Friday, 24 June 2016

The Aftermath

So it has happened.

David Cameron's attempts to appease some of his own party and growing elements of the right-wing has resulted in a shock victory for leave, and over the next two years the UK (what will be left of it) will leave the EU.

Nicola Sturgeon (First minister of Scotland) has called for a Second Independence Referendum. Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland have called for a poll on a united Ireland. Both countries overwhelmingly voted Remain, and yet face being unwillingly dragged out of the EU unless they remove themselves from the UK. Scotland is likely to leave the UK, Northern Ireland, less likely.

Most surprisingly, Wales, an overall net beneficiary from the EU, has voted overwhelmingly to reject their ties with Brussels.

There have been a lot of surprises over the last 24 hours.

Even general racist idiot Donald Trump has got in on the action, saying he was pleased for the UK. If that's not death's kiss, what is?

In a survey conducted by YouGov at 10PM on the eve of the results, 75% of 18-24 year olds stated they were going to vote Remain. Compare that to 61% of 65+ year olds, who wanted to leave the EU. There is an age divide. A clear age divide. One that more and more young people are becoming aware of.

Now I'm not going to give you my personal arguments for Remain, I've done that, and I'm blue in the face and bored of doing it. I'm not going to plead the millennial argument; "BABY BOOMERS HAVE SHAFTED US AND NOW THEY'VE VOTED EXIT IT'S ALL THEIR FAULT"- although a lot of my friends would agree with that sentiment.

- I am arguing that allowing 16 year olds the vote would have been the fairest thing to do in this referendum

Think logically about this for a second.

Let's look 20 years ahead.

Post-EU UK does brilliantly, we move from strength to strength as a united collection of countries as the UK, we negotiate good trade deals with major EU trading partners, the money we spend on the EU is put towards the NHS, and suddenly everything is wonderful. The far-right doesn't rise across Europe, spreading hate wherever they go. That sort of thing. I'm optimistic, clearly. Pensioners everywhere will be looking on from wherever we go when we die self-congratulatory, patting their backs over the wise decision they helped the country make on the 23rd of July 2016.

But just for a minute, say it doesn't. Say it does really badly. Worst-case scenario - Scotland and Northern Ireland leave, major EU trading partners won't touch us with a bargepole, the money we spend on the EU is found out to be much more minimal than we thought, the pound becomes hugely devalued, and the far-right do their thing in European countries and say, France and Austria leave the EU too.

Pensioners everywhere who voted on the 23rd of July 2016 won't be around to witness the full extent of a decision they helped push through.

The 18-24 year olds will be. The 56% of quoted 25-49 year olds who also wanted to Remain will be.

And those between 16-18 will be also. They'll bear the brunt of a decision that they had no part in.

The typical argument goes something along the lines of "16 year olds can join the army but not vote on the politicians who decide who they will fight against". That's a pretty solid argument. But there is very little political education among the under 18s, hell, among the under 25s.

Which brings me on to my second point. It's not a long one.

Why isn't there compulsory political education in secondary schools? Why do we view the democratic system that our kids will grow up to be a part of as so dangerous for them to learn about? It's such a short point because it's so blindingly obvious. We as a team at the British Youth Council are battling for it. Campaigns by CitizensUK are also fighting to make it a reality. Carwyn Jones promised in Wales (as it already is in Scotland) that young people would get the vote in his manifesto. But more needs to be done.

Unfortunately it's too late for 16-18 year olds. If the gamble of leaving the EU doesn't come off, they will be, like my age bracket, up the creek without a proverbial leg to stand on. Or something like that.

I'm joking because if I didn't I'd cry.


  1. When nobody has a voice, everyone shouts. When nobody understands, everyone fights their own corner. Let's hope that the Brave New World that is approaching will be characterised by listening and by a corporate wisdom that sees how much we need one another.
    However if nationalism and xenophobia continue to develop (not a characteristic of all Brexit campaigners by any means, I hasten to add!) we may well end up deaf to any suffering but our own, and a corporate self serving wisdom.
    Then wonder why we have lost our place and our voice in the wider community of Nations.

  2. Well put Joe. I'd already thought about why we don't educate our kids about the democratic process. It comes down to the fact that, if people don't understand the facts of an argument, they will default to the emotions it evinces within them, which are always a much more short term and selfish result.