I’m 18 and I couldn’t vote in the EU referendum. I grew up with an Italian mother and a British father, and it has been my father as much as my mother who has always spoken of the joys of being European. I’ve always aligned myself with being European more than just being either British or Italian. Considering I wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for freedom of movement bringing my parents together, a huge part of my essence is tied up in Europe – so the idea of leaving the EU has been a body shock for me.
I didn’t think my country would vote to leave a group which has given us so much since we joined in 1973. Being a member of the EU makes a country’s culture more prosperous: freedom of movement and the single market promote a global outlook, multiculturalism and open-mindedness, all of which are essential qualities in modern society, considering our continent’s history.
The Treaty of Paris, signed in 1951, sought to reconstruct the economies of the European continent, prevent war and ensure peace throughout Europe after the atrocities of World War II. Now, in an era when the threat of terrorism has never been higher, I believe it is important to maintain diplomatic stability by coming together and embracing unity. Yes, the EU isn’t perfect, but isn’t it best to reform it from within rather than abandoning a strong relationship which has lasted over 40 years?
Brexit will impact my future to such a large extent that I feel part of my future has been been taken away from me. Many young people who, like myself, weren’t eligible to vote at the time of the referendum feel they are being stripped of their European citizenship without having had a say in the matter. It’s deeply frustrating when European citizenship is all they’ve ever known – now they will no longer have access to the multitude of opportunities that membership has to offer. I fear that only when Brexit is completed will people, especially young people, realise all the benefits that EU membership held. and that their lives will be infinitely poorer (the least of which will be monetarily).
As a member of the EU, the UK has an input in EU legislation. It is a rule maker, not just a rule taker. It is not passive. It enjoys all the benefits membership offers and, with its strong voice, has the power to change policy and refuse to adopt others. In 1992, we opted not to join the Euro via the Maastricht Treaty, and we must not forget we are also one of only two countries which have not signed up to the Schengen Agreement.
The core Leave campaign argument was that leaving the EU would allow us to ‘take back control’. This phrase became pervasive for its use in the Brexit-support media and was used as a form of fear-mongering, especially to stir up distrust and resentment towards foreigners and the EU. However, did news outlets inform the public that the UK has its own immigration laws separate from the European Union? We have previously chosen not to use them with regards to the EU, but stepped up and enforced them harshly with regards to the rest of the world.
Look at May’s ‘hostile environment policy’, created while the PM headed up the Home Office, for example, which led to the wrongful deportation of members of Windrush generation and demonised innocent British citizens. We’ve always had the powers and Mrs May knows it - but god save any EU citizens living here after Brexit if her form of decency and competence in this regard is anything to go by.
May’s deal seems to please no one, neither the Remainers nor the Brexiteers. This deal will have us abiding by EU laws without having a say on them – and doesn’t that defeat the point of ‘taking back control’? When we’re no longer a member it will be important to maintain a strong relationship with the EU... but we know it’ll never be as strong as it is now as a part of it.
Now that people have a better idea of what Brexit means, I believe we should have a People’s Vote on the final deal - a vote which will allow the public to have a say on what ‘leaving the European Union’ actually entails, with the option of remaining in the EU. The European Court of Justice has just recently ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 and put a stop to Brexit.
And didn’t David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary and arch Brexiteer, himself once say: ‘if democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy’?
I feel more young people should be encouraged to participate in the debate and raise their concerns about Brexit. A lot of my peers feel they aren’t being listened to and seem to be convinced that nothing can be done to stop this horrendous mess. However, if people from all generations unite and fight to have their voices heard by writing to their MPs, asking questions, participating in marches and advocating for what they believe in, we can hopefully dictate our future through a second vote.
Nina White is a student and aspiring lawyer