BYU joins the Brexit conversation


Since the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union on June 23, many questions have emerged about the impact that this British exit, commonly known as Brexit, could have on the global community.

Several experts in politics, economics and psychology have been called in to give some clarification to these tough questions, including some BYU faculty and alumni.

Dr. David Kirkham, political science professor and Academic Director at the BYU London Centre, has also spent a lot of time studying the effects of Brexit. His research has been focused on what Brexit could mean for religious groups in the United Kingdom. It may be too early to tell with any certainty, Kirkham said.

“No one knows if Britain will be able and willing to negotiate bilateral or multilateral trade agreements and retain fairly liberal migration policies with Europe,” Kirkham said. “It is rather unlikely, as the current European attitude is that the U.K. can’t have all the benefits of the EU without carrying the burdens.”

BYU political science professor Dr. Richard Davis and BYU alum Dr. Daniel Crosby have also contributed to major news outlets with their insights on Brexit. Davis wrote a piece  for Deseret News on the political motives behind the historic vote and Crosby was interviewed on MSNBC regarding the financial impacts of Brexit.

Given that an actual British exit from the European Union could take several years to become official, what the future holds for the United Kingdom and its trading partners is largely uncertain. According to Dr. Wade Jacoby, a political science professor at BYU who specializes in European politics, much of what is heard on the news regarding what the future will hold is based on speculation.

“The honest truth is that Brexit hasn’t happened; a vote has happened,” Jacoby said. “No country has gone through this process before, so we just don’t know what it will look like.”

The possible economic, political and historical implications of Brexit have also made their way into some BYU lectures. Political science professor Dr. Scott Cooper led a discussion about Brexit in his introductory class for international politics and noted that his students were both surprised at the results of the vote and interested to learn more about it.

Both Cooper and Jacoby agree that the economic and political impacts of Brexit in Utah will be mild. Even with British-owned multinational companies such as Rio Tinto operating in Utah, the U.S. economy is simply too big to be seriously shaken by Britain’s vote to leave the EU, Jacoby said.

A handful of BYU students who are currently enrolled in the BYU London Centre study abroad arrived in the United Kingdom just a few days before the historic vote. These students have experienced an up-close look at the political atmosphere in London, and have spoken to many London residents and immigrants about the vote. London Centre program director Dr. Renata Forste said the students this year have had a unique experience.

“It is a fascinating time to be in London and studying these issues,” Forste said in an email. “We are very much interested in Brexit and what it says about national identity in the U.K.”

Mckenna Bulloch
Emma Bradford on the London Centre Study Abroad.

Students at the London Centre have enjoyed slightly cheaper travel expenses this year because of the drop in the value of the United Kingdom’s currency which followed the Brexit vote, Forste said. Forste also mentioned that there have been occasional peaceful protests in the city, but the endeavors in the London Centre are continuing as planned.

While the process for students to obtain travel visas to England in future years may change because of Brexit, Dr. Kirkham believes that Britain leaving the EU will not likely impede any of BYU’s academic endeavors in London.

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