“Out, But Not Forgotten”

Elspeth Hoskins, from new campaign group Undivided, explains why it’s crucial that the voice of young people is heard in Brexit negotiations

Regardless of how you voted, the outcomes of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union will be with all of us for decades. This is why a group of us came together and created a youth-led campaign to get the best Brexit deal for our country’s next generation.

The debates leading up to the EU referendum were dominated by middle-aged politicians and journalists; young people’s voices were mostly absent. But make no mistake, young people have opinions and it’s more important than ever that we vocalise these. After all, we are the ones who will be disproportionately affected by the outcomes of Brexit so it’s crucial that we are aware of what is at stake.

Studying and working in Europe

In the research that Undivided has conducted so far, one of the identified priorities for young people upon leaving the EU is the right to live and study in EU countries. Until now, many of us have enjoyed working abroad in Germany, Spain or beyond, on the same terms as citizens there, without special visas. In terms of the scale, we must remember that over 15,500 British students study in Europe through the Erasmus programme. Although Norway and Turkey – non-EU member states – take part in the scheme, the current arrangement will no doubt come into question.

Studying and working abroad gives young people a host of invaluable opportunities, from language development and cultural insight to the wider pool of jobs we have been able to enjoy across Europe. It’s not yet certain that the terms of Erasmus Plus will change, but those negotiating on our behalf must protect the benefits we currently reap from studying and working across Europe by safeguarding crucial funding schemes, or guaranteeing alternative funding sources.

Housing and the cost of living

As the Redfern Review detailed, we are in the midst of a housing crisis. Between 1996 and 2006 real house prices jumped 151%, while real earnings only rose a quarter of that. Home ownership amongst 25–34 year olds fell by 31% between 1991 and 2014. With issues such as higher rents, lower incomes and the shortage of jobs, it’s fair to say that the younger generation are being priced out of the housing market. If Brexit doesn’t directly affect property prices, there may be other economic consequences which will.

Getting the best from change

It is important to highlight here that change isn’t necessarily bad. Leaving the European Union may apply pressure to sourcing new, international opportunities for working and studying abroad. Nonetheless, the stakes are undoubtedly high for young people. With the economy and freedom of movement being hot topics in the EU referendum debates, it is down to young people and youth organisations to ensure those negotiating on our behalf clearly understand our priorities.

Young people are often excluded from the political process and have been let down time and time again by politicians. Our lack of power and influence has led to many policies unpopular with, or even detrimental to, young people, going ahead. However, with soundbites such “Brexit means Brexit” not exactly revealing much, there is a very real opportunity to reevaluate the troublesome relationship that younger generations have with the political process (through no fault of our own, I would like to add). In turn, young people have to see themselves as the unifying force in a divided nation. We must be the change-makers who bring about the post-Brexit Britain that we want.

Undivided we stand

Undivided is one example of this. We are committed to ensuring that the ideas, opinions and needs of young people are finally heard by the political establishment. Undivided is crowd-sourcing the Brexit demands of 13–29 year olds until 14 February 2017 at www.weareundivided.co.uk. At this point, the leading youth priorities will be published in conjunction with the London School of Economics and shared at the newly established All Party Parliamentary Group “A Better Brexit for Young People” as well as with the Department for Exiting the EU. To the political establishment, our message is crystal clear: take seriously what young people have to say about their futures.

Please visit our website to share what YOU want from Brexit and vote on the demands that thousands of other young people have submitted. Follow @weareundivided on Twitter for campaign updates.