Teaching Brexit to Business Students through the 'Spyhole' of Foreign Direct Investment

By Woodward, Russ; Veal, Tim | Teaching Business & Economics, Spring 2019 | Go to article overview

Teaching Brexit to Business Students through the 'Spyhole' of Foreign Direct Investment


Woodward, Russ, Veal, Tim, Teaching Business & Economics


INTRODUCTION

While numerous aspects are to be finalised, it is fair to say that Brexit and the Brexit vote 2016 gives rise to the biggest development in the UK business environment for many decades, i.e. that of (almost certain) departure from the European Union, EU.

It is also accurate to say that much of the referendum debate of 2016 was of fairly poor and limited quality as far as business economics impact was concerned. The political and emotive aspects, while important, somewhat overrode the business economics to the extent that even within themes of business economic relevance - practical elements were unable to strongly come through and the issues were easy to draw into the emotive sphere. In the context of finance, the fairness/ bias of the UK net contribution was put centre stage, as well as NHS direction of Brexit related savings; when considering the EU's free movement requirement, the migration issue received a very emotive treatment; in terms of EU decision making, the supremacy of the European Court of Justice jurisdiction over British laws and courts was the focus. On themes where specific business economic concerns were raised and linked to Brexit, they were frequently packaged as project fear - or as evidence of undue pessimism about the robustness of the UK economy to cope with the likely impact of EU departure. The other area in which genuine economic and trade issues were discussed was with regard to the UK trade balance. It was a staple argument of some of the leave proponents that the UK's substantial trade deficit in goods with Europe gave Britain relative strength in any postBrexit trade talks. However, these arguments were marginal compared to the social-political concerns highlighted.

Perhaps the greatest evidence that suggests the debate was ultimately shaped by matters such as migration rather than economics are the opinion polling numbers. From the beginning of 2016, the Remain campaign held a steady lead in most polls as the focus was primarily on the dislocation Brexit may cause. On May 26th, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) produced their figures depicting a rise in net migration to 330,000 for the previous year (BBC, 2016). This provided an opportunity for the Leave campaign to capitalise and announce their intention to implement an Australian-style points system post-Brexit. Three weeks later, Leave were consistently ahead in seven opinion polls (Curtice, 2016). Many political and economic commentators have suggested this provided a turning point in the campaign which put the status-quo on the back foot.

EXISTING TEACHING RESOURCES AND BUSINESS EDUCATION COMMENT ON THE BREXIT ISSUE

With regard to teaching and learning, e.g. guidance and resources - difficulties have endured as far as the business economics perspective is concerned. While more is said about higher education institutions and Brexit coverage later, the enquiry/investigation into who at University level has been teaching modules involving Brexit suggests that a dispassionate approach - even in parts - may be hard to pursue.

Looking at school and FE resources and guidance, the bulk of what was provided during the debate and subsequently, for example through the Times Education Supplement have focussed concern on overarching issues - e.g. history and citizenship, or framework guidance on in class debate activities where the content of points is left to the students/pupils to research. Even in the Economist Foundation resources for the TES on Brexit, TES (2016) - in the economics section - placed alongside migration and sovereignty sections - there is reference to ^ arguable trade and business location impacts of Brexit, but no theory - elementary or sophisticated - onto which to thread these points. At the same time, in the months following the Brexit vote, education media have asserted to those pursuing the highest level of business education, i.e. MBA, that an understanding of how Brexit may play out for the UK in business economics terms could be key to graduate employability and job success (FT, 2017). …

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