Brexit: 16-17 year olds have been denied having a say on their future

Parliament Square London. 2nd July 2016. Protest against the result of the EU referendum. Photo: Sam Chipman

Along with the majority of the youthful population, I was a strong remain campaigner and this was likely best highlighted by the transformation of my social media accounts: rather than just simply reflecting on the fashion industry, they now reflect heavily on current affairs and politics too. Friday 24th June was without a doubt been a devastating and upsetting day, after the shock result we received in the early morning.

Despite not necessarily agreeing with the outcome, I guess we could say that this is the beauty of politics and democracy. We have almost built this ‘community’ of people who desired to remain within the EU and as difficult as this sounds, it is now important for us to see this as a positive result and work together – there is no turning back. Honestly, I have never seen our youth as interested in politics, we are an educated generation and this is proven by the significant amount of us who have shown their interest in such an important event.

‘I think that we should have been allowed to vote because we are the generation that is essentially going to be running this country, so we should have a say on how certain things are going to affect us in the future.’ – Jasmine Alexander

Furthermore, on Thursday 23rd June, 75% of 18-24-year-olds voted to remain within the EU, thereby highlighting that the Brexit result was highly fluctuated by the over 60s demographic. There were a lot of controversies caused by this and even before the vote, a petition was created whereby over 17,000 people proposed for the younger generation to be able to contribute. In the 2014 Scottish referendum, there was also a 75% turnout of voters aged between 16-17-year-olds, compared to 54% between 18-24-year-olds indicating that the youth wanted to have a voice in the future of their country. If 16-17-year-olds were not given the liberty to cast their vote, then how does the country expect us to accept the outcome?

The EU offers young people in the UK the opportunity to study, easily travel and work abroad. However, the outcome is likely to have an enormous impact on our youth in particular; university fees are already significantly high at £9,000 per annum. Therefore, if we had remained within the EU, there would have been easier access for the youth to travel to countries such as Spain who have considerably low fees ranging between £400-£1000 per annum. Additionally, considering the outcome is highly likely to affect our generation, would it not have been a good idea to allow 16-17-year-olds to cast their votes? It is evident that the turnout for the Scottish referendum was 21% greater than the 18-24-year-olds so why did the youth not have a say?

‘Not being able to vote in the referendum has been incredibly frustrating, considering the gravity of the situation. As a politics student in particular, it’s upsetting to not be able to take part in democracy’ – Rowan O’Neil.

Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour parties agreed with Baroness Morgan’s proposal that ‘The PM needs to listen and appreciate that the outcome of the EU Referendum will affect young people for far longer than him or anyone else in the government.’ Humza Yousa, the Scottish government’s Europe Minister criticised this concept, classifying it as ‘wrong and pig-headed.’ However, Lord Faulks agreed with Yousa and suggested that the ‘logical and consistent’ approach would be for the voting age to remain at 18.

Additionally, in the episode of BBC Question Time the following Sunday, we saw a student ask Dominic Raab (a Brexit campaigner himself) regarding ‘golden opportunities’ for students now that the UK has left the EU. To which he answered that more needs to be done in order to spread out the ‘positive vision’ to carry our generation. However, when the student reiterated her question regarding opportunities, in particular, he was however interrupted by David Dimbleby and was unable to answer.

If 16-17-year-olds were not given the liberty to cast their vote, then how does the country expect us to accept the outcome?

It is evident that there was no clear plan constructed in order to prepare Britain for this result. Some people have suggested that David Cameron may have missed an opportunity, and that 16-17-year-olds were likely to have voted remain and therefore we would not be in this situation. SKY News’ political editor Faisal Islam questioned a Tory MP regarding the plan for the Brexit vote, to which he replied “There is no plan. The Leave campaign don’t have a post-Brexit plan”. Consequently, this shows how unorganised and unprepared we were as a country for this result. Yes, the youth should have been more educated regarding the referendum, as I personally believe that it took place far too soon; if MPs believe that it would be ‘logical’ for the voting age to remain 18, then why not educate the young regarding this matter? This outcome is likely to affect our generation to a large extent. Nevertheless, we have been divided both politically and generationally. However, we must use this as an opportunity for us to come together with unanimity as well as solidarity.

Yes, we are unaware of what the future may hold, but again, we are an educated generation and this is without a doubt a huge advantage for our impending future. Nonetheless, I hope that the EU continues to thrive and prosper without us.