May 30, 2024

On Sept. 27, the American International Association hosted a panel of two established Wittenberg professors and one foreign exchange student to discuss Brexit. Brexit refers to the British in their attempt to exit the European Union [EU]. The debate has led to a choice of what national values they want to prioritize. Those for Brexit are concerned about conserving their cultural identity while people against leaving the EU are worried about the economic consequences.
Focusing on Ireland, France and Scotland, each panel guest gave insight to the benefits and downsides of remaining in or leaving the EU. Rhionna Cornaskey, an international exchange student from Northern Ireland, started off by relating the issues regarding Brexit back to college-aged students.
“The coming of age has forced me to embrace politics in Ireland because it directly affects me,” said Cornaskey.
One issue expressed was how in Northern Ireland people fear that if the UK leaves the EU as a whole, the borders will be restored and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement would fade away. In turn, this would restrict of travel in Ireland, UK and the EU depending on where one obtained their passport.
Timothy Wilkerson, French studies program director, addressed the crowd next. Keeping an eye on three established newspapers in France, he felt as though he could add to the discussion by bringing a continental feel for what has been occurring and how the French believe Brexit will affect them as a country. Wilkerson discussed how many people in France are discussing issues regarding immigration and how leaving or remaining in the EU will affect France’s cultural identity. One main argument he brought to question was whether people want to remain a part of the EU and let people, they didn’t elect, make decisions for their country or if they want to leave the EU and risk being dominated by the U.S. or a country larger than their own.
The last to speak was James Allan, department chair of political science. “Here with my professional Scotsman hat on,” Allan said.
Allan began by discussing how Scots have voted to stay apart of the EU, and noted that it’s become a battle of younger vs. older generations in regard to who wants to stay or leave. Allan didn’t limit his political frame to Scotland, however. He compared political and economic aspects of multiple governments to analyze the British and their decision to leave the EU. He explained how the British are experiencing economic turmoil and have become largely conservative, creating constitutional uncertainty.
Overall the panel’s main concerns were in regard to how many citizens of countries within the EU don’t really understand how the EU operates as a unit and how it directly effects them. Due to this misunderstanding of policies within the EU, citizens have been able to exploit different laws just as the EU has been able to exploit the independence of each member country as well as the citizens that reside in them.
“Make Britain great again?” joked Wilkerson.
The British have decided to leave the EU but will drag out the process as long as possible so they can reap the privileges of remaining while not being subject to the laws the EU creates.
Pleased with the turnout, Vivian Overholt, ‘17 and AIA president, shared her satisfaction with the deep thought and conversation generated by the panel and audience.
“I’m really glad we are in a space where we can have conversations like this and have civilized debates,” Overholt said.
Look out for more AIA events throughout the year in which discussions are aimed towards educating students about other systems and cultures through an international lens.
“It really invigorates the life of the academic community at Witt,” Overholt said.

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