Period of uncertainty

It appears that the beginning of summer brings not only the traditional period of resting, but also a rather unconventional period of uncertainty. Great Britain, a country in which I have been living and studying for two years now, has voted to leave the European Union in the June 23rd referendum. It is about to become the first sovereign nation to do so ever since the integration process began.

That is why it is safe to say that the island nation has initiated a journey to the unknown. Neither politicians in Westminster, nor their colleagues across the continent can fathom exactly what to expect in the coming weeks, months and years. The only certainty is that once the procedure enshrined in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is initiated, the United Kingdom will be at least two years away from a formal withdrawal from the European community. A new form of mutual relations will be negotiated in those two years. And there are many options. Britain could potentially retain free movement of goods, services, people, and capital with the EU, or it could even get almost completely isolated from the European market. The end result of the negotiations will highly depend on who will stand at the helm of the governing Conservative party, and who will lead the British negotiation team.

It would be futile to outline the leave and stay arguments at this point. The campaign is done and dusted, the decision has been made. Nonetheless, it is significant to note that it was the traditionally cosmopolitan, business and university-focused cities that voted overwhelmingly to remain part of the European Union. Cities like Oxford, Cambridge or London did not doubt the importance of their membership in the European family. A large number of university-educated people lives there. There is a lot of businesspeople dependent on contacts with their colleagues on the continent. The universities obtain huge subsidies, take part in European-wide research projects, share knowledge with colleagues from other EU member states. And now, those people have found themselves in a situation from which not even the initiators of the fateful referendum see a way out. Will it still be possible to access the common market? Will British students still be able to participate in the Erasmus program? Will European students in the EU still be entitled to the same tuition fees as domestic students, which is currently the case thanks to EU regulations? Will European students still be entitled to government tuition loans? The answer to all these questions is: nobody knows. British voters have, for whatever reasons, decided to enter a period of uncertainty. My innate optimism is telling me that everything will work out in the end, but it is just a speculation at this point. The results of the whole exit process will be known no sooner than in two years.

On the one hand, it has to be said that there would hardly be a better time to choose to study Politics. The Russian annexation of Crimea, the Russo-Ukrainian war in the Donbas, the migration crisis, and now Brexit. On the other hand, the recent events will most likely have a significant impact on my future academic and career paths. I cannot be sure that it will be wise to undertake my potential Masters or Doctoral studies in the United Kingdom. I have to start considering other destinations. I have to be ready to move and pursue opportunities elsewhere, should it be necessary.

Borders are not constant at all; they change. The United Kingdom might get disunited as a result of the referendum. I can continue my studies in Europe, or try my luck in a different place. Luckily enough, our generation is prepared for frequent travelling, both in terms of academic and language skills. My only hope is that I will still be returning from my travels to a united Europe. Only then will I feel safe here.


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