University

Brexit chaos consumes Brits at the RUG

‘We live in limbo’

After years of negotiation, the UK still didn’t leave EU, leaving British RUG students frustrated and tired about the Brexit. ‘It’s mentally draining’.
By Jacob Thorburn

34 months. 1,039 days. 24,936 hours. That’s how much time has passed since the Brexit referendum result of June 2016. Today marks one month since the United Kingdom was supposed to leave the European Union – with or without a deal.

You have probably read the headlines (or seen the memes) following the debacle that has been the Brexit negotiations. And you have probably found some of it funny: Theresa May’s floundering, Boris Johnson’s buffoonery, and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ongoing impersonation of a Victorian supervillain are the stuff of a tragic comedy.

But as the rest of the world watches with amusement as season three of Brexit draws out, things aren’t so funny for Brits here at the RUG. Those of us living abroad have suffered more than most when it comes to the insecurity and frustration caused by Brexit.

Mentally draining

Milly Quinton (23) is a first-year psychology student. She hopes to become a clinical psychologist in the Netherlands but realises that any future plans could be scuppered because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. ‘Nobody seems to know anything’.

The uncertainty affected her a lot after the referendum result was announced and new doubts and worries constantly filled her mind.

Brexit was a massive shock to the system

Now, Milly says these initial fears have been replaced by ‘an attitude of indifference and apathy. I became bored and annoyed by all the Brexit talk everywhere. It’s mentally draining’.

Anna Yeadell-Moore teaches a writing course for RUG students as a freelance lecturer. She’s lived in the Netherlands for the last twenty years, but Brexit threatens her family’s future plans. ‘Brexit was a massive shock to the system. We are living in limbo, which is stressful.’

Taken as a whole, the EU is the UK’s biggest trading partner. The UK has a deficit in trade with 27 EU member countries, meaning these countries export more to the UK than vice versa.

Three months after the Brexit vote in 2016, the value of sterling hit a thirty-one-year low. The latest depreciation of the pound is ‘challenging to be the worst in British history.’

CNN states that the decision to leave the EU has cost the UK approximately £800 million (924 million euros) each week since the 2016 referendum.

Harry Willows (20), studies European Languages and Culture. He has a Maltese passport, meaning he can claim EU nationality, but he still worries about the future. ‘It’s frustrating, not knowing what the worth of my UK passport will be. The value of the pound has been pounded and we face a lot of judgement from other Europeans even though most British students studying abroad voted to stay’.

Economic impact

The value of sterling has fluctuated like a yo-yo since the 2016 result. If your financial support comes from a British bank, this instability can affect your studies.

I am very worried. This could have a huge impact on my income

Brexit has also impacted European study funding, such as Erasmus+, which student James Skinko (26) found out the hard way. During the first year of his masters, he was receiving an Erasmus+ loan. But that was discontinued in June 2018 because Brexit was coming. Thanks to the depreciation of the pound and the removal of his Erasmus+ loan, Skinko was forced to pick up a part-time job to cover his expenses.

‘It’s hard to focus on your studies and work part-time while also dealing with the constant lack of security Brexit has provided’, James says.

Like many of the RUG’s 462 British students, James is unsure if he will have to pay the Non-EU tuition fee should the UK leave the EU while he is still studying.

As a freelancer, Anna works with clients in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and the UK. Whether she will be able to travel and work freely after Brexit continues to be a major concern.

‘I am very worried. This could have a huge impact on my income and it’s very stressful.’

Left behind

Others feel alienated by politicians who reiterate a referendum result that some British expats weren’t eligible to take part in.

Milly has been frustrated by politicians’ response to Brexit. She thinks they are trying to pull Britain out of the EU. ‘The British government hasn’t been particularly supportive. They are trying to make things as difficult as possible’.

Harry was just two months below the voting age of 18 in the 2016 referendum. Although he couldn’t vote, he says visitors to his childhood home were ‘always subjected to my Dad convincing them to vote “remain”’. He feels like the rest of Britain ‘dragged us towards an uncertain fate’.

I feel disenfranchised. It makes me angry

James did vote in 2016 and is part of a family that all voted to remain in the EU. He does not want to return to the UK after Brexit. He admits his plan to leave family, friends and childhood memories behind is ‘devastating’.

‘I definitely feel disenfranchised, considering this referendum was not legally binding. It makes me angry. I feel pretty ashamed to be British’.

Anna also feels abandoned by the British government. She was not eligible to vote in 2016 because she had lived abroad for 15 years. ‘I am directly affected by the result but had no voice.’

She says there have been false promises and a lack of interest in the wellbeing of British citizens living in Europe. ‘I don’t recognise my country at the moment.’

Nederlands

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