I am a proud student activist, socialist and trade unionist. It is because of those reasons, not despite them, that I supported a statement – agreed by Labour Students’ National Committee – to back a People’s Vote.
A large number of my friends at university make up the 1.5 million young people who could not vote in 2016, and never gave their consent to leave the European Union. Those students who did have the opportunity to vote, backed Remain – standing up against a Leave campaign built on lies, scare mongering and far-right rhetoric. Now, the truth about Brexit is clear.
Britain is facing either a hard-Brexit or no deal at all. The economy, Irish border, rights of EU citizens here, workers’ rights, and the freedom to travel and study abroad all remain at risk.
As a passionate socialist and a young carer, I cannot stand by while to Tories are ruining this country. Tory austerity since 2010, has decimated communities across this country, particularly in the North East, where I grew up. It has also made life so much harder for students – with fees and rents rising while government support is slashed. But the solution to this is not Brexit: it is a radical Labour government inside the European Union.
Jeremy Corbyn’s 2017 manifesto represented hope for young people like me, offering a radical alternative to build a fairer and more prosperous society, for the many, not the few. More well-paid jobs, investing in our regions and tackling the housing crisis: Labour can rebuild Britain. But this vision of investment and prosperity would be undermined by a Tory Brexit, which will damage our economy and further ruin the lives of the most vulnerable in society.
And let’s be clear. Labour cannot deliver its radical vision for society under any form of Brexit, even if in Government. You cannot invest in public services if the economy is in a nose dive, nor build a more tolerant society whilst capitulating to the far right.
I don’t believe the EU is perfect, but what is the alternative? I trust the EU to safeguard my rights as a student worker more than I do Jacob-Rees Mogg. I trust the EU to safeguard environmental standards more than I do Michael Gove. I trust the EU to safeguard food standards more than I do Liam Fox. And I trust the EU to protect our international interests more than I do Donald Trump.
It’s clear that our values as Labour members, students and trade unionists align with those of a People’s Vote. And the national committee are representative of our members - Labour supporters overwhelmingly back a People’s Vote, as do students and young people. As trade unions such as the TSSA, Royal College of Nursing and the GMB have argued, a public vote on the final deal follows the principle of ratifying negotiated on behalf of their members.
Brexit is bad for students and it is bad for Britain. I am determined to fight for my generation’s voice and protect my generation’s future: our job prospects, freedom to travel and outward-looking place in the world. A radical Labour Government will achieve most if we are inside the European Union, but if only the people, not politicians, take charge.
Ellie James represents Yorkshire & the Humber on Labour Students National Committee