The Britain Stronger In campaign in the East of England was launched at UEA today, marking the start of the official regional effort for Britain to remain in the European Union, ahead of the referendum on June 23rd.
Present at the event were Conservative MP for South West Norfolk and Minister for Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Liz Truss, and Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Taverne, in addition to members of the group UEA Students for Europe.
Truss was keen to emphasise the apparent benefits for young people of a vote to remain in the union, particularly those concerning employment. “I think [a Remain vote] is really important for future job prospects…the single market means that businesses want to invest in the UK, it means more job opportunities for young people and students”.
She believes that an Out vote would ultimately be detrimental for students and other young people in terms of social, educational and economic opportunities. “Young people would be hit the hardest by the economic shock and it would mean fewer jobs and opportunities. I’ve got two daughters, and I think about their future, and I want them to be living in a country that’s open to the rest of the world, where they can travel, where they can have opportunities to work elsewhere and I just feel that leaving Europe would be a massive step backwards for the UK”.
After the Vice Chancellor’s announcement in March that the university would be advocating a Remain vote, Pro Vice Chancellor, Neil Ward, took the event to be an opportunity to encourage students to engage with the referendum and consider the potential educational consequences of a Leave vote. “I couldn’t put a figure on it [the extent of the impact that a Leave vote would have on UEA] but what I can say is the different type of impact it would have. It would be harder to recruit staff and foreign student recruitment would face more obstacles and difficulties”. Ward also pointed to potential funding problems if Britain were to leave the EU. “[Another problem would be] accessing research funding. European research funding is really important, its only when you’re a member of the EU that you can have an impact on…what kind of research gets funded”.
Truss mentioned after the event’s question and answer session that “[she] just had a feeling” that “people in Britain don’t want to leave the EU”. She noted that the “critical thing” would be “getting turnout up to a General Election level” which in 2015 was 66%.