The transition of Labour’s position from a “jobs first Brexit” to being in favour of a second referendum was long and arduous. Hard won by many people, predominantly led by young activists, last year at Labour conference.
This year, young activists like me hope we can win another victory – shifting Labour’s position to promise to campaign to stay in the European Union. We know now, that after three years of trying, a Brexit that can be agreed on by Parliament and meets the promises made in 2016 is non-existent. It is unachievable. For three years the idea that there can be a ‘good Brexit deal’ has been proven time and time again to be a complete falsehood, sold to us by right wing politicians for nothing other than their own gain. Labour should not and cannot pretend otherwise – the best deal we could have is the one we currently have.
For many Labour members, like myself, Jeremy Corbyn’s most recent comments were bittersweet. Clearly, Labour’s leader committing to a People’s Vote in any circumstances is a good thing, and shows the distance travelled in just 12 months.
But as always, you often learn the most from what is not said, rather than what is. Jeremy continues to refuse to confirm whether he would campaign to stay in the European Union in a confirmatory referendum, and his latest article, published in the Guardian, was full of hints that he might stay neutral in such a vote.
This would be a huge blow for young Labour activists. Young people, more than ever, need Labour to pledge to campaign for remain.
Over 70% of young people voted to stay in the EU in 2016 – and over 80% of those enfranchised since, like me, would vote to remain if given the chance. That majority is astounding and should not be ignored.
For Labour to continue to be the party of young people, they need to be on our side. Our side is firmly in favour of a People’s Vote in which we campaign to remain.
We are sick of the chaos. We are sick of watching other issues that matter to us – like education, the mental health crisis, tackling climate change – pushed under the rug whilst the Brexit mess continues. We want to get on with our future, a future that will put us in the best possible position to live our lives fully and that future is within the EU. That future is with the freedom to live, love, work, and study in 27 EU countries. With EU nationals as our friends, family, and neighbours.
Young people do not want to be isolated. We do not want any form of Brexit. It is a right-wing project pursued by Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, and Jacob Rees-Mogg that is completely at odds with our values, and everything we stand for as democratic socialists.
Not only do the majority of young people back remain, but the majority of Labour members and voters back remain. Corbyn remaining neutral in a referendum is not representative of his party nor those who vote for him.
Now more than ever, we can see Brexit for the destructive Tory project that it is. It has already torn apart their party, we cannot let it do the same to ours, for the sake of everyone who depends on us to represent them.
This is why this Labour conference I and other young activists will be campaigning alongside MPs like John McDonnell and Diane Abbott for Labour to unequivocally support a People’s Vote, and to come out clearly for staying in the European Union. It’s why FFS have relaunched their app after it was downloaded and used by thousands of people last to successfully help to shift Labour’s position towards a People’s Vote last year.
Labour says they are proud to be the party that stands up for young people - if Corbyn stays neutral in a People’s Vote, he will be missing the chance to prove it.
Kira Lewis is a Labour activist and campaigner with For our Future’s Sake (FFS), a youth and student-led anti-Brexit group.