The National Union for Students (NUS) has joined the board of ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’, which will campaign for continued membership of the European Union in the lead-up to the upcoming referendum.
Megan Dunn, chairman of NUS, wrote on Sunday in The Independent that: “Current and future generations have greater opportunities when we are connected to countries we share experiences and resources with. Put simply; working together with nations who share our interests and values makes our country, and our society, stronger.”
In her opinion piece, she highlights the £1 billion research funding coming from Brussels to the UK and the more than 200,000 students who have studied or worked abroad since the start of the Erasmus program. “Students in Britain do not fear today’s modern, diverse world. We fear isolation, not internationalism.”
The announcement comes at a moment that more British people want to leave the EU then to remain member, according to YouGov polls.
Since November last year, the pro-EU camp has been consistently performing strongly in polls but according to analysts, the recent problems in Calais and the general British fear of more refugees coming to the United Kingdom, have driven British voters towards the anti-EU camp.
Despite anti-EU sentiment, students and political societies at the University of Edinburgh are largely supportive of Europe, according to PhD candidate and European politics expert Anthony Salamone.
Salamone told The Student, “Except from the Conservatives and maybe the Socialists, I wouldn’t expect any surprises. It is likely that they will take a pro-EU stand.”
Conservative and Unionist Society chairperson Tom Wrench spoke to The Student about his society’s decision to stay neutral throughout the EU referendum campaign, saying, “There are many varying opinions towards the EU and to support either campaign would be therefore unfair and unrepresentative.”
Prominent Labour Society member Theo Robertson-Bonds also gave The Student an insight into how the decision is being taken within Labour Students, saying, “NUS passed policy to remain in the EU, thus Megan Dunn’s decision to affiliate our national union to the cross-party ‘in’ campaign is absolutely the right one. My only concern would be that the cross-party group will contain figures from the right who may be inclined to undermine EU workers’ rights and migration policy in renegotiations, which is why Labour have chosen to operate a separate non-Tory campaign.”
Criticism of the NUS’s pro-EU stance can be found among students. Rob Comley, politics student at the University of Greenwich and campaigner for Get Britain Out, wrote in an open letter to Dunn, published in The Huffington Post, “As someone who represents the student voice, you should have considered the views of all the students you stand up for before deciding which camp you supported. This would have been the more democratic thing to do.”
A NUS spokesperson told The Student that “NUS represents 7 million students so there will always be different views within the movement” but the proposal to join the in-campaign “was passed overwhelmingly at the most recent national conference.”
Tom Wrench admits that he had personally preferred a standpoint of neutrality as well, “but it is important that the NUS acts as a voice for the majority of students, providing it does so democratically.”
Image: The chances of the UK leaving the EU as a result of the referendum are at about 50-50, according to polls.
Image credit: TSPL