With this week marking one year until Britain officially leaves the EU, HuffPost is running a series of blogs answering big questions still left unanswered about our Brexit future. Today, OFOC! co-president Will Dry writes on whether young people will be listened to on Brexit. Follow the series on #BrexitFuture
Theresa May will only make one good speech as Prime Minister, and it will have been her first. It appeared, on the steps of Downing Street, that she was aware of all of the burning injustices that had dogged the country in the decade preceding the Brexit vote. She spoke of the “division and unfairness” between a “prosperous older generation and a struggling younger generation.” Her analysis was as accurate as her omniscience’s was short lived. It quickly transpired that we had mistaken our hopes - a queen of the Downtrodden - for someone more akin to a humble villager experiencing a moment of enlightenment.
The government has done little to extinguish any of the burning injustices May identified, but on no issue has it done less than that of intergenerational unfairness. It has been entirely ignored. David Willetts wrote that the millennial generation entering work have earned £8,000 less during their 20s than the generation before them, stuck in a “low mobility, low training jobs market.” The government has no serious policy to tackle this. Nor has it suggested a serious programme to sort out a housing market which excludes more young people by the day. In the 1990s, over half of 25-34s owned a home, whilst now barely a quarter do. Their suggestions for post-16 education are no better. On tuition fees, the current plan seems to be tinkering in a regressive direction. But most shockingly, the government has shown no energy, nor even a response, to fact that the number of apprentices have been falling over the last year, as have opportunities for the half of young people who do not go to university.
Our generation’s inheritance is already shaping up to be one of the worst of any generation in peacetime history. In this light, Brexit is, as Alison McGovern so perfectly put it, “the shit cherry on the shit icing on the shit cake” - a cake the young have no intention of meekly swallowing. It will deprive us of opportunities left, right, and centre. We will suddenly lose the ability to live, work, and travel in twenty seven other countries. We will lose the opportunity to lead in the world on issues that we care about, like climate change and ensuring the 1% play by the same rules as everyone else. We will lose the ability to get a job or apprenticeship in one the thousands of companies only here because of our frictionless access to the largest marketplace in the world. We also sense, more acutely than any other generation, the looming deforestation of experiences: trips and travels no longer made, friendships no longer struck, marriages and children that never will be. Such prospects have disappeared into thin air because we are choosing to hoist barriers between ourselves and our closest friends and allies in the world.
When almost an entire generation looks with trepidation at how its future is being handled, the government should be listening. Yet it is not. The initial red lines were drawn by Paul Dacre and Jacob Rees Mogg - and any compromises that have followed have been motivated by the requirement to adhere to reality, not a desire for cohesion and unity. We have been denied a platform in the Brexit debate for too long.
It is time we built our own platform. That is why OFOC! will be hosting, in cooperation with other youth groups, an event inviting a young representative from all regions of the United Kingdom to discuss Brexit. We will be extending invitations to, among many others, Theresa May, David Davis, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove - the people responsible for delivering and shaping the Brexit debate have a responsibility to sit down and discuss this issue with young people. The invitations are in the post - as I hope the return RSVPs will be soon.
Will Dry is Co-President of OFOC!