Unless you have been living in a cave with no access to any news for the last few years, you will be aware that Britain has left the European Union (EU). Although it is difficult to find any Brexit bonuses at all, one that has been absent from the claims of even the most ardent champions of it has been any upside to education once the transition period ends in 2021. Britain’s brave new endeavour will instead be likely to lead to uncertainty, shortages and the weakening of Britain’s cultural and scientific clout in the world. This will not just affect universities but schools and the professions as well who will all need to get accustomed to losing the easy access to some of the perks of membership. It still remains to be seen whether a deal will alleviate some of these concerns; others will likely be a problem whether we crash out or not. Most of all it is young people who will suffer the most as they see their opportunities and horizons shrink. I therefore address my words to the parents, particularly those that seem to have been in favour of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Let us start with a simple fact. Ending freedom of movement, whilst on the face of it stopping hordes of immigrants swamping your town, will also make new restrictions on teachers, particularly modern languages teachers a reality. Many parents hope their children will at least be afforded the continued opportunity to speak more than one language, even if few end up becoming fluent. There could also be problems over the salary cap (the minimum income you need to earn as a migrant to work in the country, currently £30,000) which is beyond the starting salary of many. There is already a shortage of teachers across all fields – especially modern languages. Putting up new barriers will not help with recruiting those well-educated Europeans, who are often young, with degrees and on the whole represent an economic net-benefit – compared to outside EU immigrants who are more likely to bring dependents and are therefore more of a financial burden. There is also a worry that this could have an effect on British teachers working in the EU, where long-term uncertainty still reigns.
If you are lucky and your little tyke gets a decent education, by voting for Brexit you may also have reduced their chances and opportunities during and once they have left school. School trips may become more difficult, and without a guarantee of British participation in Erasmus you will see opportunities for young pope to work and study abroad, particularly for the poor, reduced. The government voted against guaranteeing to continue in the programme, which, considering 53 per cent of students study abroad using Erasmus, will end up affecting many. It works both ways and already Britain has slipped down the desirability ratings for young Europeans in the Erasmus project.
Universities are also going to possibly have problems with recruitment, as the fee caps are being loosened as a result of Brexit (EU citizens were entitled to the same fees as citizens from the host country) there may be problems attracting and keeping EU students that still remain an important constituent part of the British student population. Fewer fees mean higher fees elsewhere or closed or reduced programmes and departments. Not something that Vote Leave was shouting from the rooftops in 2016.
For younger people in general, even those that don’t go to university, there are other costs. The London School of Economics has drawn up several issues. Summer jobs or extended stays abroad may become a thing of the past, or many may become discouraged by extra hurdles thrown up. Business start-ups (which as part of the four freedoms can be set-up anywhere) will be harder and again recruitment will be more difficult. Another problem is that Britain has been an attractive place for EU citizens to set-up companies creating more of those jobs we say we want for our young people, which considering the problems of a post-pandemic recovery seems yet another issue which we could do without.
Then there is the issue of professional qualifications, something that has been barely mentioned in the news or the debates. If you are a qualified accountant, architect, doctor or other professional, what makes your qualifications as good as in any other country? With a no deal Brexit there is still an uncertainty of whether our professions will be able to continue to practise across borders.
Considering the fact that young people voted overwhelmingly against Brexit (around 73 per cent of under 24s voted to remain) it seems particularly galling that they will be shouldering many of the costs and losing many of the opportunities that previous generations have taken for granted. The government at the very least could fight to continue to cooperate in some of the programmes and perhaps try and articulate what benefits young people are gaining from their Brexit project. Trade deals with the Faroe Islands and Lichtenstein don’t seem to me to be adequate compensation for the loss of complete freedom to work, travel, live and love in 27 different countries, encompassing almost half a billion people.
Brexit is ruining their future.