The word Brexit has been circulating all over the media during the past few months and has become synonymous with uncertainty as the United Kingdom decides on its future relationship with the European Union.
Since his re-election in 2015, David Cameron’s political agenda has focused on negotiating the UK’s membership status within the EU bloc, in an effort to preserve the country’s status as a strong and powerful nation in a constantly changing global environment. His initial actions were to threaten Brussels with a Brexit Referendum but they have gradually turned into a much safer approach of negotiating and redrafting the current legislature of the European Union; his ultimate goal being to provide the UK with special membership rights without exiting the union. Regardless of the approach that Mr. Cameron decides to take, it is certain that some parties will be left unsatisfied and even resentful to Downing Street’s ambitions.
Despite the Prime Minister’s words of optimism that he is winning ground in Europe, amending current EU laws to give the UK greater freedom within Europe remains a controversial issue amongst member nations, leaving the possibility of a Brexit almost inevitable. Current opinion polls show that support for Brexit is leading by several percentage points; however this figure is increasing everyday as voters feel that Mr. Cameron’s efforts in negotiating changes remain unsatisfactory and fail to create the political and financial utopia that he had promised.
A potential Brexit will leave the UK in a very vulnerable position, one aspect of which is whether Britain will remain as one. Should the UK vote to leave the EU and Scotland decides to stay; there will be a constitutional crisis that could potentially lead to a second Scottish Independence referendum.
However what would Scotland’s future look like without the UK? Looking at global financial markets, and considering the importance that the oil industry plays for Scotland’s GDP, independence may seem like a rather gloomy perspective. The fact that oil prices remain in freefall, causing much economic turbulence as it is, remains a major concern for economic growth in the country and its job market. Major companies like BP and Petrofac have already announced hundreds of jobs losses. Figures published by the Scottish Government show that economic activity is weaker in Scotland than it is across the UK as a whole. Considering the uncertainty of the oil market and the current pound fluctuations, this trend may well continue into the near future.
Brexit also raises fundamental questions regarding Scotland’s attractiveness in the market of tertiary education provision, and for [EU] students the continuation of free tuition. The University of Glasgow for example, has reported that forty-nine percent of its undergraduate student body is comprised of students coming from outside the United Kingdom, myself included. What makes Scotland attractive for me and the many other students coming from the European Union is its free tuition fees provided by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS); however question remains whether the provision of such funding will continue if the United Kingdom were to leave the European Union? A potential Brexit and subsequent Scottish independence from the UK could result in changes in such funding schemes and this may prove disastrous for the economic value that international students generate by coming to study at prestigious Scottish universities – like the University of Glasgow.
While the idea of having complete autonomy sounds enticing, the final vote rests with the people of the United Kingdom and whether they believe that the advantages of staying in the EU outweigh the disadvantages.
By Vladyslav Medvensky