EGHAM, England – Situated the countryside of Surrey, Egham, England is the quintessential British town. With numerous typical British breakfast cafes, rich history as the location of one of Queen Elizabeth’s summer homes, a wide selection of pubs, and rolling hills resembling  those featured in Jane Austen and Sherlock Homes novels, there is little ambiguity of how students at Royal Holloway University of London , a top-25 college  20 miles east of London feel about their country’s impending exit from the European Union.

When asked about Brexit two weeks before the original “Brexit Day,” all  50 RHUL students surveyed said  Brexit was a bad idea. Royal Holloway’s 10,000 students are primarily aged 17-25 from all over the continent who generally consider themselves not particularly politically involved, but there was no disagreement.

“It’s not going to happen,” said one first-year student from Edinburgh, Scotland. Added a third-year student from Bristol: “It would be insane, but I can’t see the U.K. actually following through and leaving.”

Twenty-year-old French student Mateo Brassel studies literature and philosophy at Royal Holloway. He is from Lyon, France, and decided to attend RHUL because of its quality literature department, and because it is just under five hours from London to Lyon on the Eurostar train. Like many other students, he said the U.K. leaving the EU will seriously impact his life.

“I’m working on becoming a British citizen right now because I’m really not sure what will happen if I don’t,” Brassel said in an interview. “I’ll get kicked out of the country right after I graduate. I wouldn’t have come to school here if I knew this would happen.” Brassel also complained about lengthy customs lines to get home that would not exist had the U.K. not voted to leave the EU.

Brassel’s concerns are not isolated. “Crashing out with no deal is the worst possible outcome for our universities,” said Joanna Burton, a senior policy analyst for the Russell Group, an association of 24 leading research universities in the U.K. “We’ve said before, but it’s worth repeating: that a no-deal Brexit is one of the biggest threats that our universities have ever faced.”

But it’s not just college students in the area that strongly oppose the British Exit. The 45-minute train ride from Egham Station to London Waterloo features a wide variety of anti-Brexit proclamations on postersCK. “Bullocks to Brexit” is a popular slogan used in advertisements along the train tracks. Many homes fly European Union flags in solidarity with one another. Small groups of protesters are all over London.

Polls taken in late March indicated immense dissatisfaction with Brexit among British citizens, according to the BBC, reflecting the opinions of the Royal Holloway students surveyed. Nearly 60 percent surveyed said they want to stay a part of the EU, and 65 percent say the U.K. will leave with a bad deal.

“I really can’t believe it’s come to this,” said another Royal Holloway student, a 19-year-old biology major. “But hopefully, we can kick Theresa May out and then we’ll  have another referendum. Either way, she’s not the right leader for this. But nobody is, because (Brexit) is just so stupid.”

Like Royal Holloway students, European leaders have expressed clear frustration with Brexit and Great Britain’s current political state. After the European Parliament agreed to extend the Brexit deadline to Oct. 31,  European Council President Donald Tusk said his “message to British friends … (was) please do not waste this time.”

Prime Minister Theresa May, who wanted a shorter delay, said the U.K. would still aim to leave the EU as soon as possible. “The choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear,” May tweeted whenTK. “So we must now press on at pace with our efforts to reach a consensus on a deal that is in the national interest.”

Regardless of what happens, there is clear dissatisfaction with Brexit all across Europe. Royal Holloway students certainly are not alone in worrying about their own futures, and the future of their country in a politically chaotic time.

(By Julia Foodman, April 26, 2019))

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