There are a lot of arguments around Brexit referendums presently; should there be a referendum for the final agreement? Should there just be another EU referendum altogether? In the midst of the Labour conference, where Jeremy Corbyn has said he will support members in pursuing a second vote, I have been thinking about the effect this will have on the youth, a demographic that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union.
In June 2016, I was only fourteen years old. I had a large interest in politics, unlike others my age and, despite my youth, I had done my research and concluded that I was 100% Team Remain. It was difficult to sit and watch adults make a decision that would affect the rest of my life – I am sure that I can speak on behalf of many remainers who felt embarrassed that their older relatives voted strongly to leave. I agree that fourteen is too young to be allowed to vote, however, now that I am sixteen, I am desperate to let my voice be heard in the Brexit shambles. This is not just a general election that will come around in another five years, this is something that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. My children will have to grow up in a country alienated from the EU and, hypothetically, I will tell them, sitting in the 10 hour queue to go on our French holiday, that there was once a time where Europe and Britain worked together. Presently, there are 1.5 million 16-17 year olds in the U.K – if you add this to the number of 18-19 year olds that weren’t old enough to vote in 2016, you can imagine that the results of Brexit will be staggeringly different if a second referendum was held with a lowered voting age. To me, it seems ridiculous that the Scottish government allowed 16-17 year olds a vote in IndyRef 2014, yet our age-group were excluded from the Brexit vote.
Let’s look at some of the issues that will arise from Brexit for the youth, starting with university. Most British universities work in conjunction with European universities in study abroad and work placement schemes – under EU guidelines, if you are a EU citizen, you can study for free at another European university for a study abroad year or work placement. I’m sure this will go out the window post March 2019, leaving the few privileged few the opportunity to get those life changing experiences. I’m seriously beginning to wonder if the government even consider those with a household income under £30,000 and how they are going to manage without all of the support that has been taken away.
Inevitably, once we leave the EU, the value of the pound is going to fall once again, like it did post-referendum. This consequently means rising prices. I am sure I can speak for many young people in saying that housing is such a huge issue for so many of us. Unlike those born in the 50s, it is almost impossible to get a mortgage at a young age and many are left plummeted into the dangerous renting market, where landlords can use and abuse as they please. The fact that housing prices will be on the rise again due to Brexit, leaves me thinking of the possibilities of my future – am I ever going to be able to afford my own house?
Human rights – this is a big one that the Tories are sweeping under the carpet. They spoke briefly about amending the human rights act in their manifesto in 2017, however these rights are protected by EU law. With a no deal Brexit, it puts our civil liberties at risk; the chequers agreement stated that the government will attempt to preserve these rights where possible, however, the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights will be removed from U.K law. Going back to my hypothetical children… do I really want to raise children in a country that has no human rights to abide by? This whole proposal seems out of this world – are we living in the Victorian age again?
Anyone that has been to the hospital recently will see that our NHS is being propped up by thousands of amazing EU citizens that work in our healthcare system for all of us. If no deal is made for these citizens, what will happen to the already strained NHS? We can’t magic nurses and doctors out of nowhere. Two years ago, the government secretly removed the NHS bursary, meaning all medical staff now have to pay a minimum of £27,000 for their university fees, all whilst wondering why nobody wants to train to be in the medical profession. It seems ridiculous that after March, we may be having the army handing out medicine in the street. From someone that relies on a repeat prescription to live properly, the idea terrifies me.
I know that a second referendum is far-fetched and unlikely, but I am desperate for politicians to reach out to audiences like us and re-evaluate the situation the youth of Britain are in. A People’s Vote would be beneficial to all of us to ensure a deal if reached for when we leave the EU but only if it allows us 16-17 year olds to vote on how their future will be paved out.