Though there is almost 5,000 miles between the United States and the United Kingdom, the discussion surrounding Brexit and its implications hit close to home for many college students in the United States.
According to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers, “Nationally, the number of U.S. students studying abroad for credit during the 2016-2017 academic year grew 2.3 percent from 325,339 students to 332,727 students. This represents about 1.6 percent of all U.S. students enrolled at institutions of higher education in the United States and about 10 percent of U.S. graduates.”
Students are eager to take a semester to explore the Irish coast, traverse the hallowed halls of Oxford or bike the grounds of Cardiff. However, they may experience additional complications due to Brexit.
Since 1973, the United Kingdom has been a member of the European Economic Community and, later, the European Union. A referendum, which is “a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part” was held on June 23, 2016, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union, according to BBC. Over 50 percent of voters in the United Kingdom supported the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. After three years of negotiation, there is still no end in sight for the reign of England’s prime minister, Theresa May, and other United Kingdom leaders as they sort through the potential implications of their desire to reclaim ownership of their island.
Bethany Smith, a John Brown University graduate assistant in student ministries, studied at Queen’s University in Northern Ireland for two years. “A lot of young people didn’t vote because they saw it as a protest vote. They thought it was never going to pass. A lot of young people just didn’t show up. They also had severe plumbing issues in London that day which prevented a lot of London voters from making it to the polls. That made it controversial when it didn’t pass.”
England and Wales both voted for Brexit while Northern Ireland and Scotland voted against, making the decision even more controversial.
At present, U.S. citizens only need a valid passport to visit the UK for up to six months or the EU for up to 90 days. However, depending on the eventual results of Brexit, students could see an increase in the cost of visas and less time extended to students from the United States to remain in UK countries past their academic term.
“The cost of visas in general has significantly jumped. One of my friends is an Amirian citizen, she’s married to a Northern Irish man, and her marriage visa before Brexit was $600 for a three-year visa. Last summer, in the process of preparing for Brexit, they doubled the cost of every visa. So now it’s $1,200 for a three-year visa,” Smith said. “For any student who wants to study at Queens or Oxford, they would then have to pay double the amount. My student visa was around $300. It would now be $600 for a student visa, and you’re not promised to be able to work on a student visa.”
There are several possibilities for the future of Brexit, including a general election, another referendum, no Brexit or a full negotiation with the EU.
The UK had been due to leave on March 29. However, “the withdrawal agreement reached between the EU and UK has been rejected three times by UK” leaders, so “EU leaders agreed to extend the Article 50 process further and the current Brexit date is 12 April 2019,” according to BBC News. Citizens of the UK and students around the globe continue to wait for the future of UK relations to be decided in full.