Words by: Anisa Tasmin
On the 23rd of June 2016, a UK referendum demonstrated the public’s decision to exit the European Union. Following voting day, PM Theresa May triggered Article 50 on the 29th of March 2017 and signed a letter to the EU to officially begin the two-year long negotiation process. The benefits, discussed below, that Britain has enjoyed under an alliance with the EU will become a distant memory and pleasure. However, May cannot expect to pick and choose what she favours from the EU when negotiating the exit. Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s Financial Minister, argues Britain should “pay the price” for wanting out of the EU – an understandable viewpoint as unless you fully support the EU’s values, you cannot expect to reap the available benefits either.
- Troublesome Travel for Tourists
This summer Britain has experienced a taste of the chaotic waiting times that can occur post-Brexit. The EU have toughened border controls for passengers arriving outside the Schengen zone (the 26 European states that have scrapped passport and all types of border control with other member states) which in turn affected British passengers. According to ‘The Independent’, before this change was in place European airports could quickly screen through EU passports, whereas these airports will now have to check each passenger against a central database that can take up to 2 minutes per passenger. Being part of the EU meant that Britain could enjoy freedom of movement: rather the ability, as an EU national, to travel freely around the EU simply with a passport; resulting in a reduction of waiting times also for EU nationals arriving within the UK. They are directed to a separate queue for screening which as recommend by government target times, takes usually around 25 minutes to complete. Whereas non-EU nationals endure longer waiting times for screening and can take 45 minutes to complete. Sadly, this is the fate many British citizens will suffer once the post Brexit deal is in place.
- The Pound is Plummeting
The value of the Pound plummeted soon after the Brexit result due to fears over how the UK’s economy will fare outside the EU. However, some investors are hoping the “Bank of England will raise interest rates from an all-time low of 0.25%”, thereby raising the value of the pound. On the 24th of July, the Guardian reported the value of the Pound is still 13% lower to the dollar. PM Theresa May is pushing for a hard Brexit; however, she is stuck with an impossible balance to maintain: please Brexit voters by restricting immigration whilst also maintaining a healthy economic growth in the UK that is largely dependent on European trading deals. Many sectors of the UK economy rely on trade within the EU as there are four multi-lateral free trade areas that member states can enjoy, such as free movement of trade and goods without tariffs. There are, therefore, understandable fears that the UK economy will decline heavily into recession. The City of London warned that thousands of jobs are at stake if Brexit were to remove the benefit of travelling freely within the EU – an efficient method of trade. However, Theresa May has announced the UK are to leave the single market: meaning the UK is about to lose access to a variety of markets and trading. The UK are yet to announce alternative trade agreements.
The ‘Financial Times’ reports the agriculture industry of the UK is worth eight billion Pounds, and “two-thirds of agricultural food exports go to the EU”, meaning business will worryingly fluctuate if Brexit results in farmers facing tariffs on their trade. The government are also yet to offer a replacement scheme to fund UK farmers as they are currently relying on an annual three billion Pound subsidy from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy which accounts for 55% of their income. In addition, around 90% of fruit and vegetable pickers are from central and eastern Europe which adds to a worrying future for UK farmers when the Brexit deal closes.
Other sectors add to the great value of the UK economy, including manufacturing which is worth 10% and services which accounts for four-fifths of the UK economy and two-fifths of their exports. They are also predicted to suffer post-Brexit.
- Love comes with a price
Under the Immigration Rules, an EU national is able live in the same EU state as their spouse due to the benefits of them holding an EU passport. There are tough requirements already in place that spouses will have to fulfil before being granted a visa. For example, the Government website details that the initial application itself will cost £1,464.00 and further costs including the NHS surcharge are calculated individually on the site. However, ‘New Statesman’ reports these fees are set to rise by “around 20 per cent per year at the moment” and the government “will triple the cost of the NHS surcharge” once Britain leaves the EU. Therefore making it difficult for EU nationals to settle with their spouse, despite them holding Britain citizenship.
- Goodbye to Health Insurance
A favourable benefit of being part of the EU is the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It grants all EU citizens access to public health care on the same premise as local people within any member state of the union. The government are yet to declare whether the UK will be able to participate in this scheme any longer. If not, travel insurance premiums would rise and would leave many vulnerable, such as those with chronic conditions and those who cannot afford it.
- Struggling Students
New, tougher regulations may be enacted affecting student visas, both from the EU and internationally, which has drawn many criticisms. Especially as EU students hoping to study in the UK will find it difficult as Brexit may mean a withdrawal of freedom of movement. It will also lead to difficulty in recruiting and keeping employees from the EU. In addition, the EU provides many subsidies to UK universities. According to the Financial Times, currently the EU contributes to 14% of the British University research income and a fifth of academic staff are uncertain of their visa status as EU Nationals.
This short list provides some insight to the misconception that Brexit will only effect immigrants and EU Nationals, clearly demonstrating that it will affect Britain in general. It’ll affect us whilst on holiday; our medical insurance; the British currency; and in recruiting the brightest of students and employees within our universities. It also reveals, that this is not a ‘Them and Us’ situation, we are far more interconnected than some are lead to believe. The freedom of movement has led to a richness in travelling opportunities and education for Britain, as well as steadily bridging the gap towards diversity within British society.