According to a post-ballot YouGov survey, the 18 to 25 age-bracket voted 75% to remain. Young people in Britain are overwhelmingly pro-Europe – and in an era where social media transcends national boundaries, the economy is increasingly globalised and cultures are fusing, it would be incredibly hard not to be.
There is, of course, the age-old argument that the young are naturally more socialist than the old, and while this is undoubtedly true, the pro-Europe movement online – as inextricably linked as it is with the anti-austerity, civil rights and social justice causes – represents something bigger.
There are many valid reasons for us to leave the EU, but we must not ignore that the result has given a platform, and legitimacy, to the bigotry and racism of parties like UKIP, the BNP and Britain First. Nigel Farage’s campaign has been compared to Nazism, and the man who assassinated the MP Jo Cox reportedly did so shouting “Britain First”.
When 61 of the 114 Tory MPs who backed Brexit also voted against gay marriage* and anti-immigration sentiment is running high, our generation must unite against their hate campaigns. As the late Ms Cox said, we “have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
Admittedly, living in the London ‘bubble’ renders us more cosmopolitan, more tolerant and more liberal, and so it’s hard for someone left-wing like myself to comprehend why people would have such contrasting, conservative views when they so clearly affect so many people negatively.
Austerity, the anti-immigration movement, privatisation of institutions like the BBC and the NHS and the reduction of welfare have been incredibly controversial issues in this country in recent years, and they have been pushed for by people like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and UKIP’s Douglas Carswell (who is also a climate change sceptic).
Since we have voted to leave, we have put more power in these people’s hands. Without the safeguards of the EU, the NHS, our education and living standards, and even the protection of our civil rights enshrined in the Human Rights Act and ECHR, can be changed at will.
As the future of this country, our generation are the people who are going to have to deal with the fallout. We are the ones this decision hits the hardest. It is we who will be affected long term – our education, our jobs, our economy, our future.
The rights and values that we stand for – love, tolerance, multiculturalism, education – will be under attack from the far right. Under 25-year-olds are increasingly disconnecting from politics.
The reasons I’ve heard my friends give are “but they’re all the same” and “they don’t listen anyway.” But the voices of the Leave campaigners and their supporters have been listened to. If anything, the referendum is an example of how to get the government to listen.
I couldn’t vote. Many if not most people reading this couldn’t vote. And only 36% of 18 to 24-year-olds did vote.
But this is our future that’s been decided, and so we have to take this opportunity, though we may be unenthusiastic to endorse the views of politicians we dislike, and grab this opportunity with both hands.
We need to involve ourselves in politics. We need to make sure that we hold the government to account, to ensure that the right decisions are being made. The Leave campaign is a good example of this – it has brought passionate politics to a large number of people. Now we need to do the same, and make sure our thoughts are included in the debate.
If there is one thing to come out of the referendum, it is the clear message to Westminster that they’re hopelessly out of touch with the people they’re meant to serve.
Arguably, the country has ended up in this situation by not holding the government to account – by not voting in the European elections (and when they do, voting in UKIP MPs who unsurprisingly refuse to engage), by dismissing politics as ‘all the same’ and not informing ourselves of the decisions to be made. Consequently, without the check on power that was the EU, we must take that job on ourselves. We have a duty to engage in politics, question and criticise our MPs, and be vocal about how their decisions affect us.
Westminster has realised they have to start listening. Let’s make sure they hear our generation, loud and clear.
* Statistic compiled from lists drawn up by the BBC