With the next round of Brexit arguments only ever 24 hours away, teenager Harry Bradshaw makes a personal plea for the hopes and dreams of young people not to be lost in the political maelstrom
Under 25 voters were twice as likely to vote Remain in the 2016 EU referendum.This resounding majority represented a Europhilic plea; we align with the European Union’s values, and we consider ourselves safer within it.
Reasons varied. Some saw the self-proclaimed leaders of the Leave side using often prejudiced rhetoric and viewed it as a threat to the globally-connected ideas of society that they had been brought up with.
Others understood the age-old problem of undemocratic, costly EU membership, but believed it to be outweighed by the ability to work and study outside our borders with an ease unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Regardless, it is now 2018 and the verdict of older generations in that referendum means Brexit is most likely to be the path we take.
As one of many young Remainers back then, I feared that valuable beneficiaries of being an EU member would be taken from me and other young Britons.
Having been brought up with a European Health Insurance Card, the ability to access health care on holiday was something I took for granted until then.
I thought I’d lost the opportunity to participate in a student exchange with another EU citizen through the Erasmus programme, or to volunteer abroad with the European Voluntary Service, which networks young people to thousands of charities across the world.
These qualms have fluctuated over the past year as power has been passed around the Conservative Party with every speech, every resignation, every stage of the negotiations, as Europhiles and Eurosceptics alike share the upper tiers of government and persuade the Prime Minister to turn her head in their direction.
It is easy for politicians to get caught up in the Westminster drama, forgetting who they are actually supposed to be catering for.
My age group is particularly at threat of falling off the agenda, with both the enormous turn-out of over-50s at elections and the inability of 16 and 17-year olds to vote seeming to diminish our importance to the government. One could easily associate this unimportance with the introduction of tuition fees, immediately putting students in tens of thousands pounds of debt, legally unable to fund the cost with a full-time wage beforehand. It could be why the legalisation of cannabis is not of significance to either major party despite the drug’s innocence in comparison to alcohol and tobacco, or why the country adopted a linear exam system in education that is utterly despised by those actually taking it.
This country’s record of forgetting our young people cannot be replicated in the most consequential national decision of our times- one with impacts that will outlive many of those who voted to take us out of the European Union. Just as the electoral voices of the 48 per cent who voted to Remain cannot fall on deaf ears, neither can the proportion of young people within that who will be affected the longest by it.
‘The Better Brexit for Young People’ report by the London School of Economics surveyed thousands of the overlooked youth, and found that their three priorities were; retaining freedom of movement, EU membership benefits and inclusion of youth voices in the negotiations.
Even within these demands, there are compromises to be made so we deliver on the will of the majority and end EU membership in its current form, but it is clear that future generations want both personal and political participation in Europe.
It is often forgotten that in the weeks following the referendum, doubters questioned the ability of any potential government to negotiate Brexit, yet I honestly believe that we are at the stage of establishing a future relationship with the EU that is very much in the interest of younger demographics through the Theresa May’s Chequers Agreement.
The deal calms my personal fears by promising to retain European Health Insurance, while Erasmus is retained in accordance with young people’s desire to preserve the faultless parts of EU membership. Furthermore, Chequers opens up the possibility of a ‘youth mobility scheme’, allowing 18 to 30-year olds the ability to live in an EU country for up to two years with a temporary visa.
Boris Johnson and David Davis may have thrown their toys out of the pram at May’s proposal, but their ignorance to any potential benefit of a relationship with our neighbours deems their opinions useless in these negotiations.
I see the government’s stance to be the greatest possible compromise for a country divided by age as much as it is by Europe, granting young people rewarding opportunities while giving their future businesses a wider world to prosper within.
For young Remainers, Brexit can be a bitter pill to swallow considering that on the whole, we were vastly opposed to it. We can only hope that the EU recognises the value of British involvement in the projects mentioned and accepts what has been put forward.
As in every redundancy package, the employer is only willing to give so much away, thus our negotiating position can only be realistic and representative of what the whole British population want, and I feel like this agreement does that with young people’s interests finally in consideration.
* Harry Bradshaw is 16 years old and lives in Catforth. He is a student at Runshaw College with a keen interest in politics. To read more from Harry, go to www.teentakesonpolitics.co.uk