Like many I was saddened by the recent Brexit referendum results and I am proud to have voted for the UK to remain.
I benefited from the Erasmus EU Student Exchange programme and had the opportunity to study at Utrecht University for six months during the final year of my undergraduate degree studies. My student exchange programme was the first time I experienced living and studying abroad. As an European, I made a number of new friends during my six months, many of whom I am still in touch with today. As a member of the EU, I was not required to pay extra tuition fees at my host university and I was able to apply for a grant to help cover my accommodation costs in Utrecht.
Without this vital EU grant, this opportunity would not have been possible. I now fear that programmes like this will be denied to millions of young students not only across Lambeth and Southwark, but right across the UK. I have been a long-time advocate for encouraging young people to get involved in the democratic process and a keen supporter of reducing the voter age to 16 and it was good to see so many under 25yr olds casting their votes for the first time. Unfortunately, for the majority of them, this was not the result they wanted.
I am worried about the increase in racist attacks after the referendum results. There has been a steep increase in intimidation, violence and calls for people to ‘go home’ directed at non-white people and European nationals. It is important that we all work together to defend and champion the diversity across our city, especially in boroughs like Southwark. At the recent London Assembly Police and Crime Committee meeting, of which I am a member, it was reassuring to hear the Deputy Police Commissioner and the new Deputy Mayor for Police & Crime highlight that the police will be on alert with extra vigilance on race hate crime, and will take action on any incidents and attacks. It is important for residents to ensure that any incidents they witness or become aware of, are reported to the police.
The full implications of our exit from the EU will become clearer over the weeks and months ahead. The Mayor and London Assembly will be pushing for London to remain in the single market, which will undoubtable benefit Southwark businesses.