Many young voters didn’t want to leave, but here we are. This Government must respond to the concerns of younger adults across the country or be prepared to face the consequneces   

 

The referendum has left some key questions unanswered and playing on the minds of many young people. With the exception of some online content, there has been very little focus on the impact of Brexit on younger citizens and their views. I decided to dig a little deeper.

While it may be that, at least in terms of finances, Brexit will affect those currently in employment more, there are arguments for and against the EU which could impact many young people. From one end, the money that would have been spent on membership of the EU could now be invested in employment and training. This is something that could considerably lower the percentage of young people currently unemployed. However, this is by no means guaranteed. From another end, the money that previously funded the scheme under which young people could go to study abroad will be withdrawn. For those hoping to use Erasmus to further their education, that ship has sailed.

Personally, I believe we were and still are better off within the EU. While it has flaws, it’s better to stay at the negotiating table and work out those flaws than be looking from the outside, wishing we had an influence.

I spoke to some young people (aged 16-25) about their views on Brexit and these are just a few snippets of what they said.

Chantelle Oakely, Young Advisor: ‘What has happened, has happened. England cannot change that. However, if they were strong enough to build the British Empire, hundreds of years ago, then Britain should also be strong enough, as an economy, to leave the EU. Although, I do realise other people have a difference of opinion’.

Antony Whittaker, Student: ‘It’s sparked a divide in this once united Kingdom. The youth are blaming the elders of the nation for the outcome of this referendum, but there’s nothing the young population can do about it. However, it’s also created well-needed change of power in the country. With the stepping down of dodgy Dave and now having Theresa May in charge, there could be some changes to benefit us all and lead to more trust in the Government’.

Student, 19: I think being out of the EU is the best thing for us. We shouldn’t be told how to spend our money.

Volunteer, 21: ‘I think that Brexit already has depreciated the value of the pound which is … affecting things, like mobile phone prices (OnePlus 3) and holiday exchange rates; so the foreseeable future doesn’t look great. Brexit could have been a good thing, but we don’t have the appropriate leadership team to secure good economic deals. I think we’ll see more unemployment, less people going to university and more difficult lives. I think a lot of young people are planning to migrate as a result. It’s a shame that good skills will be lost’.

What I can gather from these viewpoints, is that much of the concern has been about the way the issue has been handled, more than the impact it will have in the long term. Brexit has changed the whole political landscape of the UK, however, and I believe that this will have wider implications in the near future. Among the issues emerging from the given viewpoints are money, political concerns, and for many people, uncertainty about what happens next.

The referendum on the EU is a big change of direction. Not least because there was already mounting criticism of the UK’s immigration policy in the months leading up to it, which, to put it mildly, divided the country. Though unintended, Brexit is David Cameron’s political legacy.

In the coming months, it is imperative that young people, despite the difficulties, have a role in shaping Britain’s place in the world post-Brexit. If this requires active involvement from young people themselves in Brexit negotiations, so be it. After all, the change affects them directly and honestly, I think the Government would be myopic to fail to include representation that echoes the interests of young voters in any negotiation team. Should this happen, it would only reinforce the story about the older generation dragging young people out of the EU.

It’s unchartered waters and we mustn’t sink in the process. It is not impossible for Brexit to have a positive impact on young people. Despite my own views, it is important to remember that young people have faced challenges before and bounced back. The rise in tuition fees in 2012 to £9,000 is one such example of endurance. At the time, it was believed that this would see a sharp fall in applications to university. In actual fact, there are more people applying to university than ever before.

My point? While there may be a negative impact in the short term, if young people are allowed to have their say in shaping Britain’s place in Europe, who knows what the future might bring. With the right people at the table, positives can come out of a largely negative situation.