June 24, 2016

Reaction to the EU Referendum result

So, the voters have spoken; the next few years will see the result of that vote translated into policy reality. Across the University of Warwick, although some will be celebrating, there is, I know, much concern. Let me try to put some of that concern into context.

There are three issues that could impact directly on people.

The first concerns our students who are citizens from other EU countries. Many are concerned about their fee and immigration status. We currently have some 1260 such students registered on undergraduate degrees, as well as around 700 students who participate each year in Erasmus exchanges between Warwick and other EU institutions. Regarding fees, we have said confidently that those already registered will not be affected by any fee changes the government might subsequently impose; and that will hold also for those seeking to join us this Autumn. There will be a two year window at least for the negotiations. Therefore, logically, any fee change would not occur until 2020. That is not to accept the principle of a change to the fee regime; it is a worst case analysis.

The second is the impact on our staff. We have nearly 500 colleagues who work here from other EU countries. And I know many are concerned with the implications for their right to stay in this country. I can understand why, given some of the unpleasant things said during the Referendum campaign. It is not in the interest of any government to lose highly skilled workers, and so the main challenge is likely to be visa costs. This is something that will need careful monitoring. However, our European staff are an important, valued, part of our community, and I intend to make the case wherever I can that such staff are incredibly valuable to UK HE, and should not be disadvantaged in the new world.

Third, many at Warwick will be concerned about the impact on the university's research income, currently over £13m a year from EU sources. That funding comes from government, industry and charitable sources, and translates into posts and studentships, as well as equipment and activity. All currently signed contracts will be honoured. I will be arguing that even without membership of the EU, the UK should be a part of the European research family, as Norway and Switzerland currently are. In this work, we will be much helped by being inside a Europe wide body of research intensive universities - the Guild that we recently announced - which has, as its chair, the President of a Norwegian university. Working with other like-minded institutions around the world to progress our research and teaching aims will continue to be a priority for Warwick.

There is much, complex, work for us to do in the new environment, but much is already being prepared here at Warwick to enable us to understand how the University and our community might be impacted.

There will be, if the referendum campaign has been anything to go by, plenty of apocalyptic language greeting this result in the media. We will be told that the economy will collapse, that it's the end of civilisation as we know it.

I have made no secret that, in my view, the University's future would have been more certain with a Remain vote. But it is still secure with a Leave vote. We still are a very attractive place for students to study, whether they be British or from around the rest of the world, and part of that attraction is precisely because of the cosmopolitan nature of our student and staff body. We must maintain this. And seeing our growing research income over the past few years, we should remain confident in the quality of our research in the global competition for the funding our research needs and deserves.

So, although we will leave the EU, Warwick will remain a strong, confident, global institution.

There is one last point. Clearly the business of government will be dominated by the many processes required by exit. Once there is clarity on who is charged with translating this for higher education, I will be writing to them to call for a delay in the Higher Education Bill while this work is carried through. To add the demands of that Bill to those of EU exit, at the same time, will be an intolerable burden for universities that, frankly, threatens to rock our very capacity to do everything we do to promote and extend the UK’s reputation globally. This, at a time when that reputation matters more than ever. I hope that much will be self-evident to the minister.


- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. David Turner


    Here is a letter I have just written to Jeremy Wright MP. I for one believe in parliamentary democracy, not rule by the mob.

    Dear Jeremy

    I have just read your response to several constituents who argued that the triggering of Article 50 was unsafe. You effectively say that though you voted to remain, the result of the referendum is now to be treated as a mandate. I find it astonishing that, as the highest legal authority in the UK, you should take this position. There is a wealth of discussion among constitutional lawyers about what should happen now, and for you to adopt such a firm position flies in the face of the complexity of the matter. We are now in the first stages of what could be a full blown constitutional crisis. However, there is a further consideration, which I outline below. Please read this and respond. I know you are very busy, but please take this on board.

    Far from providing a definitive resolution to a longstanding problem, or establishing the settled will of the British people, the referendum vote of 23rd June, 52% to leave, and 48% to remain in the European Union, has divided the nation, increased economic uncertainty and social tension, and plunged the United Kingdom into a constitutional crisis. This is not surprising, as this referendum went against the tradition of using such devices to ratify or reject specific legislative proposals. Instead it acted as a glorified opinion poll that specified no particular course of action. Remarkably, it seems that our elected representatives, even those who voted to remain, are now resigned to treating the referendum result as the decision and as the instruction it could never be. Clearly they have a duty to their constituents and perhaps fear losing their seats at a future general election. It is incumbent on them, nevertheless, to reassert parliamentary sovereignty and, before it is too late, to prevent the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

    If they do not, and Article 50 is triggered by crown prerogative, the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, of which there are at least seven distinct models of varying degrees of pallatability, will be decided by a few members of the executive along with a team of unelected bureaucrats brought out of retirement or hired from abroad. After two years of negotiations, if there is no deal the UK automatically falls out of the EU in a ‘dirty brexit’; if there is, the results of their efforts will be put to the European parliament for ratification. So far there is no guarantee at all that it would also come before the houses of parliament for scrutiny, but even if it does, the sovereign legislative body of the United Kingdom, the defence of whose integrity was ostensibly the leave campaign’s noblest goal, would be presented with a fait accompli.

    Central to any negotiations will be the rights of UK citizens. Currently these include the right to travel through, work, live and reside in 27 other European states by virtue of our membership of the European Union. Any MP who accepts that a substantial and, for young people, a life-changing diminution of the basic rights of UK citizens, can be brought about without parliamentary discussion and scrutiny, is in dereliction of the duties he or she acquired when taking the oath of loyalty to the crown.

    Yours sincerely

    Charles Turner
    Associate Professor of Sociology
    University of Warwick
    Coventry CV4 7AL

    0044 2476 523114
    0044 778 9529337

    07 Jul 2016, 12:12

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