Time: Two days prior to the referendum. Location: A green spot in the city.
“It would have been interesting if the majority voted leave”, one said to the other, but neither of us thought Britain was heading for Brexit.
We weren’t the only ones, but since the end of June 2016, David Cameron has resigned, and Theresa May is Britain’s new prime minister. Her job is to lead Britain out of a 43-year old relationship with the European Union, and into the unknown future as a middle aged singleton who can no longer be part of The European Single Market. Who is going to be the UK’s new mate? How will the referendum affect the British? We have talked to a few young voters to figure out what their views are.
The decision made by the British people to leave the European union is the most painful political procedure I’ve ever had to witness, and that’s including Trumps presidential campaign!
An unexpected turn of events?
Elliot Holman (25) doesn’t hold back when he is describing the Brexit process:
“The decision made by the British people to leave the European union is the most painful political procedure I’ve ever had to witness, and that’s including Trumps presidential campaign!”
Chantelle Anne Quinlan, a 25 year-old teacher who lives in Brighton, also opposes the majority view: “I couldn’t see that people in this country were that stupid and naive. How wrong was I?”
David Evans (22) tells us he is surprised and disappointed, even though he didn’t vote himself: “I know that’s ridiculous given how strongly remain I am. My excuse is I was out of the country and didn’t have time to set up a proxy, but the truth is I just didn’t believe leave could win.”
We want to know how the UK ended up here, and why most of our interviewees seem so surprised and dissatisfied.
How did you experience the Brexit debate?
32 year old David McPhee tells us he is ashamed by both leave-supporters and remain-supporters: ”It was quite obvious that neither side on this debate really understood how to galvanize an audience through hope nor possibility, so what we got was fear mongering, half-truths, downright lies and a large spoonful of xenophobia. From both sides.”
Edward Jones (20) agrees: “The media in Britain during the period post and pre referendum have been horribly false and misleading, and I personally feel that many people were not informed or hugely misled on both sides of the fence.”
Evans believe people didn’t take the debate seriously, even though they probably should: “The leave campaign was utterly stupid – spouting nonsense about immigration, making empty promises and fear mongering some lunacy about an EU dictatorship. The campaign’s stupidity was also its greatest strength as no one thought it could possibly win, a lot of people seemingly decided to throw their vote on it in protest of our current government.”
McPhee also points out that immigration and globalization were important issues in the debate: ”Many people feel left behind in the globalized world we live in today, and instead of helping them – and helping them to understand the reality of migration – politicians have decided it was easier to blame immigrants and the poor.”
What consequences do you think the leave vote will have in the future?
McPhee fears that big companies will move to other European countries, and that Britain will loose important workplaces.
Holman also believes the leave vote won’t go unnoticed in the future: “It not only will have a profound impact on the economy, international relations and our politics for years to come. But it will probably mark the end of the sovereign state. As Scotland will now almost certainly become an intendant nation in a bid to undo the damage caused by the English majority, and apply to re-join the EU.”
Quinlan believes the decision to leave the EU will damage the British economy, and that this will have an impact on her life in the sense that it will be more difficult to buy a house and repay a mortgage. She believes the future looked brighter before the referendum: ”Our prospects for the future looked great. As an aging population we are expending a large amount on pensions and the state requires young migrant workers to come in and work and pay towards taxes. The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it. To make our country better we need to stay in the EU and just make the necessary changes. Not cut ourselves off completely.”
The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it.
The economy isn’t the only thing at stake. The turnout of the Brexit vote represents a population torn in two. Evans emphasizes the “sense of separation that comes with such a divided vote”, and he tells us “there are two countries within Britain right now, one European and the other not. It’s this feeling and the way certain parts of the UK voted that leave many citizens, including myself, fearing a divided kingdom.” Holman adds to this: ”It feels like a condemnation of the young by the old, of the open by the ignorant and most unpalatable of all. As a nation we’re now painfully aware of a racist undercurrent. I’ve never been ashamed of my country before now.”
There’s always a way?
It might not seem like it, but there are young voters who are still optimistic. Edward Jones is one of them: “I think that things are going to be dark for a while but over time things will get better. No one knows what the future holds. Whatever comes next good or bad we are a strong nation and we will just have to take it in our stride.”
He understands why some people decided to leave the EU: ”The general statistic is that the elder generations voted to leave and many people say they have forsaken the younger generations. I don’t quite believe this myself. After speaking with many family friends and relatives they told me why they voted to leave and I agree. They voted to join the EU many years ago to be a trade union, however over time a governmental body was introduced and that’s not what the people signed up for. These rules and laws were opposed on us and we lost our sovereignty. So by leaving in some way we took back our control and our rights. Many young people don’t realise what the EU did back when we first joined how it destroyed our fishing, coal, steel and many other industries, these industries fuelled a lot of the economy in the north and is most likely to blame why northern England voted to leave.”
Average Joe and plain Jane
Even though we have talked to one leave-supporter, Jones doesn’t represent most young voters. Average Joe and plain Jane do not prefer Brexit – young voters wanted Brexit the least. A survey conducted by YouGov.co.uk supports this statement. Among people between 18 and 24 years old, a little over 70 percent of them supported the remain side before the election. This might explain why Quinlan ended the interview with us the way she did: “I am very hopeful that someone will find a legal reason why we cannot leave the EU and I don’t have to worry anymore.”