The referendum to decide on the UK’s membership of the European Union on the 23rd June resulted in around 52% of voted opting for Brexit. This caused upset for many people, with over four million people signing a petition for a second referendum. With the decline of the pound and the resignations of David Cameron and Nigel Farage, several Brexit supporters have openly come to regret their decision to vote to leave. Applications of Irish, and other EU passports, soared after the results were announced. Many people, from both sides of the debate, have also criticised Boris Johnson’s decision to not run as the Conservative party leader, having been at the forefront of the leave campaign. With David Cameron having resigned as Prime Minister, he leaves triggering the two year process of Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty to his successor. Although there is uncertainty following the referendum result, Conservative party leader frontrunner Theresa May said that the UK will have a “better, brighter future”.
But despite May’s optimism, the referendum has highlighted a divide among the countries that make up the UK. England and Wales voted to leave, with 53.4% and 52.5% in favour of Brexit respectively. However, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, with 62% and 55.8% of voters in favour of membership respectively. Since the result showed an overall majority for Brexit, there have been campaigns in Northern Ireland for Ireland to become united so it remains in the EU. In Scotland, there have been calls for a second independence referendum, with some people arguing that the differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK are too great. Nicola Sturgeon has said that another independence referendum is now “highly likely” if Scotland is taken out of the EU. She described Scotland being taken out as being “democratically unacceptable”.
The UK’s exit from the EU caused a mixed response from politicians from other member states. Some expressed their shock and disappointment while others saw it as the catalyst for further change and even other states holding referendums to leave. But for many EU students in Scotland, it was not the result they were hoping for. One student from Bulgaria, Evelina, thinks that Brexit will put off potential EU students in future. She said: “A possible leave will mean many more obstacles for us. For example, I’m afraid that I’ll have to go through long procedures to get a work permission or a visa to enter the country”. Another student from Finland, Ester, said that EU students are already being put off choosing to study here as her friend of hers decided to study in Finland despite having a place in Aberdeen. A student from Sweden, Linnéa, echoed their concerns. She said: “I know for sure I would be put off if I were to apply for Universities in the UK this year. It sort of feels like we are not as welcome as before”.
Hearing that current EU students would continue to have their fees paid for was reassuring news. Evelina said: “I’m absolutely thankful for the timely reaction of the universities. Following the vote I was anxious about my future education in Aberdeen as I had 3 uncertain years coming”. Ester said that the move was a “smart” one to make. She added that it had calmed her down. Linnéa was “relieved” at the news. Having found out, she felt like “a tiny light in the dark, and that we are all in a safe place”.
Many people, even politicians, are unsure about what the future holds for the EU. The students are not much different. Evelina thinks that it is “more uncertain than ever” and hopes that Brexit won’t be the “beginning of the end”. Ester hopes that the EU “comes out of this stronger than ever”, with smaller countries becoming more authoritative. She also hopes that other EU nations do not follow the UK in leaving. Linnéa was also unsure about the EU’s future. She thinks that if other countries leave, it will be “the beginning of an awful racism wave with people being more protective about ‘their own countries’ and keeping everything ‘national’”.
With a second EU referendum having been ruled out, only time will tell how Brexit will affect not only the UK, but the EU and the wider world as a whole