The European Horizons society recently hosted a “Boom or Bust? Brexit Scenarios and their Consequences” discussion for students on Monday 16 April, with speaker Dr Brad MacKay, Vice-Principal of International Strategy and External Relations for the University of St Andrews, sharing his research and insight.
An emerging society in the University, European Horizons advocates for an increasing awareness of the significance of European integration and identity.
The discourse on Brexit scenarios and their consequences comes at a time when the outcome is unclear and alarming to many European students studying in the UK.
In his current position, Dr MacKay is responsible for fostering national and international strategic relationships. He is also a lecturer for the School of Management.
Dr MacKay directed the discussion to how a wider examination of Brexit’s impact upon the UK can produce a knock-on effect that extends as far as the University of St Andrews.
More specifically, the discussion emphasised the two primary drivers that would influence the final scenario: whether it is a soft or hard Brexit and whether the UK will retain or surrender a portion of its sovereignty.
Dr Mackay informed the students that sovereignty was a critical factor to those voting for the Leave campaign, as the British public were attracted to the proposal of splitting from a globalised and integrated network in an inward-looking movement.
However, Dr MacKay remarked, “The UK is making by far the most compromises, which gives you an indication of what they must be thinking behind the scenes, in terms of particularly the economic consequences of not getting a half decent trade deal from the EU.”
He voiced his concern that, depending on which scenario transpires throughout the course of negotiations, it will have a substantial impact on the type of country the UK becomes.
Dr MacKay said, “In the end, what you might end up with is a type of country which may not be the type of country that people voted for in the first place.”
Dr MacKay’s own research into the implications and reactions that businesses and organisations may face due to Brexit showed that a wide range of industries could be affected. Additionally, he believes that universities are amongst many other institutions that fear the worst from the Brexit negotiations.
Other industries include aeronautics, financial services, and, particularly in Scotland, the whisky industry.
MacKay noted the high stakes for universities whereby research funding, the Erasmus programme, and the recruitment of staff and prospective students arise as central concerns.
Annabelle von Moltke, an EU student largely raised in the UK, expressed her concerns after the discussion. Ms von Moltke said, “I feel that Brexit creates a hostile environment for EU applicants. I’m an EU student and I’m getting out of this country.”
She continued, “Brexit is likely to mean that EU graduates will find it harder to become employed and remain in the UK, hence there is less incentive for them to apply, especially if post-Brexit means a rise in tuition fees.”
Dr MacKay addressed such points during the discussion, noting that the difficulty of not having international fees after Brexit falls with issues around discrimination. Speaking for the University, Dr MacKay said, “We have to think very carefully about scholarships and bursaries.
“One of the things that we pride ourselves on at St Andrews is that we are such an international university, so figuring out mechanisms to be able to maintain that international profile is going to be quite critical for us.”