Tag Archives: Politics

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

Votes at 16

By Tony Allen

At the Union Council meeting on the 23/11/16, a motion was carried which gained a great deal less attention than that about poppy sales on campus. It was Motion 2008: The fight for Votes at 16. Proposed by Cameron Mellowes of UEA Labour and seconded by the SU’s Campaigns and Democracy officer Amy Rust, an overwhelming majority of 75% of councillors in attendance voted to enshrine into Union policy our support for lowering the minimum voting age in UK elections from 18 to 16.

I was delighted, in my first Union Council meeting, to be able to contribute to such a significant step in the right direction. However, of course this is only the start of the hard work. The SU has been going through a tough few weeks publicity-wise, but this is truly something to smile about. Here is why I feel so strongly about the campaign and look forward to participating in any way I can:

My personal experience of electoral injustice at the age of seventeen informs my view heavily. On Friday 8th May 2015, they day after the General Election, I clearly remember sitting in my A Level politics classroom before my teacher arrived for the morning’s lesson. My class watched BBC News on our projector screen, rapt, as Ed Balls lost his seat. But by then we already knew that the Conservatives were waltzing away with a Parliamentary majority- some were delighted, others distraught.

Whatever the result of the election, it would have rung hollow for me. I was bitterly disappointed with it, but more deeply with my helpless inability to have been able to register my opinion. What could have been a brilliantly encouraging introduction to the world of politics outside the textbook for our class turned out to be little more than a damp squib.

When we next get the chance to vote in a General Election, most of us will be in full time employment (or not, as the case may unfortunately be). Mr Smith’s politics lessons, and the passion they engendered, will be a distant memory.

I hate the thought that some people who might have started the habit of a lifetime by voting when inspired by our fierce common-room debates might not bother five years on.

The global political landscape is in a period of unprecedented upheaval and most British born UEA students will have had the chance to participate by voting in the EU referendum. But we can’t forget about votes at 16 just because it wouldn’t make a difference to us any more.

That is why I was so glad that the Union Council motion passed with such a resoundingly positive vote. Even when you look at the 24% who didn’t back the motion (rounded to the nearest %), only 10% voted outright against, with 14% abstaining.

The recent NUS demonstration, attended by UEA students, has thrown the spotlight on cuts and fee rises made by the government. It’s a tragedy that many of the new intake of freshers didn’t get the chance to have their say in the election of this government who are imposing austerity on them and could continue to do so unabated for the rest of our undergraduate careers.

And you wonder why young people have a reputation for political passivity and disenfranchisement.

Scottish 16-and-17-year-olds were granted the vote in their independence referendum, by all accounts with great success. So, I’m sure they were as perplexed in 2016 as we were envious of them in 2014 that every under-18 was denied a vote on the EU. The final referendum result would probably not have changed had the franchise been extended to 16-and-17-year-olds. However, it would have gained more legitimacy in my eyes.

The flippant arguments made after the EU referendum for an upper age limit for voting are of course completely absurd. But isn’t normalised age discrimination a key excuse for failing to listen to the well-reasoned arguments of young people to extend the franchise? These things have got to work both ways.

Thankfully for the sake of sensible debate, not all arguments against extending the vote are so condescending as Julia Hartley-Brewer’s infamous diatribe in the Daily Telegraph. Dr Andrew Mycock has argued reasonably that education must be improved first.

But that would be so easy to do. Even a sixteen-year-old could probably make a good fist of suggesting how.

General Studies at A Level needed not to be scrapped, as it has been in the latest cull of so-called ‘soft’ subjects (not so, but that’s another article), but instead to be reformed to make it exciting, accessible, and more weighted towards real-life politics. Form time activities in schools need to be changed to concentrate on providing an objective, rounded political education. It’s not about ramming politics down students’ throats- we have compulsory education for a reason.

I don’t buy for one second the arguments that it would be too difficult/expensive/time consuming (delete as appropriate) to revolutionise political education in schools. Improving and standardising what’s already in place with regards to citizenship education will go a long way towards ensuring young people are equipped to use their votes.

If only our elected representatives had to appeal to voters in the traditional Sixth Form age range, then they might put more time and effort into exploring such beneficial, student-focused education reforms…

In essence, my support for votes at 16 can be boiled down to the fact that life nowadays for young people is just not the same as it was in 1969, when the most recent Representation of the People Act lowered the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.

Education is perhaps the single biggest example which cements my optimism in the ability of 16 and 17-year-olds to vote wisely and respect our democratic institution.

Arguably the biggest responsibility on teenage shoulders now is that of attaining those all-important A*-C grades in Maths and English GCSEs- necessary not only for many careers, but also for regular entry into UEA.

Aside from those GCSEs being hugely important to the individual student, the careers of teachers and school staff are on the line and effectively decided by a group of 16-year-olds and their independent decisions on whether to engage and revise. Why are our MPs’ careers any more sacrosanct than those of their fellow public servants in the classroom?

At fifteen or sixteen we choose A Levels, or other post-16 routes, that will effectively rule us in or out of particular careers. We decide where our next steps should be, and have a chance to move away from the safe confines of secondary school and pave the way for our futures. So why would we be any less able, interested or willing to decide on the future of our country too?

Image from NUS votes at 16 campaign

Where Do You Start With Jeremy Corbyn

By Tony Allen 

Unsuitable to be a leader, or just the tonic that British politics needs right now? Future Prime Minister, or the man who could drag Labour into oblivion? The reality is, no-one will know until the next election. but here’s why I believe he is the man to lead both Labour and Britain to a better future

First and (perhaps) foremost, people can identify with Corbyn. Of course he’s not perfect. But he’s served his time in the Labour Party and has a wealth of experience to draw upon. He knows what it’s like to be a party member and little-known backbencher both in government and opposition, knowledge that could be crucial in the period up to the next election, and could well also make him a better Prime Minister. His whipping power would consequently be extremely useful in forming a stable government and party from the grass roots up.

I suppose the main reason I wanted to write in support of Corbyn is this: I am an ordinary, lay person in terms of politics. Beyond studying the subject at A Level and making use of Charles Clarke’s public lectures at UEA, like much of the active electorate I am interested but no expert. I personally feel more sympathetic towards Corbyn as a leader than anyone else in modern politics. This trend is repeated up and down the country. A sixty-seven year old man is whipping up a fervour among many people (especially the young) in Britain, so why not give him a chance?

Anyone with even a passing interest in current affairs will remember the emotion around Corbyn’s election as party leader. I myself was halfway through Sixth Form and I felt real hope after watching the results as they were announced live on TV. Labour members had not just elected a new leader, they had voted for a change in their party and a new movement.

Many people who hadn’t been for a long time were genuinely excited about politics and after the great participatory event that was the EU referendum, they could be again.

As for the criticisms of the £3 registered supporters who got Corbyn elected? Well, I see their voices as being just as valid as any regular member of the Labour Party. After all, if Labour are to be the party of the working people, they need to allow as many people as possible a say in policymaking. I can’t help but think that some critics of the Labour leadership electoral system have lost sight of what it means to be socialist at a time when Labour needs to reinvent itself, regroup and assert its position in the British political spectrum. And no-one has a mandate to lead the party like Corbyn does.

Our MP Clive Lewis is a major supporter of Corbyn, and it is unsung heroes in the party like him who hold the key to Labour’s future success, not the loud figures like Chuka Umunna seemingly interested primarily in their own interests. Corbyn loyalists withstood the tense moments when resignations were ten-a-penny from his shadow cabinet. Having remained resolute throughout that, those who remain are now perfectly equipped for taking the fight to a more obvious adversary.

Admittedly, polling isn’t always great in terms of Corbyn’s personal popularity. However, if you’d have listened to the pollsters, the Conservatives would have been nowhere near a majority in 2015 and the UK would have voted by an overwhelming majority to remain in the EU.

Image: “Jeremy Corbyn” by Garry King is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.