The Brexit process has proven that young people like me were right to vote Remain – we need a final say

As a British woman of colour, it is clear to see how Brexit has effectively undermined any acceptance of multiculturalism the UK once encouraged, and instead led to toxic and hate-filled xenophobic rhetoric

Sophie Lau
Thursday 02 August 2018 09:00 BST
MP Sarah Woolaston calls for Brexit referendum to be re-run

In the first referendum, I voted Remain. If I were given the choice again, I would do the same. Seventy-one per cent of my peers (voters aged 18-24) voted to stay in the EU and that same 71 per cent were likely sorely disappointed when we saw the results the next morning in late June of 2016.

Two years later, that same majority of my peers, continues to be disappointed whenever we see any news coverage of Brexit. Earlier this month, for example, we had the high-profile resignations of both the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, and Brexit secretary, David Davis.

How are we, the people, supposed to have any faith in Brexit if the politicians who were staunchly in favour of it have now abandoned the cause? Furthermore, how are we supposed to have any faith in Brexit when Vote Leave unabashedly lied to the public throughout their campaign?

Now, I’m not an economist. Nor am I a politician. What I am is a triple honours languages student who is fully aware of what Brexit may mean for my job prospects. What I am is a child of two immigrant parents who is fully aware of what Brexit may mean for cultural diversity in the UK. But ultimately, what I am, is angry.

In 2016, I couldn’t articulate why I voted Remain. I didn’t feel qualified enough to argue the economic policies; I wasn’t knowledgable enough to argue the politics behind my decision. In some respects, that hasn’t changed. What has changed, is that because of our impending exit from the EU, very real consequences have begun to manifest themselves.

Next year, for example, I’m going to Toulouse with Erasmus Plus. My university has stated, however, that 2018/19 and 2019/20 may be the final years in which the programme will function as normal. Erasmus Plus has stated that they “note the government position is that UK participation in some EU programmes ‘promoting science, education and culture’ may continue”, but realistically, that offers no concrete information.

John Major it is the least well off who will suffer most post brexit

What does this mean for the students in the years below me? Will they, unable to do the exchange, have to pay exorbitant international student fees instead? Will programmes like these be restricted to wealthy students in the future? And, if you decide to pursue a languages degree without living or studying abroad, does your employability then take a nosedive? According to a study by Hostelworld, more than 80 per cent of employers say that travelling makes job candidates more employable.

With over 70 per cent of students last year graduating with a 2:1 or above, employers are now forced to look at more than just academic achievements. But with free travel stopping after Brexit, how many of us will be able to boost our CVs in this way? As economic forecasts, studies and politicians themselves have outlined, a post-Brexit Britain will inevitably hit the job market, and to be honest, I’m not looking forward to joining the quest for employment when that happens.

My identity as a British woman of colour also raises a whole new set of Brexit-related issues. Seventy-three per cent of black Britons voted Remain, as did 67 per cent of British Asians; we foresaw the negative effect Brexit would have on BAME people.

And if we consider graduate employment in the context of race, the consequences are a lot more severe. The unemployment rate for white graduates is 2.3 per cent, while for BAME graduates it’s 5.9 per cent – a figure that will undoubtedly rise in post-Brexit years.

There has also been a link between Brexit and an increase in hate crimes, most of which were racially motivated. In the month after the referendum, there were 6,000 reported incidents. By the six-month mark, more than a third of BAME people had witnessed or experienced racial abuse. Hate crimes rose by 25 per cent in Norfolk, my home county, by 60 per cent in Kent, and by 100 per cent in Dorset. Besides the fact that this is a shocking display of racial intolerance, Brexit has effectively undermined any acceptance of multiculturalism the UK once encouraged, and has instead bred toxic rhetoric of hatred and xenophobia.

The truth is, people have finally realised that neither a hard nor a soft Brexit will benefit us in the slightest. People younger than me who couldn’t vote two years ago are now eligible and want to have a say in the future of our country. After years of barely scratching the surface in terms of securing a remotely acceptable deal for the UK, this time, we could have the chance to do things right.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in