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Young people deserve a say on Brexit

Features | Published:

It is often assumed that teenagers have little interest or understanding of politics – and you might expect that living on the comparatively sheltered island of Herm would merely exacerbate that, but having grown increasingly frustrated at the lack of representation given to the generation that will be most affected by Brexit, Herm resident Maya George decided to take up the mantle and write about young people’s views on the subject...

BREXIT. A word we all shudder to the mere mention of. Unlike another word beginning with ‘bre’ (breakfast), it doesn’t bring joy or pleasure but rather a feeling of disdain, regardless of whether you voted remain or leave.

Brexit is rather like a wasp on a warm summer’s day. It doesn’t appear to particularly achieve anything apart from flying around you aimlessly, making you feel stressed and stinging you, something that Brexit continually does to Britain, in one way or another.

So why am I writing about it?

I don’t revel in the pain and turmoil it brings people (especially Theresa May), nor do I absolutely love the subject, but after attempting some research to discover what young people think about Brexit, I found very little. Although the topic of Brexit always crops up in all news platforms, there has been little representation of young people’s opinions.

That surprised me, because we definitely have a lot to say about the matter. Despite the fact I was three years too young to vote in the fateful referendum, I still have opinions regarding Brexit and the impact it will have.

The societal crossroads Britain is currently facing is affecting the UK – and not solely those who voted. Young people will be inheriting the world of post-Brexit and will have to bear the responsibility and attempt to make whatever the outcome is work, which is why I think it’s so important that young people are listened to.

Contrary to popular belief, Herm does have Wi-Fi and working television satellites, both of which, along with conversing with a variety of people, have enabled me to read and learn about Brexit, even if what I see doesn’t please me, which is most of the time.

Also, I believe that my interest in politics and current affairs is due to the fact that the only political debates that occur on Herm usually revolve around who makes the best cakes and which resident dog is the cutest (mine, obviously). These are the epitome of small island life debates, and although I’m happy to express my views on which sponge is moist and which dog has the waggiest tail, I do enjoy looking beyond the small island I live on and my neighbouring islands to seek more pressing political matters. But Brexit does make me wonder whether it will be a positive asset to Herm and Guernsey’s tourist industry, or whether it will prevent people from visiting and working here due to aspects such as the pound dropping and visa changes.

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However, in January Deputy Gavin St Pier highlighted the ‘strong relationships’ that the island’s government had established within Westminster, but has that really established certainty for what will happen for Guernsey?

Brexit may not be the most thrilling subject to read or write about, but I believe that it’s an important topic to discuss, especially if you’re a young person who has plenty to say on the matter. So I decided to reach out to a selection of young people aged 17-18 to ask them some questions regarding Brexit. Two of those I interviewed live in the UK and the other three live in Guernsey and the difference in responses was interesting.

When asked what they would have voted for if they had the opportunity to vote in the 2016 referendum, three out of five said ‘remain’, while the other two said ‘leave’.

Only one person of my chosen five had changed their mind over the turbulent course of Brexit.

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My friend Holly explained how she initially wanted to leave the EU but, due to the ‘increased tension and division across the UK’, she changed her mind to support remaining in the EU.

Everyone else, however, was adamant that they would not change their mind about the option they would have voted for.

Next, I asked how they thought Brexit would impact on them, whether positively and/or negatively.

Kristyna described how having a European passport is beneficial for her to travel between countries but highlighted the fact that those who do not have one will find travelling across Europe a lot more difficult.

A similar point was raised by Tom, who said, ‘there may be a problem travelling’ – a thought which has crossed all of our minds recently.

The latest series of parliamentary manoeuvres sees Brexit delayed, again. Currently, although this may change by the time you read this article, Brexit is due to happen on 12 April after Theresa May’s deal was rejected for a third time in parliament.

There is a plethora of other options if May’s deal continues to fail, including a major renegotiation and leaving the EU without a deal.

In the event of leaving without a deal, the EU has already declared they’ll keep the skies and the airports open as part of their ‘no deal’ contingency plan for 12 months after Brexit. So do not fret, you can avoid stashing your snorkel and swimsuit away and lathering yourself with fake tan... for now.

However, don’t forget that Herm is officially a Brexit-free zone.

But it’s not just the holiday industry and sunshine-deprived UK citizens who will suffer.

Aimee explained that she thinks Brexit will negatively impact the UK because ‘people are losing their jobs and businesses, especially small ones, who are struggling’.

Despite there being many prominent problems in the UK before we’ve even left the EU, James believes that Brexit will negatively affect him at this time but will be a positive asset for the future.

My third question, and final one for James and Tom, who live in the UK, was ‘Do you think there is a good representation of young people’s opinions on Brexit in the media?’, to which everyone said no.

Now, I’m happy to take up the mantle and write about young people’s opinions on Brexit, but I think it’s an area of discussion that needs to be more widespread because, as I discovered through doing this article, young people have some poignant and fascinating thoughts on the matter.

Tom stated that to improve young people’s representation, the media could avoid asking people who know little about Brexit and rather speak to young people as ‘this decision is ultimately going to affect our future’.

Kristyna suggested that if there had been a good representation of young people’s opinions to begin with, the end vote after the 2016 referendum may have been different.

Everyone said something similar to these two points, emphasising that young people’s opinions and thoughts are important to be listened to, regardless of whether it’s about Brexit or not.

Finally (don’t worry, I should be finished by the time the UK has confirmed an official ‘Brexit Day’), I asked my three Guernsey friends if living here has made them more inclined to pay attention to what’s been occurring with Brexit or less inclined. All of them said that living here has made them less inclined to pay attention, partly because Guernsey can feel far away from the major discussions.

Holly pointed out how she has always wanted to remain up to date, but she wasn’t too worried about Brexit until her university place in the UK was confirmed.

So there you have it. Opinions on Brexit from a generation that will be affected by it the most.

I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing my friends and gathering their differing opinions on the matter, as well as receiving unexpected responses from each of them. I hope to see more young people’s opinions being represented in the media.

Young people have a lot to say, so I hope everyone is prepared to listen.

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