THE BLOG

A Linguist's View on the EU Referendum

10/06/2016 16:53

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Mural in Stokes Croft, Bristol

On the eve of my graduation from university as a French and German student, the British public is about to decide my future, and it feels terrifying.

It is hardly surprising that as someone who has devoted the last four years of their life studying the language and culture of two major European countries, I am a Europhile, and will be voting to stay in the EU.

One of the ideals of studying a languages degree is that you will unlock new, exciting opportunities to live and work abroad, and yet just as it appears that I have unlocked this door, the referendum on 24th June could slam it shut in my face.

On my year abroad I witnessed the fruits of the EU first-hand. I spent 6 months studying at a French university as part of Erasmus, the EU funded student exchange.

I then moved to Berlin and worked for a further six months without any hassle, as friends and colleagues from outside the EU were swallowed up by the endless bureaucracy relating to residency permits and visas.

Throughout this wonderful year of new experiences and opportunities, I received a grant from the EU which enabled me to survive rather than having to worry about getting a part time job as well. Without the EU I simply wouldn't have managed all this.

In Berlin in particular you could notice a prominent community of young Brits, who had moved there because they couldn't contemplate the prospect of being able to afford living in London.

This is only one side of the coin though, as university cities like Bristol where I study are thriving because of all the French, German and Spanish students living there.

Just as I embark into the terrifying world of adulthood and employment, the feeling of insecurity would increase tenfold if Britain left the EU.

Obviously Brexit wouldn't make living or working in Europe impossible, but it would certainly make it more difficult and complicated. It would also surely harm relations with our European neighbours.

A moral case for remain

When all kinds of speculative figures are being thrown around by both sides of the economic debate, I feel the ideological, moral case to stay in Europe has to be made.

What irritates me about the Leave campaign is the arrogance behind the logic that we can leave the EU, and then immediately negotiate and get what we want just be we are Great Britain. What makes us so special? We already have certain privileges in the EU, so surely the patience of Brussels, and major leaders like Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande must have limits.

I find it baffling that so much of the British public does not understand the founding values of the European project: cooperation, solidarity and unity. Other countries realise that Europe is about the balance between give and take, but Brexiters seem to be obsessed with the latter.

In the face of problems like the refugee crisis, Europe must return to these founding values. If countries adopt the egotistical mentality of the Leave camp, then the major humanitarian crisis of our time will never be solved.

The EU is far from perfect, but surely it's better to keep Britain's place on the European stage and change things, rather than simply jump ship as soon as things get tough.

As the referendum debate paints a picture of a divided Britain, young people are the most likely to vote to remain, but are also among the least likely groups to turn out to vote.

I desperately hope that younger people register and vote to secure their futures, as well as mine.

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