It’s no secret that we love languages at Babbel, and we believe that language learning and EU membership go hand in hand. So what better incentive for the average Brit to learn a language than the opportunity to live, study and work abroad in the EU? We spoke to Babbel’s British employees, and to other British expats based in Berlin, about how EU membership has benefitted them and what effect Brexit might have on their lives. After all, we at Babbel live the EU experience every day – that’s why we’ve compiled a measured, upbeat list of reasons why the UK should remain.
1. Because you can easily study and travel abroad
The Erasmus programme allows British students to spend up to a year of their studies at another university in any EU member state. Not only does an Erasmus year broaden your academic horizons, immerse you in a different culture and perfect those language skills – it’s also a canny way to save money on your studies back home. All tuition fees, from both your host and home universities, are waived. And that’s not all. Every student participating in an Erasmus exchange also receives grants to help cover the costs of living abroad. And since Erasmus is entirely funded by the EU, more Brits taking part in the programme means a better return on the UK’s financial contribution to the EU.
A growing number of British undergraduates are recognising the value, with over 1/3 of British students expressing an interest in studying abroad – so why pull the rug out from under them? Erasmus is the ultimate melting pot: over 1,000,000 babies have been born from couples who met on the exchange programme, and over a quarter of participants meet a long-term partner during their time abroad. Even Tinder would be chuffed with those numbers.
2. Because you can easily live and work in the EU
Whether in Bilbao or Bratislava, there’s so much cultural diversity on your doorstep that it would be a shame not to take advantage of your right to live and work freely in another EU country. Millions of older Brits have swapped their Pasties for Paella by moving to Spain, and thousands of British graduates who weren’t enamoured with extortionate rents in London have chosen to move to places like Berlin, where their native English skills and high level of education have made them valuable recruits for international start-ups based in the city. Anything that restricts the ease with which Brits move around Europe risks putting a halt to these opportunities.
Whether the British employees at Babbel came to Berlin for education, love or career (or, indeed, all three), they were spared bureaucratic nightmares, and have no restrictions on how long they can stay or what jobs they can do. For Babbel, being able to attract British talent to our Berlin headquarters is crucial to the success of our operations in the UK. A Brexit would threaten the freedom of British people to move overseas, and the legal status of the British nationals in our Berlin team.
But it’s not just Babbel employees who would be affected by a Brexit. We also spoke to British expats living in Berlin for their thoughts on how a Brexit might impact them:
3. Because why get rid of the economic benefits?
One of the most important aspects of EU membership – access to the single market – would be lost with a Brexit. Sure, it’s possible that the British government and the remaining EU states could strike a deal to secure access to the single market, but why leave on the hope that we could somehow renegotiate what we already enjoy now? Even if a compromise is reached after years at the negotiating table, the UK won’t be allowed to have its cake and eat it too. Access to the single market is predicated on the acceptance of the free movement of trade, goods and people, so if Britain wants its goods to move freely, it’ll have to accommodate freely moving people as well. It’s a shame some Brits would grant more freedom of movement to a tomato than to a European citizen.
The leave campaign might think that the UK pays a lot for membership right now, but at least it pays membership fees to an organisation whose laws it can actively participate in creating. Take Switzerland and Norway for example: While they’re not members of the EU, they still make financial contributions in order to gain access to the single market. If the UK wanted to keep trading freely with the EU, it would still have to pay for this privilege – but it wouldn’t have an influence anymore over the creation of the laws governing that market. Surely it’s better to be sitting at the decision-makers’ table than piping up impotently from the room next door.
4. Because the Europeans love us!
Love him or hate him, Benedict Cumberbatch is hot property right now, and Brits have got celebs like him to thank for the popularity of the English language and British accents in the rest of Europe. We did a survey of Babbel users from across the continent, and found that English was one of the most desirable languages among our European user base, with Italians and French going particularly gaga for the British accent.
If the French – historically the most ardent of European rivals – can rank British English as the sexiest accent, then maybe we should reciprocate and embrace our continental neighbours rather than turn our backs on them.
5. Because we shouldn’t give up so easily!
The EU is far from perfect, but we don’t need to go it on our own – breaking off our political and economic links with the rest of Europe – simply because we disagree with some aspects of how the organisation is run. As a language learning company, we promote intercultural communication and the ability to understand each other, so to us a Brexit would represent a real breakdown of that desire to understand.
No one said that creating laws to govern 28 member states (and 500 million people) would be straightforward, but a Brexit is tantamount to giving up on the entire European project. The UK is not Luxembourg (sorry, Luxembourg), and we have a huge amount of clout when it comes to international politics. We could be a driving force for positive change and reform in the bloc if we were willing to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty, especially as the greatest concerns that British citizens have over the EU – cutting bureaucracy for business and ensuring that the freedom of movement principle isn’t abused – are shared by all EU member states.
6. Because you can be British and European
Babbel’s British employees weren’t all budding europhiles when they chose to up sticks to Berlin. If you watch the video at the top of the article you’ll still hear quintessential estuary English, a couple of dazzling West Country accents, and the musings of some proud Northerners. The identity of these people hasn’t in any way been diluted since leaving the UK to work on the continent. On the contrary, their identity has simply evolved. They are effortlessly English, British, and European at the same time.
There is an intense fear among some in the UK that their place in the world is under threat; the EU is hellbent on eroding national identity and sovereignty in the hope of turning all of Europe into a technocratic union that’s as dull as dishwater. But spend a day at Babbel HQ and you’ll quickly see that the opposite is true. At the Babbel office you are exposed to a dozen or more different European nationalities on a daily basis, and yet the Brits are still painfully polite, the Germans are as über-efficient as ever, and the French will still gasp in horror if you eat a croissant for lunch.
The EU has enabled a smorgasbord of Europeans to come and work together at Babbel in the heart of Berlin, but it hasn’t stripped away the national identities of our colleagues in the process. Talk to the Brits at Babbel and they’ll tell you that they still love nothing more than proper Yorkshire tea, unbeatable British comedy, and good old Fish n’ Chips. However, through EU membership, these Brits have been lucky enough to move abroad, form deep personal and working relationships with other Europeans, and learn from the experiences of others allowing them to easily put the shoe on the other foot when it comes to viewing and understanding the world.
Simply put, we want Brits to experience the positives of EU membership just like we have, and for that reason we’re urging the good people of the UK to vote remain on June 23rd!