A 'Vote Remain' billboard seen in Cambridge in the run-up to the 2016 referendumLouis Ashworth

Two students have penned an open letter, co-signed by several Cambridge organisations, calling on CUSU to support a ‘People’s Vote’ on the deal reached between Britain and the European Union, prior to Britain leaving the EU.

The authors, Gabriel Barton-Singer and Luke Hallam, have also proposed a motion for next Monday’s CUSU Council, which urges CUSU to lobby that the referendum would include the option both to stay in the EU, and to remain the single market and customs union after Brexit. They added that “we must join this campaign now, which has cross-party support, to force either a referendum in the spring or an extension of the Article 50 process”

The letter stated that “the United Kingdom is staring down the barrel of a ‘no deal’ Brexit as the contradictions that should have been evident from the start transform into a constitutional crisis”, and described Theresa May’s Chequers deal as “unworkable”.

It added that “any deal that could plausibly be agreed between May and Brussels will be rejected by the hard-line Brexiters in the Conservative party”, meaning the “dangerous prospect of a No Deal Brexit is now the most likely outcome.”

The letter was co-signed by For Our Future’s Sake, Our Future Our Choice Cambridge, Cambridge University Liberal Association (CULA), Cambridge Student Democrats, and Cambridge Stays. Additionally, it received a signature from Amatey Doku, former CUSU president and current NUS vice-president for higher education.

The letter’s authors detailed the possible impacts of Brexit on higher education funding, given that the UK is “consistently” the country applying for the greatest amount of funding from the “multi-billion Euro” research fund, Horizon 2020. It noted that the Erasmus+ scheme would see its future in Britain threatened, while it “supports Cambridge lawyers, linguists and scientists in their studies abroad.”

“In a matter of weeks it will be physically impossible to hold a referendum before we’re set to leave on the 29th March.”

Barton-Singer and Hallam made reference to a history of pro-EU voting patterns within Cambridge, describing Cambridge as “a bastion of internationalism” and noted that CUSU’s headquarters lie in the ward which voted most heavily in favour of Remain in the entire country.

Last year, Graduate Union and iCUSU leaders signed a For our Future’s Sake open letter, calling for a second referendum. At the time, CUSU President Daisy Eyre declined to sign the letter, and said it had left “not enough time” to carry out a full consultation with students. Along with current President Evie Aspinall, she decided to delay a decision until CUSU Council re-started in October.

The letter argued that CUSU must now “act immediately through the elected representatives of college JCRs, given the urgency of the situation” – and attempt to “give the 1.5 million young people who have turned 18 since June 2016 a say in their future.”


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It described the situation as an “emergency”, and claimed that “in a matter of weeks it will be physically impossible to hold a referendum before we’re set to leave on the 29th March.”

The letters' authors further called on students to march for a People’s Vote in London on Saturday, and to write to their MPs. Barton-Singer told Varsity that he is “optimistic” that CUSU Council will support the motion on Monday. He argued that “plenty of other student unions have done it, so we see no reason why CUSU shouldn’t”.

Earlier this month, Vice-chancellor Stephen Toope announced that Cambridge would cover the settlement costs of EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals working at the University, and that staff who had applied for Permanent Residence Cards post-June 2016 would have the cost of their application covered.

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