It’s now time for my final year at university. I remember when I got the offer to study LLB Law & Politics at Queen Mary University of London. My mom was sure something was wrong, considering the speed I ran up the stairs to tell her. It’s safe to say I never doubted my decision to move to London before now.
Uncertainty and pressure
Brexit means uncertainty as to whether I can continue living in the UK as stress-free as it is now. It also casts doubt on whether I can still work as a lawyer in Norway in the future without giving up on my dream to get my qualifications from London.
The current rules strongly encourage Norwegians to study abroad, and the UK is a very popular country to do so. Maybe it’s because Brits like fish as much as us, although fish & chips cannot be said to be a proper fish dinner. Or maybe it’s because Brits, like Norwegians, are not so pleased with physical closeness. However, I must say that I really appreciate your kindness and politeness, especially when it comes to queues.
Anyway, while the UK is a popular choice, how it will be in the future is more uncertain. At the start of this summer, the Norwegian Department of Education issued a warning about the risks of choosing the UK as your Erasmus exchange destination.
The Department of Education has confirmed that current students in the UK will be able to continue their studies and stay in the country. However, the situation is not confirmed for those who begin their studies after Brexit.
Brexit: A vote against young people’s freedom
The uncertainty and pressure Norwegian students feel is something British youth can relate to. Today, as EU citizens you are protected by EU laws, directives and regulations. This is a great benefit when you choose to study in another European country.
I’ll put my lawyer glasses on. For example, in the case of “Gravier v City of Liege”, the French student who went to study in Belgium was given additional tuition fees to pay. The court agreed that this was discrimination based on nationality and could not be enforced. If the UK leaves the EU on 31 October, there will be no protection against additional fees. Neither will it be granted that you can participate in the Erasmus program, as it’s an EU-funded and driven program.
In my opinion, the Brexit vote was a vote to deprive young people’s freedom to choose for themselves. A vote against their hopes to study in another country, and at last but not least, against their chances of becoming more independent individuals. The independence you gain from moving abroad cannot be compared to the independence you get by just moving domestically.
British qualifications no more recognised
Furthermore, students and workers from elsewhere in Europe might not want to come anymore. Worse, they might be unable to come because of the UK’s new “third country” status. By the way, being a “third country” basically means that you’re influenced by EU rules, but you won’t have a say in them.
Additionally, recognition of qualifications will be an issue. Currently, Norwegians who studied in the UK can work as lawyers in Norway in both Norwegian law, international law and UK law, however subject to passing an exam called the “Egnethetsprøven”. However, if the UK leaves the EU and converts to a ‘third country’, it Norwegians qualified in the UK won’t be able to convert their license to practice Norwegian law.
For many this will mean that they don’t want to come to study law in one of the greatest education systems at all. British young people may suffer from the same issue if they go abroad gain qualifications in health, law and other protected fields in Europe: They might not get their qualification accepted when returning to the UK.
Don’t repeat the mistakes Norway made
Going back to the issue of becoming a third country with ties to the EU: Norway has on two occasions voted to not become a member of the EU, but rather stay in the European Economic Area (EEA). The reason behind this is mainly to continue to stay within the internal market, with the exception of not participating in the Common Agricultural Policy or the Common Fisheries Policy.
Agriculture and fish are large markets for both Iceland and Norway, and being part of the EU it would mean that fishing quotas would have to be shared with the other member states. However, outside the EU we cannot take part in EU decision-making and we have no vote (although we can give our opinion and try to influence others). EEA membership has entailed legislation in social policy, consumer protection, environment, company law and statistics. Norway had no formal part in the legislation process.
My question is, why would you want to leave the EU when you will inevitably continue to have close ties with it, but without having a say?
My question then is, why would you want to leave the EU when you will inevitably continue to have close ties with it, but without having a say? With the way Brexit is going, deprive your citizens of the amazing opportunities to study abroad in Europe, learn a new language, get to know other cultures and become independent on a whole new level? Why would you not recognise European qualifications for those wishing to work in the UK?
I truly hope the UK government takes their citizens’ best interests to account, instead of basing its decisions on an imagined idea of “pride”.