EU referendum: A word from a forgotten youth

Leave triumphed over remain in the vote by 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent. Picture by Tony Johnson
Leave triumphed over remain in the vote by 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent. Picture by Tony Johnson

After months of campaigning, the climax of the EU referendum finally arrived on Friday morning, resulting in a mixed bag of emotions.

Having voted remain, I and many of my peers were highly disappointed and, with such high numbers of young people having voted remain – a YouGov poll found that 75 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted remain – there is an air of despondency and we feel forgotten and discredited.

I speak as a member of a student body that feels let down by the older generations, as we are facing a future where our chance to work, study and travel so freely and easily in the EU will be greatly affected, and the wealth of opportunities travelling brought with it severely diminished.

Leading academics had previously warned that UK students will now become more insular, as students in the EU would now be classed as international students and as a result the fees to pay in order to study at some of our world-leading universities in the UK would rise dramatically, and they may be less inclined to come, leading to less exposure to other cultures.

The Principal of Edinburgh University wrote to students following the outcome, stressing that the university is a very global one that greatly benefits from EU support for research, student recruitment and industry partnerships.

Many universities will likely have issued similar statements to their students and staff, as this is a very uncertain time for higher education – a factor that maybe was not considered by Leave voters.

I, for one, do not remember hearing anything from the Leave campaign about higher education; once more we have been forgotten.

After the result, disappointed remain voters took to social media to share their views, myself included. However, one positive can be seen in the overwhelming number of young people that are becoming increasingly engaged in politics in light of recent events – an increasingly positive thing as social media promotes the younger generations to become more politically minded and active, even contributing greatly in the initial push for those eligible to register to vote to do so.

A record-breaking 72 per cent of those on the electoral roll turned up to cast their vote in the referendum, with staggering numbers of young people turning up to make their opinion count.

However, one of the key downsides, among many, of the Leave result, is the dangerous and quite alarming rise of xenophobia and hate speech. One important reason that encouraged people to vote leave was cited as immigration.

As a child and young adult growing up in an increasingly progressive and multicultural world, it is incredibly disappointing to see a loud minority of people suddenly seeing it as acceptable to tell migrants, or rather anyone who does not look 100 per cent British, to leave this country.

The kind of hate speech that is being thrown around creates a reflection of a time we thought was forever confined to the history books.

Obviously, everyone has their own reason for however they voted, however, my faith in the general public continues to drop when it is revealed that people who voted leave are now saying they regret their decisions or didn’t think their leave vote would count and are now shocked at the outcome.

In the aftermath of the ruling, the top-searched items on the EU referendum were ‘What does it mean to leave the EU?’ and even ‘What is the EU?’, suggesting that for many the decision to vote leave was a thoughtless and brash one, in a bid to ‘take back control’ from some enemy unknown to remain voters.

What’s worse still is to see Ukip leader Nigel Farage admit on a live news show that the promise to spend the money saved by not paying to the EU on the NHS was a lie all along.

As a young woman looking ahead to an uncertain future, I am struggling to see the positive sides to this referendum.