The Brexit Plan: What it Means for Students

By Lewis Martin

Today Theresa May announced her plan for how Brexit, the catchy name for the UK leaving the European Union, will look after the two years of negotiation is finished and Article 50 has finally been triggered.

Whilst the plan does not reveal a lot of information concerning the workings of Brexit, as it is subject to the deal that is agreed, if any, for trading and working with the EU, it has given a lot of hints of what we can expect to happen for both UK and EU students at the end of it.

For UK students, not a lot will change initially as they will not be overly affected by the changes that have been proposed. The area that will face the biggest change for UK students is that of those taking part in Erasmus schemes. When we leave the single market, freedom of movement will come to an end as and when the deal is finalised between the UK and the EU, leading to visas being reintroduced for the first time in our lifetime. This in turn will place restrictions upon the ability for UK students to live and study abroad if they wished to, as they will require various permits which, more than likely, will come at a cost. This, on top of the living and travel expenses to go to EU countries, will force many students to reconsider, if not cancel, their dreams to study abroad and visit countries they have never previously had the opportunity to visit. Besides this, UK students may come off unscathed.

Now when we look at our EU student counterparts we see the major issues of the proposed deal come to light. Despite pleas from various groups, Theresa May has refused to guarantee the rights of EU migrants that have already settled in the UK, including EU students. This means that, unless an agreement can be made, there will be no certainty that they will be able to continue living in the country once their studies have finished, that funding will still be available and what will happen once their studies have finished. For international students from outside the EU there is already restrictions in place for their visas, once they graduate they need to earn a minimum of £20,800 in order to be able to stay in the UK on a tier 2 working visa. The only other option they have is to hope that they qualify for permanent residence. This is the one way to definitely be able to stay in the UK but it comes with an £85 fee plus a 80 page form to fill out that has been described as purposefully confusing. The form itself requires a lot of evidence about time spent in the UK.

If EU students’ rights can’t be guaranteed then this will likely be the policy set out by the government, thus forcing many of them to leave the country that they have called home after their studies and potentially even before that.

With all this in mind, we can start to see the shaping of a deal that could see the end of some options available to those in higher education, be it UK students or EU students. Although we cannot be certain of how the next two years will shape out, we can be almost sure that, for our EU students counterparts, it will not be easy.

Image: “Home Secretary Theresa May” by U.S. Embassy London is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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