Image: Flickr - Jeremy Segrott

“This whole business was in fact nonsense”: Students on a second Brexit referendum

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Last summer thousands of us were left in disarray after the chilling results of the Brexit vote were announced. We were going to leave the EU, and I, for one, was pretty distraught about it. Throughout the entire referendum campaign I was certain that Remain would win, and a few months down the line we would look back and laugh about how silly everyone was for even talking about a referendum.

Everywhere I turned, people were voting to remain. My social media feeds were full of Remain posts being shared, and the people in my seminars and my circle of friends were all convinced this would be the result. We would remain in the EU and that would be that. I have since realised that this is because of the demographic of people I was surrounded by.

Every person I discussed the vote with was young, educated, motivated by that education and their career prospects, and most importantly, tolerant. Brexit hit students like a slap in the face, because we had failed to see that our vote would be dwarfed by older people who clearly did not share our views.

Everywhere I turned, people were voting to remain. My social media feeds were full of Remain posts being shared

Students across the country clearly felt the same as the people I noticed in daily life – they were angry. According to a survey by the National Union of Students, 63 per cent of students asked agreed that there should be a second referendum. This comes after campaigning from the Liberal Democrats for the terms of Brexit to be put to the people in the form of a second referendum, likely in 2019.

The trigger has already been pulled by Theresa May invoking Article 50 on March 29th, and a second referendum might just be the bulletproof vest we need to soften the blow. Being able to vote on the terms of our exit from the European Union would give us young people, whose voices have been drowned out by a generation who, frankly, are not going to be affected by their choice in the long run, a say in our own future. By ignoring the wishes of students and refusing calls for a second referendum, the government has once again succeeded in alienating millennials and remaining ignorant to our needs.

A second referendum might just be the bulletproof vest we need to soften the blow

It seems like an action devoid of sense to pursue a policy which was voted for by the old who will not have to experience the long-term consequences of their choice. What’s done is done, and Brexit can certainly not be undone; there is no potential for quashing tensions between Europe and the UK now, especially not by the PM no-one even voted for, Theresa May. That being said, I believe we would benefit from a second referendum where we could choose the terms of our ungracious departure from the EU, not least because it would show respect to the opinions of 48% of the population who realised that this whole business was in fact nonsense.

I can’t help but think that Scotland had the right idea by including 16 and 17 year olds in the 2014 Scottish Referendum. Inviting the future of your country to take part in a vote that will affect them isn’t just smart, it’s fair. While we’re at it, uninviting older members of the public from voting might be wise as well. I don’t think that it’s too radical to stop people from voting if it is clear that the effects of Britain departing from the EU won’t be felt by them.

There is no potential for quashing tensions between Europe and the UK now, especially not by the PM no-one even voted for, Theresa May

It’s difficult to describe how heart-breaking it was to hear my Grandma explaining on the phone how happy she was that we were going to be leaving. I was simultaneously angry and incredulous, particularly at her reasoning that she had experienced how good it was being in the UK before we were part of the EU; Hearing her talking about those times like they were the good old days just made me realise how naïve she was. This is 2017, not 1973, things have changed. Continuing full-steam ahead with a policy that doesn’t suit the tolerance, openness, awareness and increased education of today’s youth seems like an incredibly narrow-minded decision.

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Comments (3)

  • David Fairclough

    Yes, I agree with every (well almost) word you say.Many old people may not even be here when the uk leaves the EU to rot away. However, not all older people had this stupid, uneducated outlook, I am almost 60 and am very very much remain for the young, middle aged and old. We are mot the same country that we were half a century ago but blind eyes don’t see

  • I must say it’s interesting to see how different the views of the ‘young’ millennials differ from the views of an ‘old’ millennial (i.e. me!). Although this is a short blog there are the grains of some intelligent observations. Sadly the good aspects are easily drowned out by the venom spouted at an older generation which put forward an alternative view. Two particular quotes jumped out at me:

    “Everywhere I turned, people were voting to remain. My social media feeds were full of Remain posts being shared, and the people in my seminars and my circle of friends were all convinced this would be the result” – that’s almost the definition of an echo chamber. You should try to mingle with people from different backgrounds. You may not agree with their views but at least you could come to realise there are valid viewpoints other than your own. Hopefully joining the workforce in the future will help with this.

    “While we’re at it, uninviting older members of the public from voting might be wise as well.” – really? Think about what you wrote there. You really want to say to people who have lived and worked for this country, some of whom fought to ensure it was a demoncracy, fought for abortion rights and against the criminalisation of being gay, paid taxes to maintain education and the NHS, raised the people who form Gen X and still financially support Millennials, that their votes don’t count? Every totalitarian dictator would be proud of you. You could go further and implement a Logan’s Run style society. You could also bring about Soylent Green so that world hunger could also be resolved. You should make yourself aware of the quote “Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” By that standard you have failed to be civilised (I refuse to use the Amercianised spelling). I refer you to my first point that you need to leave your echo chamber and mingle with people from different backgrounds. Background in that context could well mean the generation a person was born into.

  • Joseph Green

    Good article. But you really need to get out more.

    Students at universities are trapped in a vicious echo-chamber where they hear their views only. This magnifies their disbelief and hatred for those whose opinions vary from their own.

    There are clear arguments both ways, and it’s unfortunate that you’ve come to the conclusion that your own grandmother is naive. It’s a classic example of how certain students haven’t yet come to terms with diversity of opinion.

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