NUS-USI (the National Union of Students in Northern Ireland) and USI (the Union of Students in Ireland) have joined forces to back the #Bremain campaign, as the Brexit referendum approaches on the 23rd June, emphasising that a vote to leave Europe will have a negative effect on students, new graduates and young people.
NUS-USI and USI said if Britain votes to leave the EU, it could take years to broker new trade agreements between the UK and the EU, and will cause years of uncertainty for British and Irish trade, which will have a knock-on effect for employment and enterprise prospects for young people. NUS-USI and USI said that new border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland could potentially damage years of progress in peace, economic and social relations between Ireland and the UK.
“The European Union has consistently helped to shape a more stable, cohesive and prosperous society in Northern Ireland.” Fergal McFerran, NUS-USI President, said. “When students and young people go to the polls on Thursday I urge them to do so reflecting on the vast array of opportunities that our membership of the EU secures – not just for our generation, but for generations to come too.”
USI President, Kevin Donoghue, urged anyone with a vote in Britain to vote to stay in Europe. He said a vote to leave the UK will have a ripple effect of negativity on the futures of young people in Ireland, and emphasised that there is a growth in the amount of international studies for postgraduates as well as the number of students participating in the Erasmus programme, which could be stunted by new visa rules if Britain leave the EU.
“The Erasmus programme is one of the EU’s most successful social policies to date. Its benefits include specific academic refinement, intercultural experiences, independence skills, foreign language development, problem-solving skills, socio-communicative competencies and transferrable employment skills.” Donoghue said. “The huge advantages to the internationalisation of higher education institutions will be heavily eroded both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if Britain votes to leave the EU and more visa and border controls come into play.”
The Erasmus is the world’s most successful student exchange programme, established in 1987 and now operating in 34 countries. The Erasmus programme is growing in popularity – according to the European commission, there were 1,817 Irish students who completed the Erasmus in 2007/2008 and that number grew to 2,972 in 2013/2014. The HEA have a target of 50,000 Irish students to study in Europe by 2020.
According to Europa.eu, 64% of employers consider an international experience important for recruitment. On average 92% are looking for transversal skills such as openness to and curiosity about new challenges, problem-solving and decision-making skills, confidence, tolerance towards other personal values and behaviours.
Donoghue also stressed that funding for higher education grants for research from the EU would be cut if Britain decides to leave the EU which will also affect Irish students who apply to these research programmes.