Niklas McKerrell (17), one of NCB’s young research advisors, gives his take on the EU referendum.
An undemocratic democracy. This was the paradox I and many other young people across the UK faced early on Thursday morning as it became clear that the UK had chosen to leave the EU.
Whilst the process for this decision was unequivocally democratic and fair, young people were outraged at the result, a result which they had not voted for or desired. 75% of young people aged 18-24 who voted chose to remain in the EU, whilst those under-18 who couldn’t vote took to social media to express their desire to remain in the EU.
Compare this with the fact that 61% of over-65s had voted to leave the EU, it became clear that people much older than us had decided our futures for us - a future of adversity, uncertainty and division.
So why was a ‘remain’ result so important to young people? Economically, remaining in the EU secures our access to education and jobs in the future. Free movement between the 27 member states means we can learn, work and set up businesses in Barcelona, Paris, Marseille and Madrid. Closer to home, it ensures that large European firms which have benefited as a result of free movement and trade provided by EU membership continue to reside in the UK; companies whom we can work for.
Culturally, free movement has attracted people of hundreds of different cultures and nationalities, which have helped to shape the areas we live in and who we are as people. In London alone, there are over 270 nationalities and over 300 languages spoken. As a result, young people become well-rounded, having the opportunity to encounter new languages, cultures and food, creating a generation of young people who are more open-minded and diverse.
Finally, choosing remain represents unity. Young people in the UK have been responsible for spearheading many campaigns of ‘togetherness’- from Gay Pride movements to the Refugee Welcome March - and a choice to leave the EU would have gone against the ideology of young people that these campaigns have proven; coming together is always a better alternative to staying apart.
Despite the anger, frustration and hopelessness that many young people across the UK have felt because of the result, I think that it is important to take some hope from the campaign as a whole. The fact that the young people who voted, voted unanimously for an outcome that represents progression, unity and forward-thinking suggests the capability of our generation as a whole not to succumb to the scaremongering and lying tactics of politicians, and decide our own futures. When this generation comes of age and replaces the positions of these same politicians, rather than mimicking their own tactics of scaremongering and deceit, I believe that the politicians of our generation will reflect the progressiveness that we have shown in this referendum.
I hope that this prospect will inspire many who are tired and dismayed by the current state of UK politics on all sides. It is important to look to the future, rather than dwell on the shortcomings of the past.