On Friday morning we learnt that the UK electorate has voted to leave the European Union (EU). After forty years, this is an historic event.
Not surprisingly, BCoT staff and students will have questions about how the decision will affect us. In the short term, we must all adopt a ‘business as usual’ approach until things become clearer. We cannot say what the medium or long-term implications will be for further and higher education, for Apprenticeships or for the employers we work with.
We do know that the UK will remain a full member of the EU until the negotiations to withdraw are completed. The UK Government will decide when it wants to trigger Article 50, the part of the EU's Treaty of Lisbon which sets guidelines on how a country can withdraw from the EU. Article 50 specifies a two-year limit to reach agreement starting from the day formal application is made - although the complexity of the negotiations might well see this deadline extended.
A referendum result is not legally binding so it is likely that the UK Government will look to pass a formal application to withdraw through Parliament in order to trigger Article 50. In the light of the Prime Minister's announcement to resign, how soon it is triggered will depend on whether the UK has a government which can command a majority in the House of Commons.
The UK's future relationship with the EU will be negotiated separately to the withdrawal agreement, with careful transition arrangements which could take up to a decade to put in place fully.
While it is early days, I want to address some immediate questions:
Existing EU students and applicants for 2016/17: at this point, there is no change to their immigration status, access to loans or contractual terms and conditions.
Non-UK EU staff: at this point, there is no change to their immigration status and no change to the contractual terms and conditions of EU nationals holding BCoT contracts.
Apprenticeships: at this point, again, there is no change to current operations or processes. However, in a statement on Friday, Skills Minister Nick Boles did suggest that plans to introduce the Apprenticeship Levy may have to be delayed. We know that all parties have committed to the Apprenticeship targets so we wait with interest what this delay might mean in reality.
Whatever our personal views, we must bow to the democratic will of the British people and prepare for our future. It is clear that there will be challenges ahead and it is our duty as an institution to rise to them. For example, it is likely that our students will leave us to join what will potentially be a very difficult economy and employment market, post-Brexit, so our focus on employability skills will become even more vital.
BCoT’s SMT will do all in our power to keep you fully informed as the picture becomes clearer. The Association of Colleges (AoC) is already lobbying on behalf of the sector and has stated that “the Government must make it clear as soon as possible how it will continue to fund education and training for the good of everyone”.
For my part, I look forward to working with staff and students here as, together, we seek to make the right decisions for the College.
Respectful; Ready; Safe. Whatever our personal views of the Referendum result, we remind staff and students that Britain is a democracy and the result should be respected. BCoT does not tolerate any abusive language or behaviour in relation to personal beliefs or political views; this includes views of the Referendum.
Anthony Bravo, Principal & Chief Executive
Lynne George, Chair of Governors