This evening the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Better Brexit for Young People released a report on the concerns and priorities for Britain’s youth during the Brexit negotiations. We opened it and analysed the findings.
The report, compiled in association with LSE, obtained its data from forty focus groups of 18 to 24-year-olds from varying economic, geographical and social backgrounds over an eleven-month period from November 2016 to September 2017.
Split into three sections, the report looks at youth views on the current state of Brexit, their concerns about Brexit and their priorities for Brexit negotiations.
It is immediately apparent from the introduction that young people are nervous about the ramifications of Brexit:
‘[Respondents] spoke of their concern about the economic pressures they face with regard to housing, jobs, and education, and the political, social and economic direction of travel that Brexit represents’.
This opinion, says LSE, was shared by over 90 per cent of those surveyed demonstrating an overwhelming negative view of Brexit and its consequences.
Section 1, Youth Views on Politics, the UK and Brexit, confirms that whilst most are displeased with the result, they are also well read on the topic. The report states that most individuals they surveyed displayed, ‘a complex and nuanced understanding of Brexit’ showing that young people have knowledge to back up their negative outlook of Britain’s withdrawal.
Alongside this there was the reiterated notion that the EU Referendum result was undertaken by an ill-informed public with, ‘many… [believing] that citizens do not have enough political knowledge when it comes to the EU and feel that significant investment in critical political education is needed’.
The question is whether an informed public, clear on the consequences of Brexit, would have voted differently if they were politically literate on the day that they cast their vote.
One key concern that came from the focus groups was whether Britain will remain strong economically after Brexit. They want to be convinced, despite current evidence to the contrary, that this economic downturn will soon be halted.
Yet the current generation are particularly apprehensive about another distressing issue; the rise in discrimination and racism that has occurred as result of the vote last June.
Earlier this year, The Independent reported that in the eleven months since the referendum the overall number of hate crimes had risen by 40 per cent and that those relating to faith had risen by a significant 40 per cent. This supports the idea that Brexit has expanded social divisions in British society.
Young people are uneasy too about losing opportunities and rights associated with the EU. Between now and when Britain leaves the EU the Great Repeal Bill will convert EU law into UK Law.
It is what replaces this temporary Bill that this generation are worried about. How many of the rights that they currently have under EU law will remain after March 29, 2019 is a question yet to be answered by the Conservative government.
In light of the uncertainty surrounding the Great Repeal Bill the British youth are keen, not only that all rights associated with EU membership but all benefits be carried over as well.
This includes systems such as the Erasmus study programme that allows students to study at European universities, and the EHIC card which gives Britons access to state-provided European healthcare programmes if they are injured or become ill.
Though over 90 per cent of participants were negative about Brexit there was a minority, 10 per cent, who were optimistic. The predominant reason stated in the report for their outlook was that Brexit, ‘had motivated young people to become less passive’.
This is true, since the referendum there has been an upsurge in youth political participation with 64 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds casting a vote in this year’s General Election. This monumental turnout had the effect of undermining the Conservatives’ majority and voting an extra thirty Labour MPs into Parliament, therby increasing the size of the opposition.
The key point however is that young people want their concerns and priorities to be understood and, importantly, acted upon. They don’t just want Theresa May’s government to nod, shake their heads and do nothing. They want a government that will stand up, represent them in the negotiations, and give them the best possible chance to succeed after Britain finally exits the EU in early 2019.
That is, if we leave at all. The youth of Britain could, since we don’t officially leave until March 2019, still have an influence, not just in what state the UK leaves the EU but if it leaves at all.