Generation Brexit

Food for thought


The Brexodus of workers is underway and key sectors can’t cope. Record numbers of nurses are quitting the NHS and farming is struggling. We can’t let the focus on the post-Brexit deal distract us from the present—but the present does hold important clues as to the assurances that EU workers demand. 

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The pressure on nursing is twofold. Six months after the vote to leave the European Union, only 96 nurses joined the health service from other EU countries—a drop of 1,208 from the month after the referendum. Meanwhile, 2,700 EU nurses abandoned the National Health Service in 2016— a 68 per cent increase from 2014. With the NHS going through what the British Red Cross has described as a ‘humanitarian crisis’, it simply cannot cope with the haemorrhaging of a workforce which makes up 57,000 of its staff. 

Farming—which provides the vast majority of food that Brits consume—is also under pressure. The National Farmers Union published a survey in 2016 showing the damaging effect of the vote on agricultural labour availability. Pre-vote, 100 per cent of labour providers said they could recruit the seasonal workers they need. By the end of September, only 40 per cent of providers could recruit the people required to put food on our plates. 

But might this mean more jobs for British workers? Think again. Instead, a Norwegian worker called Thorvald is being readied to plug a labour shortage on UK farms. He’s one of a new breed of robots capable of killing fungus, carrying strawberry plants long distances across fields—potentially any agricultural task. Best of all, he doesn’t even need a visa. 

We are lucky such technology exists and may be capable of filling the gap in the farming sector. The idea of robots caring for us in our sickbeds isn’t quite so appealing. It is therefore crucial to understand why EU workers have responded to Britain’s intention to leave by leaving themselves. 

The free-fall of the value of the pound has inevitably been a factor in making the UK a less attractive place to work. The value of UK wages in EU currencies is worth 15% less than pre-referendum—making the increase in the national ‘living’ wage fruitless to foreign workers. 

However, this alone doesn’t explain the Brexodus. Take home pay for a single worker in the UK is four or five times higher in the UK than in Romania and Bulgaria after taking into account cost of living. Crucially, lack of certainty over rights to remain feeds into a broader feeling held by EU citizens of no longer being welcome in the UK. Spanish nurses report feeling like ‘second-class citizens’. What with the lack of certainty over their future rights to live and work in the UK, who can blame them? 

The solution to the fall in the pound will prove complex and will depend on the type of relationships negotiated between the UK, EU27, and non-EU countries during the next two years. However, the UK could, and should, assure EU workers that they are welcome and deeply valued in Britain—with a legal guarantee of protection of their rights into the future. 

Robots may not have feelings, or families to support, or a life in the balance—but EU citizens do. We must act now or risk our key sectors suffering further. 

Share your views and suggestions and contribute to the debate on the Generation Brexit platform now! 

Liam Marc Robson and Tollak Nylænde Bowitz 


Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, has suggested pulling out of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) following Brexit. It is important for us to understand what the ECJ is, what the Court does, and why UK negotiators want out.

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The European Court of Justice is the highest court overseeing European Union law. As a part of the Court of Justice of the European Union, it interprets EU law and ensures its equal application across all Member States.

This should not, as much of the media have, be confused with the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. From its creation by the Treaty of London in 1949, the UK was one of the first ten states to sign up to these non-EU bodies. The ECHR and its respective Court is part of the international treaty protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and therefore remains independent from the EU and Brexit.

In addition to the ECJ’s role in upholding the EU single market, the Court also has power over fundamental UK law and regulations such as rejecting Scotland’s plan to raise the minimum price of alcohol, allowing employers to ban headscarves in the workplace, permitting national courts to ban prisoner voting, and upholding strict tobacco regulations.

While EU negotiators believe that the court must have authority in settling post-Brexit, the UK government (although not in an official public statement) promised to remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the Luxembourg-based court.

By all accounts an arbitrary body will be needed to ensure ‘fair play’ during the negotiations. The question is whether the ECJ will maintain jurisdiction in a post-EU Britain. The EU supports the ECJ’s continued influence on the UK, both during and after the end of the Article 50 TFEU negotiation process. From settling disputes over money to protecting the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, the remaining 27 Member States hope to maintain the ECJ’s rule of law, standards of independence, and impartiality.

In the UK, Theresa May has insisted that the ECJ will lose its control over British affairs when the UK leaves in Spring 2019. As the Brexit negotiations begin, David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, has echoed these statements. However, some EU ministers have stressed that there is no possibility of remaining in the Single Market and opting out of the ECJ.

At present, it is unclear which side will have to make the most concessions. Regardless of the outcome, it can be certain that both the UK and the EU will want to prioritise their citizens first.

Share your views and suggestions and contribute to the debate on the Generation Brexit platform now! 

Janis Wong and Alejandro Newsome

Sovereignty was a key issue throughout the campaign, and Michael Gove was adamant that it was the “overwhelming reason” for the UK voting to leave the EU. To understand if British sovereignty is at risk, there needs to be an understanding of what ‘sovereignty’ actually is.

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Sovereignty can be understood as the supreme authority of a government, by which it is able to govern itself independently, without the interference of other nations. For example, the UK chose to set up the NHS while the US decided not to offer universal healthcare.

Now that we have established what sovereignty is, let’s look at whether the UK will gain sovereignty after Brexit. The ‘Vote Leave’ side argued that membership of the EU threatened the supreme authority of Parliament. Being a member of the EU means that we are subject to the principle of supremacy of the ECJ, which means that European law trumps national law. This is a popular idea. Indeed, Theresa May has suggested introducing the Great Repeal Bill to retrieve legislative powers from the EU.

Brexit could help to strengthen UK sovereignty. However, how sovereignty will be returned to the UK is not clear. The Great Repeal Bill is likely to result in the Henry VIII clauses being invoked when deciding which EU laws to keep and which to cut. This arrangement means that ministers and public services can avoid any EU law becoming UK law, without going through parliament. Legislation will be passed without scrutiny from elected officials, undermining the influence and importance of the country's democratic institution, Parliament.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain within the EU, and this has raised the question of whether they should be allowed to remain EU members by becoming independent. This creates the potential for future referendums in these countries. Even if the UK remains a unified state, it is unclear how the EU powers will be divided up between the four regions or whether they will remain solely in Westminster. The legislative powers, which the UK hopes to take back from the EU, may return powers back to the government but not necessarily to UK citizens.

Brexit can be seen to both increase and reduce parliamentary sovereignty. In theory, an exit from the EU will allow the UK to have control over all of its laws. However, Brexit may reduce parliamentary scrutiny and threaten the unity of the UK. Before we enter the minefield that is the negotiation process, we need to consider what kind of sovereign state we want to be.

Share your views and suggestions and contribute to the debate on the Generation Brexit platform now! 

Alice Stewart, Isabel Flanagan, and Ellie Couchman

This article examines the EU freedom of movement principle, one of the most discussed topics in the debate over the Brexit negotiations. Considering what the freedom of movement currently allows EU citizens to do and how it relates to studying and travelling abroad, the authors explain how Brexit is likely to affect travel to and from the UK and EU as well as study opportunities in the UK and EU.

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So, what does the freedom of movement principle currently give EU citizens the right to do?

The freedom of movement principle allows citizens of the European Union (EU) to live, work, and, under certain circumstances, access the welfare system in any other EU country, if they wish to. 

Freedom of movement was further expanded with the 2004 Citizen’s Rights Directive, which established the right of EU citizens and residents to move and live freely within the EU. This Directive applies to EU states (including the UK and Ireland) and the 4 non-EU states mentioned before.

Brexit and studying in the UK and EU

UK and EU students currently pay the same university fees as domestic students, something that may change after Brexit.

Beyond that, both UK and EU students have a right to receive the same tuition fee and living cost loans from their respective EU countries of study if these are offered. For instance, the British government recently guaranteed the same fees and rights to loans for EU students for those starting in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic years and for the entire duration of their degree.

There are also concerns about the potential decline in incoming research talent; about 16% of researchers at British universities currently come from other EU states and may potentially leave the UK after Brexit.

Additionally, the Erasmus programme, founded in 1987, allows EU university students to study in universities across the EU for 3 to 12 months, as well as to do traineeships in different organisations across the EU. After Brexit, British students might not be able to continue taking part in Erasmus or keep their right to receive funding through the programme. Similarly, EU students might not be able to choose British universities and organisations for their Erasmus exchange. 

Brexit and travelling abroad within the EU

Currently, holding an EU national ID or passport is sufficient to pass the UK’s border controls for all EU citizens. However, after Brexit, British citizens might have to apply for a visa to enter the EU while EU citizens may have to apply for a visa to enter the UK.

Furthermore, many travel services are currently regulated at EU level, including the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which guarantees free or partially free health care coverage across the EU. The EU has also abolished roaming charges, thus allowing people to use mobile and data networks without additional costs within the EU. An increase in costs for these services after Brexit is likely. Lastly, other services, like travel insurance and compensation rights for delays or damages, may change significantly as well.

Another affected sector may be air transport, including the Open Skies agreement between the UK and US, which allows any EU or US airlines to fly between the EU and US. If the UK leaves this agreement after Brexit, many EU-based airlines may be unable to fly to and from the UK as easily or cheaply.

How do you think Britain leaving the EU will limit your travel for study, work and leisure? What freedom of movement rights do you think should be guaranteed or kept for British and EU citizens, and why?

Share your views and suggestions and contribute to the debate on the Generation Brexit platform now! 

Manuela Cristiano, Valeria Vigilante, Marta Kochetkova, and Sofia Munoz Gonzalez 

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