in their predictions!
But despite debates from both the ‘stronger In' and ‘Vote Leave' campaigns often being riddled with hazy arguments and conflicting figures being thrown around all over the place, we cannot emphasise enough just how important it is that you use your vote in this election.
As young people, we are the population that are going to be most affected by the outcome of this referendum.
To make things a bit clearer for you, we thought we'd put forward a few of the clearer points from either side of the argument to get you started. Then it's up to you!
Don’t let your future be decided for you – get organised and use your vote on June 23rd!
Students and Brexit
Credit: John Keane – Flickr
According to a recent survey, two-thirds of students don’t even know when the referendum is. Plus, because it'll be held outside of term time, some don't know they'll have to register again at their home addresses in order to vote.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the elections are bang smack in the middle of summer, so many people will be on their holidays and voting day even clashes with Glastonbury! Talk about bad timing…
Despite what sounds like a ballot bungle, 72% of students surveyed by Universities UK said they believe the referendum's outcome would have a significant impact on their future – even the experts have emphasised how important the participation of UK students really is in determining the result.
If you're not sure if you're registered to vote, or need to make any changes to your registration, you can sort everything out here.
Or, if you're worried about being off-grid when the referendum goes down, you can arrange a postal or proxy vote (‘proxy' means you authorise someone else to cast your vote for you). You'll need to move fast to make sure you meet the deadline, though!
Important dates to remember:
- Voting day is 23rd June
- If you can't vote on the 23rd, register for a postal vote before 7th June at 5pm (register by entering your details here)
- Or register to vote by proxy before 8th June at 5pm (register by entering your details here)
So if you can't make it on the 23rd, register for your postal or proxy ASAP!
A lot of the arguments put forward by either side of the campaign have their strengths and their weaknesses. The bottom line is that with something so complicated, it's hard to know exactly how their predictions will pan out.
Much of what happens after the referendum depends heavily on how the rest of the world responds if we choose to leave. No other country has ever exited the EU before, so the long and short of it is: we just don’t know what will happen if we were to leave the EU!
What we can do is take a clear look at the main arguments for and against leaving the EU, and how students might be affected either way, so you can start making an informed choice about which way you want to vote.
How students could be affected
There are a few issues that directly affect students, whatever the outcome on the 23rd.
- EU-funded research grants could be at stake if the UK votes to leave, and could make co-operation between research groups overseas harder. However, some Brexit supporters point out that leaving would mean bans on clinical trials imposed by EU law would be lifted, making scientific research easier (this could put animal welfare at risk, however, so whether it's a benefit depends on your stance on animal testing).
- A vote to leave could make it more difficult for EU students to study in the UK, and vice versa, because everyone may need visas to study abroad. Some academics have warned this could lead to a more ‘insular' university environment that is less culturally diverse. Erasmus programmes are also likely to take a hit – there could be fewer on offer, and be more complicated to run as they're largely funded by the EU.
- Visa regulations introduced if we leave could also make it more difficult for UK universities to recruit top staff from within Europe. The former British commissioner Chris Patten has said: “Typically in Oxford and in other universities, about a sixth of our academic staff come from other EU countries.”
- Brexitters argue that demand from UK students is high enough that universities wouldn't struggle from a drop in EU applications (particularly since they pay exactly the same level of tuition fees), and it would even make it easier for home students to be accepted onto the courses they want, as there'd be less competition.
- There's also an argument that leaving the EU could mean European students losing access to UK student finance and subsidised tuition fees. Fans of the leave campaign say that means more money available for UK students instead.
Top 5 arguments for ‘Stronger In'
The main arguments that the Stronger In campaign are currently pushing are the following:
Protect free movement
Stonger In think we should protect the privilege we currently have as UK citizens to travel, work and study anywhere in the EU. More than 42 million UK holiday trips are taken in EU countries each year and 1.4 million Brits currently live in Europe.
British students can also study in the EU for the same tuition fees as locals, and almost all degrees cost much less than the current £9,000 per year tuition fee imposed by the UK government (and some of these courses are even free – read more about them here).
They believe that the flow of mostly young and economically active EU migrants coming into the UK are an asset, as they fuel economic growth and help keep the country on its feet.
Trade would suffer
They believe that UK trade would suffer if we were to leave the EU, as we currently have access to a single market (meaning we don’t have to pay to trade with other EU countries).
40% of what the UK currently exports is sold within the EU.
Stronger international voice
Stronger In supporters also see the EU as a strong international voice, and believe we'd have less international power out on our own.
The EU also has Europe-wide legislation on the likes of protecting human rights and the environment that all member states need to adhere to.
If we were to leave the EU, the UK government would no longer have to meet the standards set by EU law.
Special status membership
Stronger In also argue that the Prime Minister has already arranged a ‘special status membership’ for the UK to take on if we vote to remain within the EU, meaning that leaving the EU is no longer necessary for those voters who are a bit Eurosceptic.
The new membership would entail the UK government being allowed to prevent non-UK citizens from claiming benefits until they’ve been working in the UK for at least four years, amongst other things.
Pay lots in, get lots out
‘Inners' advocate that although the UK pay a lot to be part of the EU, they get a lot back in return.
The government have recently estimated that for every £1 they spend, they get almost £10 back through investment (£66 million per day) and tariff-free trade from other EU countries.
To learn more about why the Stronger In campaign think we should remain a part of the EU, head over to their official site.
Top 5 arguments for ‘Vote Leave'
The main arguments that the Brexit campaign are currently pushing are the following:
Tighter border controls needed
If Britain were to leave the EU, Brexit supporters believe that this would improve immigration control, as the UK would have more control over its borders.
EU membership currently involves a principle of ‘free movement' which means that any EU citizen can live and work in the UK without needing a visa, and vice versa.
Vote Leave say that immigration is at crisis point in the UK and needs to be more heavily controlled.
Expensive EU membership
Vote Leave believe that the high EU membership costs outweigh the benefits (which they campaign as an estimated at £350 million per week, but we should clarify that this figure has been heavily contested, including by the UK Statistic Authority).
They believe that the money spent on EU membership could be spent more productive alternative ways within the UK.
More say in UK legislation
Laws made by the European parliament currently supersede laws made by the UK government, so if the government want to change, abolish or introduce a new law, and the EU don't agree with it, they have the power to have it vetoed.
Brexit supporters feel that the UK should have more control over its own legislation.
Sceptical of ‘ever closer union'
They object to the idea of an ‘ever closer union’ with the EU, saying that we’re slowly becoming like a ‘United States of Europe’.
This, they believe, holds the UK back from reaching its full potential as a global power as it involves imposing too many rules and regulations on business.
Fears over fragile euro
They worry that a closer union with the EU will result in the UK eventually being forced to adopt the fragile euro, which the UK has already had to help bail out.
Quite plainly, they see it as a case of the Europe needing the UK more than the UK needing Europe.
To find out more about why the Vote Leave party think we're better off out of the EU, check out their official campaign site.
Now it's over to you!
So now our part of the deal is done and dusted – it's down to you to decide what's important to you in this campaign, and whether you think the UK would be stronger remaining as part of the EU, or better off out on its own.
Whatever you decide, make sure you get out there and vote!
If you have any questions you feel like we've missed out in this guide, get in touch.
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