Finally, this depressing and divisive referendum campaign is at an end. Perhaps now Cornmarket Street can be reclaimed from the leafleters and placard holders. I’ve already voted – the beauty of the postal ballot. Admittedly, the motives behind my decision were mainly selfish. Yet when I look at the alternative – decreased university funding, and a UK-less EU under the yoke of an increasingly assertive Bundesrepublik, it really can’t be anything other than Remain.
Firstly, the EU benefits students because it’s a veritable source of cash for universities. Why else would over 100 Vice-Chancellors (a species not known for their good judgement) come out in support of Remain? Maybe it has something to do with how some 16 percent of the UK’s university research funding emanates from Brussels. Without such generous funding, the prospect of Oxford being able to maintain its world-leading research structures (particularly in the field of science) against the untrammelled financial clout of American universities would be diminished. Nobody wants to go back to the days (1864, to be precise), where Oxford was famous for fusty old Literae Humaniores.
Let’s move away from the money aspect for a minute. The ease of cross-continental travel the EU entails allows any student from its 28 member states to come to Oxford. Conversely, I can, if I so please, sign up for an Erasmus Scholarship, and bugger off to sample the delights of societies whose cultural self-conception isn’t derived from Danny Dyer, cups of tea, and stiff upper lips. Obviously, this is CV viagra for prospective employers, but the value of broadened horizons shouldn’t be omitted either.
More generally, that the OSFE campaign has attracted participants from across the pretentious, bombastic diaspora of student politics is testament to just how important this referendum is. And yes, I get how a group of privileged Oxford students is hardly the best way to persuade those in places like Blackbird Leys that the EU is on the side of ordinary working people, but OSFE are unquestionably correct in arguing that to vote Leave is to cut ourselves off from our European cousins, and hamstring ourselves economically.
I just wish OSFE had been a little less doe-eyed towards the EU, and acknowledged the major problem with it – namely, that the institution is a tool by which Germany can impose Teutonic fiscal frugality upon states like Greece with impunity. I hope you don’t find it too historically facetious of me to contend that such actions do have an air of the 1914 Septemberprogramm about them. An ”economic union”, in which “all…members will be…equal, but in practice…under German leadership”…Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? What Brexiteers fail to appreciate, though, is the only way the UK can deal with the issue of German dominance is to stay in the EU, and use its own political and economic clout to counter-balance this. As any dutiful college football substitute will tell you, it’s hard to change things from the sidelines.
However, it’s the story of an alumni of my college, Corpus Christi, that I want to finish with. Aidan Chavasse spent 4 years there, graduating in the summer the Great War started. 1915 saw him enlist as a lieutenant in the 17th King’s Regiment, Liverpool, which took Chavasse from leafy Oxford to the muddy misery of Ypres in Belgium. It was there that he met his death, on July 5th, 1917, aged 25. That the thought of dying in a European war is so alien to our cosseted, Tinder-fied generation is, for me, possibly the most powerful non-selfish reason for voting Remain.
Give that Europeans killed and maimed each other with depressingly regularity over the centuries, it’s absurd that the UK could be about to quit an institution which has for decades now aided the cause of peace in Europe – and one that gives students like you and I a tidy lump sum as well. So tomorrow, you know what to do – make it a yes.