June 23rd 2016 was a total shock for me. Like many young people who voted remain, my jaws dropped and I expected the worst was yet to come. I knew the next morning that the next ten years or more will be filled with debates, arguments and policy changes that could make British people feel mentally drained (even those that voted leave).
I myself have switched off from it all but still want to learn more. That is why I attended an event at Europe House about young people and Brexit. I was tired of just listening to remain and leave voters about how ‘it’s good for our country’ or ‘we can’t go back now, it’s democracy’ (enter yawn emoji). I wanted to hear people out.
The panel consisted of:
- Stephen Kinnock MP (Labour) — All Parliamentary Party Group for Brexit and Young People.
- Nissy Tee — an outspoken Youtuber, grad from Cambridge University who created her organization called ‘BEBB’ (Be Educated.Be Bold).
- Daniel Hannan MEP (Conservative) — was a leave campaigner
- Elsopeth Hoskins: — Campaign Manager for Undivided who voted remain.
- Kenny Imafidon — Director at Bite the Ballot and
- Mete Coban — Co-founder and Chief Executive at My Life, My Say (MLMS).
Everything debated on Brexit will encompass money, whether we like it or not. Stephen Kinnock set out some possible scenarios when we leave the prestigious ‘cool’ club, as leaving it can leave us a little broke.
- We get the deal!
- We don’t get one! Sectors like the steel industry could suffer because of this and other jobs too.
- Lengthy and prolonged period needed to settle finances: ‘going to a restaurant without paying for the meal’ — meaning that the EU gave us a lot of help, now we have to pay what we owe to this cool club.
- We join the European Economic Area (EEA). We have access to the single market but have little control over immigration.
Youth Vote — we changed it
Young people may think they don’t have a say anymore. What has happened has happened. We hear terms like ‘soft Brexit’ or ‘hard Brexit’ without knowing what these actually mean (adults don’t really know either). But young people can still have a say! Nissy pushes this agenda in her organization called ‘Be Bold. Be Educated’.
She argues that when we say, ‘who even cares though?’ or ‘who has time for politics?’ that we’re deeply misguided. Everything we care about is political, whether this relates to housing or education. She says she is the ‘Black girl from the East End’ and insists that we must not be lazy!
After 25 years the youth turnout was there to bite again, and this time it chewed right through the Conservative Party’s protective fence. Was it due to Corbyn’s views on free university? Maybe. Though Nissy and Kenny realize one-issue politics can be dangerous if we don’t speak out. Nissy and Kenny understand that this government will take and give things just to shut us up — like keeping the Erasmus and Erasmus Plus programme. Kenny added that though the EU is important, the government must also give due attention to other pressing issues such as housing and the criminal justice system.
Staying friends not acquaintances
After any break up, it can be hard to try and salvage any sort of relationship. After all, everyone struggles to be good friends with their exes after a volatile argument. Nonetheless, we should build a friendship. Daniel Hannan commented on this:
‘Yes, we can’t just say things like we should stop the EU laws, but we can begin to diverge’.
He further added:
‘Wealthy neighbours make the best customers.
Hannan also pointed out that young people are mistaken if they think that:
‘countries trade with one another out of a sense of kindness’, but this isn’t the case’.
Integration is also a key issue. A representative from the NUS stated how students are worried about not having similar opportunities, such as getting jobs in the EU. Anything from getting apprenticeships to securing work in a foreign country may be harder if we don’t keep good relations.
The point is that young people want to feel connected to Europe. They want the UK to be a tolerant place no matter what gender or religion someone is. An audience member stated that we’re lucky not to have the same tedious procedure as in America, where you are asked dozens of questions about why you wish to visit the country.
Stephen Kinnock responded to this by agreeing that freedom of movement is a huge benefit to our country, on the one hand, but that freedom of labour can lead to some serious issues if dealt with lightly
Impressions from participants:
Masters student at Kings College London University
‘I think it’s important to objectively engage with both sides of the debate no matter how inconvenient it may be — especially on a topic as polarizing as this. We didn’t get to see much reasoned factual debate during the campaign; instead there was a lot of rhetoric and fearmongering from both sides. The event today was decent, it was nice to see points raised by Neil Kinnock. For instance, that we should appreciate that there are opinions held in Britain outside of the typically liberal cosmopolitan, student bubble. I think the speakers were overall good but I would have liked to have seen more critical engagement from different sides — even in the audience there was only a single person who believed that freedom of movement should be limited. There is a tendency for young people to create a left-leaning echo chamber and that does a disservice to the quality of debate and representation of the 52 per cent of the people who voted for Brexit’.
University student who liked taking modules on foreign policy
I asked her why she is interested in foreign policy:
‘I took foreign policy modules as I feel that media coverage of this has decreased’
Romanian student that has studied in the UK
‘I feel that even though I have felt less welcome after Brexit, I do think that freedom of movement should be regulated due to illegal immigration’.
Elsopeth Hoskins — Campaign Manager for Undivided
‘Me and my dad disagreed a lot after the vote as he was leave and I was remain. I also disagreed with some of my friends but I do think that young people should talk to those who have differing views. We should value each other’s opinions as we can learn from each other. There is more to gain from doing then feeling a loss’.
Comments from the audience
‘If we vote against migration, we will miss out on technological developments. There is already a worry of robots taking our jobs’.
‘Why not regulate wages?’
— This was from Joe, who seemed to be the only young person who was very positive about the leave vote. Jo is also a campaigner for the Undivided organization. He visited 17 constituencies and based on what he heard from different people argues that the UK should change the way it governs, in order to be fairer. He also feels that there are sections of the population that have been left out, such as those in the North who have had a much harder time since the Brexit vote.
Politicians won’t silence the voice of young people in Brexit talks. We want to feel connected. We also know the EU is not some old toy to be forgotten under the bed. We are going to argue our case and try and get the best deal for us too. So, Ms May, don’t just think that we are too young to understand. We will hold you to account and we wont give up on having our say.