We young people did not vote for Brexit and we won't let the Tories hijack our future

If you go ahead with decimating our future, you will have to live with the consequences. If Brexit isn’t stopped, the generational chasm created by Brexit will come to define our modern democracy

Lara Spirit
Sunday 11 February 2018 11:44
Comments
Anti-Brexit protest in wet weather outside Parliament

There was something refreshing about former education secretary Justine Greening’s recent warning to her Tory colleagues that they have a duty to ensure the Brexit deal is "sustainable and works for" young people. "You can’t do Brexit to young people," she said, "you’ve got to do it with young people. That’s not a policy suggestion, it’s a simple fact."

It is indeed refreshing to hear a politician – and a Conservative one at that – speak of concern for young people. But such concern is misguided.

Brexit is a total negation of the will of young people. Journalist Philip Stephens was among those to recently remind us that most MPs in the House of Commons consider Brexit an act of self-mutilation. And yet they will vote against their judgment because "the referendum, with its narrow majority for leave, has been invested with an absurd, almost mythical status". Let no one dare question the "will of the people".

Poll shows Britons don't understand what Theresa May wants from Brexit

The time has come for Westminster to take some responsibility for this disaster: if you go ahead with decimating our future, you will have to live with the consequences. If it isn’t stopped, the generational chasm created by Brexit will come to define our modern democracy.

What did Greening really mean when she spoke of a sustainable Brexit for young people? With the leaked impact reports of last week predicting what, really, we already knew (Brexit will hurt our economy – slowing national growth by up to 8 per cent), how is the government planning on securing a deal which compensates us for a Brexit? Do they really expect us to accept a policy which will make it harder to go to university, harder to get a job, harder to start a family and harder to buy a house?

The Tory party’s position is untenable and out of touch. Greening’s endeavour to bring young voices into the fold is commendable. But it is not enough. Her party has been hijacked by a group of extremists who, if they have it their way, will set Britain further down its current isolationist path. The youth vote of today is different, both from Greening’s and her party’s outlook. We are outward facing – 73 per cent voted to remain – and we wholeheartedly reject the reactionary ideology which guides this government.

We are united around a central strategy of pushing Jeremy Corbyn off the fence on Brexit: for too long the Labour party have benefited from a policy of cynical obfuscation. Not only that, but a recent poll found that they stand to gain considerably if they come down behind an anti-Brexit position. Among the young, just 28 per cent say they would support a pro-Brexit Labour party. This almost doubles to 46 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds if the party’s policy is changed to anti-Brexit. Among the under 40s, support for Labour drops from 73 per cent to 39 per cent if they maintain their current stance on Brexit.

To be sure, stopping Brexit can’t be an end in itself. This country needs to come together around a new grand social pact that will reconcile the cities and the countryside, the North with the South, and the privileged few with the vast numbers of people who have for too long been neglected by both New Labour and Conservative governments. In the coming weeks and months, we will travel around the country, listening to people and forming our plan.

Last year, we found inspiration in two places: the En Marche! movement in France and the campaign for same sex marriage in Ireland, both of whom we are working with closely. In these campaigns, the youth were vociferous. And in both they made a decisive impact on the result. We will channel the anger of Britain’s young in a similar way here. Justine Greening is right: Brexit cannot be done without young people. But it cannot be done with them either.

Lara Spirit is a co-founder of Our Future, Our Choice! (@ofocBrexit), a progressive youth movement seeking to democratically stop Brexit

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

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

Comments

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