EU leave if you want to...

Andrew George Regional Director UK & Ireland, Director of London Center


July 1, 2016

As you may be aware the political scene in the UK has been in turmoil since the referendum of June 23 delivered the surprise outcome that the UK will leave the European Union. Almost no one expected this result – not even those who had campaigned and voted for it. Some of those say they didn't mean it. Some say they now regret it. Some are delighted. The margin was small – 52% for leaving, but in a referendum that’s all you need – a simple majority. The vote wasn’t even across the country: While most of England & Wales voted to leave, London, along with Scotland and Northern Ireland voted strongly to remain. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, issued a statement, saying to the European citizens in London 'you are welcome here. We value the enormous contribution you make to our city and that will not change as a result of this referendum' and went on to suggest London might want to become increasingly independent of the rest of the UK! 

A misreading of the pre-vote mood based on the pro-remain majority in the capital was probably one of the main reasons that the London centric media and financial industry were so wrong-footed by the outcome.

Since the vote the political ramifications have been many and, in some cases, shocking. The Prime Minister, David Cameron announced that he would be standing down triggering a Conservative Party leadership election. Boris Johnson, ex-Mayor of London and a leading Brexit campaigner announced that he wouldn’t be running for the leadership as everyone expected - his campaign having been sabotaged by his close Brexit ally of a week ago, Michael Gove, who will now be running having spent the previous weeks telling everyone that he wasn’t leadership material! There has also been a rebellion against the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, whose position is also now in doubt. This is real West Wing stuff - a political soap opera which both fascinates and appals!

There has been an upswing in reported incidents of racism in the days following the vote but they remain rare and all right thinking people will be working hard to make sure that the small and unpleasant minority behind such incidents are not allowed to use the pro-leave vote as providing legitimacy for expressing their unacceptable opinions. Generally, the shock of the result notwithstanding, people go about their daily lives much as before. London is still the same. Famously multi-cultural, cosmopolitan and international. 13 million people living in 600 square miles, an incredibly diverse, dynamic centre of culture, finance, politics and transport. The Queen continues to reign as she has done during 12 US presidencies. The Changing of the Guards continues, people socialise, the West End continues to show shows, Wimbledon is in full flight, the England football team still lose, people still don't talk to each other on the underground. Now we're just waiting to see what the next twists and turns in the political and economic saga might be.

So what does this all mean in the short term for students with us now or joining us in the forthcoming semester?

The most obvious immediate repercussion is that the drop in the value of the pound means that your spending money will go significantly farther – obviously no bad thing! Will there be any impact on your getting here or your ability to travel around Europe once you are here? As things stand, no. We’ve voted to leave but leaving is going to take a long time – absolute minimum of two years – think a really, really, messy divorce! Who knows what will happen between now and then – there will certainly be a general election here and at least one political party will run on a ticket of having another referendum! Others are challenging the legality of the referendum as a trigger for constitutional change. Scotland are likely to seek a new referendum for independence.

Has there ever been a more fascinating time to Study Abroad here I ask myself?