A Plea to Brexit Negotiators: Keep Erasmus

By Jessie Williams

Uncertainty. The buzzword of Brexit. What will happen? When will it happen? Will it actually happen? So many questions. But before you zone out and click on to something else: I know there’s been a lot written about it and my musings may not add anything substantial to the debate, but I want to focus on a topic that has largely been ignored in the discourse both before and after that fateful day in June, something that is very important to students both in Britain and Europe: the Erasmus scheme.

First, a bit of background: named after the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, a leading intellectual figure of the early 16th century who traveled around Europe and eventually left his fortune to the University of Basel in Switzerland. Erasmus is also a ‘backronym’ for European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students. It began in the 1980s as a European Union student exchange programme which funds organisations and individuals to study or train in Europe, now commonly referred to as Erasmus+. There’s no paying back after you graduate, no crippling debt. Brilliant.

There have been no official decisions by the European Commission about what will happen once Britain leaves the EU. So far students from UK universities currently studying in Europe or those planning to study there in 2017 will not be affected. But what about after 2019 (or as Boris optimistically says, 2018)? Like most people, Aliya Sorgen, International Partnerships Manager at City University of London, is not sure. “It is very difficult to comment on potential future situations, and to be honest, I would not want to raise or lower expectations by saying something that may not end up being true.” She continues: “I’m afraid all of us working within the field of Erasmus+ are as desperate as students are to know what the situation will be, but at this time we just need to wait.”

It seems we are playing a waiting game. Both David Davis, chief Brexit negotiator, and Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for universities, have refused to guarantee the Erasmus programme will be kept. When asked about it, Davis only said: “There is no immediate change to the rights of UK universities and their students and staff from EU countries… There is no change to those currently participating in, or about to start, Erasmus exchanges.” Johnson himself knows the benefits of being able to study in Europe and probably received Erasmus funding as a postgraduate student in Brussels and France.

The British public are being kept in the dark. Many young people believe that it would be very unfair if students are prevented from receiving Erasmus grants considering 75% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted to remain in the European Union, according to YouGov polling data.

So this is a plea to Davis and Johnson and all the other negotiators: keep Erasmus. It is vital. It is worthwhile. And it would be a tragedy if it is not kept or replaced by something similar. Let me explain why…

I am currently sat in Oma Cafe drinking a café au lait on a chilly French December day, reflecting on the first four months of my exchange. Would I have ever ventured across the channel to study in Europe if I hadn’t been able to receive the Erasmus grant? In short, no. Money is what it boils down to. Although not a substantial amount, the €300 per month is a big help by going towards rent and living costs. The great thing about Erasmus is that it doesn’t matter what your background or financial situation is, everyone gets the same amount of money each month – it only differs depending on your destination country. The thought of future students opting out of studying in Europe because they will not get the same opportunity fills me with sadness. These past few months I have experienced so much and met some incredible people. More than anything, an exchange is meant to be an eye-opening, horizon-broadening experience, and as a naïve girl from rural England, that is exactly what it has been. In my opinion, I think a year abroad should be mandatory. To immerse yourself in a different culture, to meet people from around the globe, and to hear their stories and their views is an incredible lesson in itself.

In the last few years there has been a surge of UK students choosing to study or work in a European country through the EU’s Erasmus programme. During the 2013-14 academic year, almost 15,600 UK students spent up to a year in another European country – up to 115% since 2007, according to Erasmus statistics. Additionally, there are over 27,000 EU students currently on the Erasmus scheme in Great Britain who have fees paid for by the EU, and the scheme also funds exchanges for university staff and volunteer/sports programmes.

One British student who is determined to study in Europe during 2017 is Tim Drew, 20, studying History at York University. He would like to go to the University of Utrecht in Holland in order to gain life experience. “I want to look back on my 20’s when I’m older and be happy with the experiences I took part in, and gaining the life and intellectual experience of living abroad would be high on a list of things that would help with this.”

However, he says: “Coming from a family who do not have a lot of money, the Erasmus funding would be crucial for me to be able to live comfortably in a big city like Utrecht.” Drew says that if he was not able to get an Erasmus grant then he would look into every possible option to try to get funding through different means. “I’ve tried to not let it affect my choice in pushing for a year abroad, as I think whatever the hardships Brexit may bring to the potential year, they do not outweigh the positives I would likely gain from this experience. I would like to think that by the time I go to live abroad there will not be too many changes from what there is now, but either way I truly hope it will not hinder any plans to study abroad.”

Drew is staying optimistic – and will probably not be affected next year – but there is no doubt that there will be less students from UK universities choosing to study in Europe if Erasmus is stopped, particularly as today’s students already have a large financial burden to bear. Billie Bradley is studying International Relations at the University of Nottingham and is currently on an exchange here in Reims. She says: “It’s such a shame because Post-Brexit, I think it’s more important than ever that students take the opportunity to discover new countries and expose themselves to different opinions and cultures, otherwise we risk becoming really insular. Leaving the EU will already make the process of moving to a European country much more difficult, and with a lack of funding on top of that I think that students will really struggle with making the decision to study abroad.”

Bradley believes the grant has been particularly useful in going towards her rent and for her trips home throughout the year. “It’s also been handy considering the state of the pound versus the euro post-Brexit, which initially made living costs slightly higher than expected,” she says.

So what will the future hold? If Britain is unable to keep participating in the Erasmus scheme after it leaves the EU then one possible solution is to adopt the Swiss model. Since Switzerland voted to restrict free movement in 2014, it has been refused entry to Erasmus. The country started its own scheme, The Swiss-European Mobility Programme, which is funded by the Swiss government instead of the EU. It has seen a record number of students sign up to study abroad, which should offer some hope to British students thinking about studying in Europe post-Brexit.

But Drew hopes that the people in charge of Brexit will see how valuable Erasmus is to students and be able to keep it in place. He says: “I think the experience gained abroad will help the future generation of workers in the U.K.” Indeed, the scheme has enriched countless lives over the past 30 years so it would be a shame for it to end – particularly at a time when ties between European countries is so crucial. However, I do know one thing for certain: we won’t be getting any answers for a while.

The times they are a-Changin’

By Nastassia Maes

On the day of Crimea’s annexation to Russia, March 18th 2014, Vladimir Putin reflected on the collapse of the Soviet Union and declared that, “Millions of people went to bed in one country and awoke in different ones […].” Today, this phrase can be tailored to the United Kingdom. In this case, millions of people went to bed in four different countries united under one sovereign state, and awoke in ones that had decided to exit from the European Union.

Much has been said on the topic, which is why I choose to focus on one specific aspect of the issue at hand. Now more than ever, it is immensely important to use our words. We must use them to fight against the outpouring of insipid racism, verbal abuses, xenophobia, and attacks on people’s dignity, such as the one that has emerged from the UK referendum decision. This ugly and harmful type of behavior has always existed, but it has been some time since the people adopting such behaviour have felt so legitimized and strong, both politically and socially. As such, we must, as often as we can, raise our voices so that they can be louder than those of racists, xenophobes, and verbal abusers. We must also speak against people such as the ex-UKIP Party leader Nigel Farage, a man who influenced so many people’s votes with a campaign that was made of smokescreens and vanishing promises, instead of concrete, honest, solid arguments and plans for a future outside of the EU. There need be no more proof of this than Mr. Farage’s resignation.

The situation in which we find ourselves serves as a reminder of the often overlooked yet highly impactful role language plays in the political sphere. There are several striking examples of the Vote Leave campaign’s occasionally propagandistic use of language and diffusion of false information. One scandalous and somewhat revolting example is that of the flashy red bus stating, “We send the EU £350 million a week/ Let’s fund our NHS instead/ Vote Leave.” As a matter of fact, as early as June 24th, Nigel Farage went back on his words and said that the National Health Service would not be the recipient of a weekly sum of 350 million pounds. This lead to widespread outrage for voters who had been won over or influenced by the conveniently shocking and alluring – but false – argument of the Vote Leave campaign.

The trail of propaganda does not end there. Phrases heavily infused with emotion, such as “take back control,” and “independence day” (Cooper) when referring to June 23rd, were repeatedly used by the Vote Leave campaign to indicate that the EU was harming the UK, that it was responsible for many of the problems the UK was experiencing, especially immigration. An anti-immigration poster showing almost only Middle Eastern migrants and refugees was also used to reinforce the claim that immigration needed to be reduced or stopped; it was accused of resembling Nazi propaganda several times. A little after the poster was revealed, the former chair of the Conservative Party, Ms. Sayeeda Warsi, left the Vote Leave campaign, “citing messages that stirred ‘hate and xenophobia.’” (Cooper)

It is unfortunately easy to draw more similarities between the context and language used leading up the UK referendum and that leading up to the Crimea referendum. In the case of Crimea, as explained in The Moscow Times, “[…] experts [said] an information war [was] launched after many Ukrainian news outlet were shut down and replaced by Russian state-owned ones.” (Sukhov). Furthermore, billboards such as one in Sevastopol, Ukraine, were seen to be indicating that the Crimean population had to decide not between rightfully and legally remaining a part of Ukraine or joining Russia, but between being annexed by the Russian Federation or succumbing to the Neo-Nazis in Crimea.

Change must happen and it must happen now. There are no greater tools than accurate, truthful words and information in this fight for the EU’s amelioration, survival and strengthening. ‘United in diversity:’ such is the motto of the EU and so it will remain. It is up to us to help make these words ring true as much as possible.

Cooper, Marta. “The “Romantic” And “Distorted” Language Of Campaigners Who Want Britain To Leave The EU”. Quartz. N.p., 2016. Web. 1 Sept. 2016.

Sukhov, Oleg. “The Media War Behind The Ukraine Crisis”. Themoscowtimes.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 1 Sept. 2016.

 

The Right to Remain Island

By Dalton Fischer Linnett

I met Barry and Trev at the Hemingway while stopping over in Reims just over a week after my country voted, by a small majority, to leave the European Union. The pair, both blue-collar workers from the East London suburb of Romford, approached me as I discussed the referendum’s outcome with a friend. Both were Eurosceptics – Barry was an abstainer self-described as “on the fence” though admittedly leaning toward Out; Trev, the older of the two and an aircraft repairs specialist at Stansted Airport,  was a “Brexiteer” who had voted to leave in the referendum.

I made it clear, particularly to Trev, that although I disagreed with him, I did not begrudge him his decision, and asked him why he had chosen to vote as he did. His position was nothing original – it was, he asserted, a question of freedom; reclaiming Britain’s right to choose for herself. I asked him if he was not concerned by the nosediving Sterling or by revelations that a promised £350 million reallocation of funds to the National Health Service would not, as had been promised or intoned by Leave campaigners, actually materialize.

“How do you know they’re lies?” he asked. I replied that it had been demonstrated rather clearly in the news and even admitted, in as many words, by leading campaigners like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. “So you know from reading the paper,” he summarized for me. I conceded the point and asked where, then, he had found his information. “From the paper as well,” he said. “So you and I are on the same level.”

Like much that was to follow in this discussion, I knew Trev was wrong but understood how he had arrived at his conclusions. Clearly the nature of the medium does not equalize the merit of all its content, but in an argument, this point is surprisingly more difficult to prove than it may seem. Trev’s logic felt emblematic of many of the false equivalencies around which the Leave campaign had gathered. Money not “sent to Brussels” does not instantaneously become free after a departure; membership of the European market and free trade with, for example, the Commonwealth are not mutually exclusive. The fact that “all politicians are liars”, as Trev asserted, does not mean that there isn’t truth on either side.

In spite of this, I knew somehow that even if I could have proven to Trev that the NHS will not be £350 million richer or that Johnson and Gove had sought only to play him for a chump, it would have done nothing to change his view. Contrary to the news media’s focus around high-profile Leave campaigners, Trev and many others like him are apathetic toward politicians and their views. Rather, they are, as Michael Gove (ironically) put it: “tired of experts”. It was the dear mistake of the Remain campaign, its supporters, the Government, and the news media, to assume that a mountain of economic evidence or warnings of political fallout would seduce embittered Britons. Most who cared were already convinced.

This is not to belittle those who voted to leave. Though neither was highly educated, neither Barry nor Trev was a fool. It is not because they cannot understand economic or political arguments that they do not care, but because they are weary of them. Both born in the 1960s, it is their generation that has witnessed the unflagging convergence of Britain’s mainstream political parties. There was the rejection en masse of Labour’s left-wing Michael Foot in his bid for the premiership in 1983, Labour’s lurch to the right under Tony Blair at the turn of the millennium, and David Cameron’s centrist leadership of the Conservative party. Some have since rebelled – successive Labour leaderships under Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn have sought to steer Labour back to the left; Conservative MPs and voters alike have defected to the United Kingdom Independence Party. Until now, all such efforts had failed, some (as in the case of Miliband’s Labour) spectacularly. In more ways than one, Leave’s victory in the June referendum was a first triumph for a probable majority of Britons who have become disenchanted with the political structure over decades of increasing homogeneity.

Compared to Trev, Barry was less concerned with sovereignty or freedom. In his view, Europe has punished Britain since its admission to the Union in 1973. His refrain (albeit a half-drunken one) was: “we’re not that bad”. “We’ve atoned,” he said. “We used to be bad – we were the worst of the lot in the days of the Empire – but now we’ve apologized, and we’re really trying to do right in the world.” Europe, as he saw it, has refused to accept this. Instead, the EU exerts Draconian regulations on Britain and extracts more than its due. His interpretation of political history was certainly confused – if nothing else, it is difficult to imagine a union dominated by France and Germany eternally castigating Britain for the wrongs of her past. Regulations and monetary contributions apply to all members; as Britain discovered last winter, there is no special treatment. What may be true is that prolonged British obstinacy toward European projects – flouting the euro and the Schengen Agreement, for example – and groaning at European objectives has cultivated a mutual resentment on either side of the Channel from which neither side is willing to back down. Indeed, Europe’s leaders were clear when they warned David Cameron of the futility of his quest for renegotiation of Britain’s membership terms. After decades of petulance, Britain had earned little goodwill in Brussels.

Interestingly, Barry’s view is in direct contrast with what has become the common image of the Leave supporter. Far from the pasty Brexiteer draped in St George’s Cross lamenting the loss of the Empire, Barry resents the imperial past, if only because (in his conception) it has led to harsher treatment of the European Britain. He expressed a passion for traveling in Europe (I did, after all, discover him in Reims). It was not distaste for foreigners or any particular chafing at actual EU policy that repelled Barry, but a lack of love for the Union. For all his absurd rhetoric, Boris Johnson had a point to call the “In” campaign “Project Fear”. Badgering the British people with economic uncertainty would never capture the hearts of millions of Barrys and Trevs who cast votes of emotion. The EU, and too many of the popular arguments for it, are uncharismatic. Europhiles who still have the chance would do well to acknowledge this.

In the weeks since the result, it has grown tiresome to listen to Europeans disparage an apparent British arrogance. It is not my experience of Britain that her people feel they stand above the Continent. They do, however, feel they are different. The “Island” mythology is overused, but not entirely untrue. The plugs in British walls have three holes, British cars drive on the left side of the road, and road signs still show distances in yards. Certainly the Leave vote had racists and imbeciles in its ranks. Many others, though, voted out of a sense of difference the Leave campaign had effectively prodded. The Remain campaign, with its graphs and figures, was broadcasting on a different frequency.

Everything remains to come. Theresa May seems unlikely to invoke Article 50 for some time. The outcome of the ensuing negotiations is impossible to predict. Those who claim to know what will happen or to be experts (Brexperts?) on the topic are lying.

The sun is not yet setting on Britain, and there is no guarantee her relationship with the EU will be torn to shreds. But the uncertainty about her future will linger for some time; probably for years. For those who would belittle the British for their decision, it will be important to remember that this is the attitude that held open the door for a Leave vote. Euroscepticism on the Continent is not going away soon; when all votes are equal, those who dismiss the opposition’s concerns and demean their motives might find themselves outnumbered by them.

Does Mother Know Best?: The Generational Divide and Brexit

By Cassandra Betts

You’ve stolen our future. This is the accusation that swept across the nation after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in the long-awaited referendum. The vote was incredibly close, with 51.9 percent of voters choosing to leave the EU and 48.1 percent choosing to remain. If only the young had been voting, however, it would have been anything but a tight race. An estimated 75 percent of Brits between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four voted to stay in the EU, while only 39 percent of those over sixty-five made the same decision. It is this generational divide that is causing outrage amongst many millennials in Britain, and around the world.

The young feel cheated. They feel as if nostalgic old fogies who are living in a nationalistic past have snatched away their future. For the older Brits, especially those who are already retired, Brexit means reclaiming their nation’s sovereignty and being able to be the sole decision-maker on controversial issues such as immigration. For the young, Brexit represents something completely different. It means limited access to jobs in a globalized world. It means slamming the door on international cooperation, shutting themselves out of free trade agreements. In short, it means sacrificing future opportunities. Of course, everyone in the UK will have to live with these sacrifices, but it is the millennials who will have to live with them the longest. The generations that voted to leave the EU have already found jobs, homes, husbands and wives, while the younger generations have yet to carve out a niche for themselves. All Brits may be affected by the crash of the pound and the inconvenience of having to tote their passport around with them when traveling around what used to be a borderless Europe, but it is the young ones who will have to build something out of the pieces that will be left behind after Britain’s connection with the EU is torn to shreds.

It is for this understandable reason that the millennials are screaming that their voice is the most important, that it is their future at stake, but this cry contradicts the very fibers that hold the modern democracy together. The United Kingdom’s democracy relies heavily upon the principle of equality. Every one’s voice is equal. While there may still be discrimination in society, the vote is blind. Regardless of your wealth, education, gender and age, your opinions, your ideas, your future is worth just as much as anyone else’s, because everyone gets one equal vote. This is the fundamental principal that Britain’s youth are contesting. They are claiming that their future is worth more, because it will exist for a longer period of time. They are screaming that the decision to leave the European Union, to take away the freedom of mobility, the common market, the safety and assurance that comes with being a part of such a unique supranational partnership, was not a decision that the older generation had a right to take. In a way, their claims may be legitimate. They may have a better understanding of what decisions will help to create the type of world that they want to live in. But their argument can also extend far beyond the context of the referendum that occurred on June 23rd. To a certain extent, any political decision will have lasting consequences, and these consequences will extend far beyond the life span of those who helped make the decision. The principle of path dependency is tried and true: once a decision is made it is never possible to go back. It cannot be erased, and will continue to affect future generations. In a way, with every vote we are determining the future of the generations that will come after us, and we are not necessarily looking out for their best interest. If the preservation of the environment is taken as an example, it is clear that the interests of the old do not necessarily coincide with the interests of the young. Many are willing to follow a path that has been scientifically proven to be detrimental to the environment, because they know that they will not have to live with the consequences. Yet no one is suggesting that the young are the only ones who have a say in future environmental decision-making. The experiences of the old are valued and considered, arguably too highly considered. It is impossible to implement the idea that the young get a larger say in their future without undermining the experiences of the old and reworking the democratic system that is currently in place. Sometimes a system that seems like the fairest of them all, the one that gives one vote for one person, can yield unfair results.

The uproar that the young have caused because their future has been stolen must be taken with a grain of salt for another reason: there was only an estimated 36 percent voter turnout for those between the ages of eighteen and twenty four. Only 36 percent of millennials bothered to leave their houses to determine their own future. The overall turnout of the referendum was 72 percent. Considering the fact that the decision to leave the EU was determined by less than two percent of the votes, if millennials had decided that their future was worth making a trip to the polls, the UK may have woken up to discover that they were still a part of the European Union.

Sixteen and seventeen-year-old Brits are expressing their discontent that they were not allowed to vote in the referendum, as their voice could have changed the course of history as well. According to a poll conducted by Student Room, 82 percent of Brits in this age group would have voted to remain within the EU, which would have been enough to pull out a win for the Remain side. These statistics, however, are unrealistic as they assume a 100 percent voter turnout, which, based on the performance of the rest of their generation, seems highly unlikely. In hindsight, what-ifs and maybes are completely meaningless, but it does seem rather unfair that sixteen and seventeen-year-olds were denied the right to vote, especially considering the fact that they were allowed to vote in the Scottish independence referendum. Part of the rationale behind giving the young citizens the right to vote in 2014 was that it was their future at stake, and that they would be the ones who would have to live with the consequences of their decision. This is exactly what the young Brits are arguing after the recent referendum, and to many, their argument is more than valid.

There’s an old adage that proclaims that Mother knows best. In some cases this proves to be true. With age comes wisdom, and this cannot be ignored. The young are notorious for being idealistic. They lack the experiences that older Brits have, and their opinions are often freshly formed and based on passion. It is possible that once the millennials have lived for sixty of seventy years, they too will have a different outlook of political questions, such as the one that was asked in the referendum. But it is also true that their opinions must be respected, and given just as much weight, as their parents’ and grandparents’. The young have grown up in a different world, and they view the future with a specific outlook that is impossible for outsiders to comprehend. They understand what they want their future to look like, and have unique experiences in a globally connected world. So, the question remains as to whether Mother really does know best in the case of Britain’s EU referendum. That has yet to be determined, but at least she knew enough to actually go out and vote.

 

No-Longer-Great Britain Says Cheerio! to Europe

By Lukas Kisielius

Never in my lifetime has there been a vote more polarized, and with more poignant consequences for the side which lost. Divisive along the lines of age, income, and education, the Brexit referendum was a smacking blow to those who took the European Union, and its ideals of solidarity and cooperation, for granted.

What is most bemusing for me is that the younger generation’s political apathy allowed for the proponents of the old idols to decide their future. Arrogance and the notion of exceptionalism, which undoubtedly were the underlying themes of the Brexit rhetoric, must have been foreign to young Britons who overwhelmingly supported the Bremain campaign. Unfortunately, their fervent support manifested itself by them sitting around at home, instead of turning out to vote. Now, in throngs the young adults protest in Westminster, or organize online petitions for a second referendum. Alas – not going to happen.

No-Longer-Great Britain is now obliged to set its course in accord with the wishes of the thoughtless minority. The Leave campaign was more politically engaged, and more visible in the debate and news coverage. Its nineteenth-century politics would have been decimated in an intellectual debate, if there had ever been one. That is, if the two centrist major parties hadn’t failed to cooperate, and hadn’t tried to deliberately sabotage each other’s efforts.

The young and the rational voter was not the only “victim” of the vote. Southern and Eastern European immigrants, who are my counterparts in this situation, will probably take the heaviest blow from the Brexit outcome. Millions of them made good use of the liberal EU policies for the free movement of labour, and have managed to settle in the British Isles. Now, their lives are in jeopardy: while it is unlikely that they would face mass deportations of any kind, the dangerous expressions of xenophobia and discrimination have and will become more common. As of now, hatred has already manifested itself in London, where a Polish cultural center was sprayed with insulting graffiti, and in Cambridgeshire, where dozens of laminated cards reading “No more Polish vermin” were being distributed (as the text was presented in English and in Polish, I would like to thank England, in the name of the nation of Poland, for the kind translation).

However, what’s commonly misinterpreted is that those very same “second-class” Europeans, whom working-class Britons think of as stealing their jobs as Tesco cashiers, kitchen staff, hotel waitresses and airport cleaners, also increasingly contribute to the British economy in the fields of information technology, medicine, academic research, and financial services. Within the field of higher education, as an open letter from 103 British universities would indicate, students from EU countries, the majority of whom come from Eastern Europe, not only generate revenue, but also contribute to research in areas as diverse as climate change and cancer. It is now highly likely that the Brexit vote would make Britain lose its position as one of the global leaders in higher education and academic diversity.

Now, with racism and xenophobia in Britain being on the rise, there is a benevolent initiative that I would like to mention. The #SafetyPin is quite literally all about putting a safety pin onto your clothing, giving out a little signal that shows support to people facing hate crime in the post-Brexit Britain. In the face of uncertainty and unpredictable nationalism, such advocacy for tolerance and safety is truly welcome.

Post-Brexit International Trade: An Unknown Unknown

By Shebli Khoury

As the debate surrounding the fallout from Brexit centers on the British Isles and the continent to the East, another issue looms. International trade took a hit when British voters decided that Britain should leave the EU, the most integrated trade union in the world. Regionalism, the post-multilateral WTO process, has been dealt a significant blow by British voters, the rise of the far-left and right, and increasing protectionism. If regionalism has been seen as the next best alternative to multilateralism in international trade, then open economies have a lot to be afraid of.

International trade, as a significant type of relationship between countries, has been based on multilateralism and the system set up by the WTO. However imperfect that system may have been in giving different countries a voice in international affairs, they all received a vote and a seat at the table at the WTO trading rounds and, most of the time, benefitted from the equal application of its rules and protection. As the WTO waned in power and influence after easy forms of protectionism were removed and as more powerful players, essentially veto players, joined the negotiations, this multilateralism has been replaced by regionalism. Regionalism is embodied in agreements such as the European Union and is the philosophy behind TTP and TTIP. Regionalism decreases the scope of countries involved in trade agreements by covering countries that lie in a specific geographical area rather than in most of the world, as the WTO multilateral system does. This reduces the number of veto players and allows countries with closer economies to negotiate. The EU is one of the clearest examples of this type of international trade system as it brought together 27 European countries into a single market with no trade barriers between them.

It is now regionalism’s turn to be shaken. The Brexit Vote has shown that the British rejected the single market. Despite statements by some of the Leavers about hastily rejoining the single market in an altered form, the majority in England were driven to vote leave because of the effects of the single market and international trade on their wages and livelihoods. Areas that haven’t been able to reap the benefits of globalisation and trade, especially those outside of London and in traditionally industrial areas were the ones who mostly voted for Leave, with a sea of Remain votes surrounding London. These Leave voters have rejected the vision of a globalised, internationally-oriented world in favour of a strong, nationalist England precisely because they feel they have been left behind in this system. In its place came a hope that an England for the English and run by the English will be more sympathetic and responsive to their concerns than the international elite in London and estates run by Jeeves.

This rejection of the EU has put the one of the big two regional trade agreements, the TTIP, in  a critical state. Britain pushed for the deal and had a significant part to play in it as one of the largest economies in the EU and the economy closest to the US. As it removes itself from the agreement, other countries that have less of a gleam in their eyes when they think of it will surely feel less inclined to push for it in their parliaments. US Trade Representative Michael Froman has vowed to carry on with the agreement, but the rejection by British voters of an open trading globalized economy makes other EU leaders fear that by promoting TTIP, they are empowering similar Eurosceptic movements in their countries.

The British vote has had severe economic ramifications with three trillion dollars wiped out from markets in the two days after the vote – the biggest ever, even bigger than the 2008 crisis. But the longer term effects on international trade might be even more worrying. Regionalism has been thrown into uncertainty with its biggest two manifestations at risk. Even if both do survive because they’re too big to untangle, voters have rejected the values that underpin them. TTIP has been viewed negatively by many as undemocratic or harmful to the livelihoods of millions, but it was the only form on the table to promote international trade. Shutting off markets will have far more negative effects than TTIP. The benefits of international trade from stronger economies, more competition and choice, and open, outward-looking societies are now at risk. Multilateralism has stalled for years. The only alternative, regionalism, has been rejected. What saves international trade – globalisation, open economies, and open nations – needs to be found, and when it is found, has to be approved by angry voters. It would be an easier task if the new model takes much more interest in those that have been left behind by globalisation and inequality, while emphasizing the benefits of international trade. Economic growth for all would be a better trade model with a broader and stronger appeal. All in all, a very daunting task, but one that could make our world a significantly better place.

 

The Sun Does Set

By Zak Vescera

Well Britain, it was a good show.

After the referendum on June 23rd that decided Britain’s exit from the EU, the world has done anything but keep calm and carry on. And perhaps that’s for the better. In voting to leave the EU, Britain has declined to be an example and has instead chosen to become an example of what politics of division and disunity really look like.

Brexit comes at a time when the EU is facing the most significant challenges in its history. Between a sluggish economy, the attacks in France, the Greek debt crisis, and an inundating wave of migrants fleeing both war and poorer prospects back home, the going has gotten tough.

The first reaction to the going getting tough is to escape. A wave of nationalism and Euroscepticism has consequently swept the continent; from France’s Front National to the Swedish Democrats to Italy’s Five Star movement, many are questioning whether the EU is equipped to really guide Europe into the future. These are the groups that have applauded Britain’s UKIP and its constantly-smirking leader, Mr. Nigel Farage, and who have immediately called for their own “exits” after seeing the UK results.

The second reaction to the going getting tough is for the tough to get going.

The EU has already been remarkable in keeping the continent unified in the face of its greatest crisis this side of the century. Germany has become a symbol of generosity and tolerance for its acceptance of migrants, quality of life continues to expand in the Union’s less-developed countries, and the effects of the financial crisis are universally beginning to fade. Europe’s leaders– President Donald Tusk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and France’s François Hollande, among others– have demonstrated a capacity for coordination and bilateral communication that indicates strength and patience more than it does weakness.

Britain has never been such a leading figure in the European Union. The UK does not use the Euro nor subscribe to the Schengen zone. It has preferred trade options over contributing to EU democracy. It has famously disengaged in Union affairs compared to its French, Dutch, and Irish neighbours. And its most populous party in the European Parliament is UKIP, who are so Eurosceptic that they essentially vote against the Union doing anything– while continuing to criticize the Union’s lack of action, of course.

Britain departed the EU for the promise of “retaking’ its country from a wicked Brussels administration, reviving British industry and independence in the process. Instead, within 48 hours the markets have crashed, France has overtaken Britain as the world’s 5th largest economy (something that is sure to sting), and Britain is a sitting duck in the face of the potentially taxing negotiations for it to re-enter the common market– negotiations that almost certainly will not be in Britain’s favour. At home, the United Kingdom is divided. Cameron has promised to resign as UKIP is already retracting on some of its claims. Northern Ireland and Scotland, who both voted in favour of remaining, are beginning their respective pushes for reunification and independence.

To Eurosceptics, this is painting a much clearer image of what “independence” really looks like. In trying to retake its sovereignty, Britain has lost its power to decide. In trying to make a statement, she has lost her relevance. In trying to unify her nation, she may instead have set into motion actions that will divide it permanently.  

Brexit, then, is not the departure of a beloved ally and pillar of the Union. Nor is it a rallying cry for the far right. It is a sad and solemn reminder of what the politics of division that are being preached across Europe really look like. Euroscepticism isn’t something to scoff at; it’s right to be critical of the European Union and its clunky bureaucracy, its confusing exterior, and its perpetual sense of vagueness and misdirection.

The Brexit vote, if anything, is a rightful wake up call to this establishment. But it’s certainly not, as the far-right might have you believe, a death knell. If anything, this separation will make the EU stronger.

The Brexit vote is a scary reminder of what divisive politics, those which push people apart rather than bring them together, look like in reality. Brexit is a reminder that building walls is more destructive than building bridges.

And it’s a sad, sad day for Britain, a nation that prides itself on a stiff upper lip and an unfailing, unwavering perseverance in the face of undefeatable odds. It has surrendered not to a foreign invader nor hard times, but ultimately to its own fear and uncertainty.

Britain has ceased to be an example and has instead become a hard, hard lesson.