Andrew Lewer, pro-Leave Conservative Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the East Midlands, held a talk at the University of Nottingham titled “Brexit means Brexit” which focused on reassuring the audience about Britain’s future after the Leave result. Impact spoke to Lewer about the future of Higher Education, the economy and young people in the EU.
“I see a very rosy future in the university sector”
Impact: What will Brexit mean for Universities and what will it mean for university research?
Lewer: Well I think the Chancellors’ announcement yesterday in the Autumn Statement helps to underline how seriously research will continue to be taken, and its worth remembering that the UK has by far the strongest university network in Europe. People make comfortable assumptions that ours is a bit like France’s and Germany’s but it isn’t. On the Times Higher Education league tables or any other independent assessment of university excellence, the UK is way above anyone else in Europe. And therefore its my hope that there will be a significant degree of pragmatism in the long established networks that exist within university sectors in Europe to continue.
I believe that either the UK will be part of Erasmus or the UK government will create its own version of Erasmus to allow people those sorts of international links and access. When it comes to research and development through Horizon 2020 which is the big EU university research programme, worth multi billions, there are already many countries within that, that are not in the EU, have never been in the EU and don’t have any freedom of movement in the EU, so the signs for that one are more promising.
So I see a very rosy future in the university sector and as it was mentioned earlier I say that not only as a Conservative European spokesman for education but as an east midlands university governor as well.
“I continue to believe that some short term unsettlement will actually be worth it for the longer term health for British economy”
Do you think the UK will continue to have positive relationships with countries inside the EU?
I think there’s going to be a period of slightly edgy and difficult relationships ahead of us but the world is a very uncertain place and I think people will come to realise that countries with a lot in common, who are friends [and] who have strong links with each other need to be able to cooperate well.
But I do think we need to be realistic. The political elite in most European countries are much more wedded to the EU as a project of ever closer union than British politicians have ever been, and therefore some British politicians will underestimate just how much of a factor this seems to [be to] many people in the continent.
How can the government reassure people about Britain’s future after Brexit?
I think that a lot of the economic news that’s emerged since the referendum result has already gone some of the way of showing people that this isn’t the end of the world. It’s worth underlining that a decision of this sort is a once in a generation thing. This is a decision that ranks alongside 1989, 1979, 1945, as huge historical years in terms of British history. So it isn’t something we’d want to put ourselves through regularly. It isn’t something that would be healthy for our economy to happen regularly.
But I continue to believe that some short term unsettlement will actually be worth it for the longer term health for British economy. I also think we need to bear in mind that this decision has been made on the basis of what the EU is likely to be and become in the years ahead, not just on a snapshot of how it happens to be at this exact moment.
“I’m much more optimistic about that then some of the prevailing media mood would reflect”
What will Brexit mean for the economy in the long term?
In the long term I think it will allow more flexibility in the economy and it will change some of our trading patterns. So that whilst we wouldn’t want a break in our trading relationships with the EU, I think it will accelerate a movement of trading relationships towards Asia [and] towards North America, which has already been a trend over the last 20 years and I think it’s one that will accelerate.
What will Brexit mean for young people’s chances in other countries in the EU?
We already see in the UK that lots of students go and live and work in [other] countries, in Asia, Australia [and] the United States. Countries on the continent will continue to want highly skilled and motivated individuals to work in their countries and therefore those with something to offer will continue to be welcomed, as indeed will people with something to offer will be continued to welcomed in the UK. So I’m much more optimistic about that then some of the prevailing media mood would reflect.
Andrew is a Conservative MEP, he was elected to the European parliament to represent the East Midlands in 2014. He was awarded an MBE for his services to his local government in Derby after leading Derbyshire County Council from 2009 – 2013.
Image: via Derby Telegraph.