The EU referendum has divided the nation with a single vote.
Our country is already more isolated from the international community, and the recent surge in already abundant racially charged attacks and abuse is demonstrative of the anger, ignorance and fear that so much of the British public feel. The world just became a much scarier place. For young people and for Britain, the future is becoming increasingly unclear.
One of my good friends (who has asked to remain anonymous) has lived in this country since she was five, and despite not yet having UK citizenship she’s as northern as they come. But now, thanks to Thursday’s ‘Leave’ vote, it is becoming increasingly likely that she will be deported to Romania in the next few years; sent back to a country she doesn’t know, and where (in her own words) she “doesn’t belong”.
The national media’s manipulation of the facts and distortion of the truth, along with the nationalistic, moralistic and blind prejudice of so many voters in this country has led the 52% to potentially ruin a future that doesn’t belong to them.
Oli Coulson, a prominent campaigner for the Leave campaign and a member of the Young Conservative party, is of the opinion that the financial and social benefits of the split will be “highly beneficial” for the younger generation.
He believes that a “fairer immigration policy”, which will hopefully be implemented soon by either David Cameron or the next leader of the Conservative party, will allow for a controllable level of immigrants to enter the country based on their skills and what they can offer to the UK, to study and contribute to the economy through the planned points-based system.
It’s clear that the range of young people’s views on the EU is pretty diverse, to say the least. However, among the 16 and 17 year-olds I spoke to (and no doubt on a wider scale, judging from the opinions voiced on social media around the country), the unifying complaint was that our voices have remained unheard.
The fact that the momentous decision to leave the European Union was made without our input and without our consent not only undermines the core values of our democracy, it renders us politically disadvantaged in the face of a much more anti-European and disproportionately right-wing older generation which, unlike younger people, actually got to have a say.
The young people of today’s Britain are dejected, disillusioned and uninvolved; we are going to have to live with the consequences of a decision that the rest of the country made on our behalf, and we were denied the chance to do anything about it.
But as difficult as it might be to see, I do believe that with our frustration and the disempowerment that comes with the thoroughly undemocratic decision to not allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in a referendum that affects us so much, comes a kind of bittersweet optimism.
We live in a country where, according to a survey published by the Office of National Statistics, only 31% of 16-24 year-olds showed any interest in politics.
However, in the Scottish Independence referendum in 2014, the voter turnout for 16-17 year olds was incredibly high at 75% – not only are our actions totally contradicting the assumption that young people aren’t interested in politics, we are clearly participating in it when allowed.
And even when denied the opportunity to vote, we are still debating, questioning and forming opinions which, while they might be seen as irrelevant or redundant by our government, in my opinion are crucial to sustaining (or creating) a stronger, fairer, more tolerant Britain and a more democratic Europe.