Young people will pay the highest price for Brexit, but there’s more to it than just economics

Brexit will destroy relationships, sunder families and narrow the outlook of future generations.

Britain’s youngest generation has grown up with uninterrupted peace across western Europe, and has experienced what life can be like when countries work together for the greater good.

Yes, this means they take peace and cooperation between EU countries ‘for granted’, and rightly so. But their increased political activism is in part a sign that they are becoming more aware of the need to support a Europe which cooperates and develops together, and for a country that embraces diversity, freedom of movement, and internationalism.

The age demographics of the Brexit vote in June 2016 are well-known: around 73% of young people under 24 voted to remain, compared with only 40% of people over 60.

Yet it is self-evidently young people who are going to have to live longest with the consequences of Brexit, if it happens.

These consequences are numerous and wide-ranging, and can be grouped into three categories: economic, social and identity.

Many baby boomers from the UK (like myself) benefited from free higher education, maintenance grants, affordable housing (that has increased in value much faster than wages have risen), and the prospect of good pensions.

Conversely, people now in their twenties leave university with significant debt, face sky-high housing costs and can expect far less job security than their parents or grandparents.

This sense of generational inequality, exacerbated for young people living in areas which have higher levels of social and economic deprivation, was a key factor in the 2017 general election; Labour’s recognition of this in its manifesto saw a 20% increase in its vote share in the under 40s.

But another factor was Brexit, where the narrow victory for Leave in 2016, after a low turnout among young people resulted in older voters has depriving a younger generation of future opportunities.

Economists are clear about who is affected the most whenever the economy falters: the young and the low-skilled.Following the crisis in 2008, youth unemployment rose to 22% in the UK (compared to 6% for those over 25).

Nearly a decade later, youth unemployment is still 11.9%, significantly higher than the national rate of 4.3%.

With Brexit, especially if we have bad deal or, even worse, a no-deal Brexit, the short and medium term shock to the UK economy will leave young people paying the highest price of leaving the EU.

Those who have grown up with the UK as part of the EU in the last 40 years take the ease of travel, of studying abroad and of being able to work in work in all the countries of the EU’s single market.

For students, over the past decade, there has been a 50% increase in the number of UK students going abroad through the Erasmus+ scheme; in 2013-2014 alone, 15,610 UK students went to study or work in EU27 countries. Yet this is likely to be reversed if we leave the EU.

When it comes to immigration, many of this new generation of Brits have experienced first-hand the value of learning with students from other EU member states at school and university.

EU nationals are school friends, flatmates, work colleagues and sometimes that special person with whom you build a future family together.

Brexit would mean fewer opportunities to live in multicultural communities, to study abroad cheaply and to work with colleagues from all over Europe.

Many young people feel instinctively that there is nothing incompatible with being both British and European – just as one can be Yorkshire and English and British – having grown up in an interconnected world and a Britain which is diverse, where identities are multiple.

Sadly, with Brexit darkening their horizon, some young people in the UK with one or both parents from abroad, and who were never particularly bothered about where their passport was issued, are having to apply for UK nationality.

Many Brits living in other EU countries are applying to become citizens of their host country in order to be sure to continue living in their homes, which brings its own set of distress and challenges, if they lose the entitlement currently enjoyed by being an EU national.

Aside from the bureaucratic hassle and cost, it stirs up unpleasant feelings of having to ‘choose’ between identities depending on who they are talking to or what they are applying for.

Being offered a job, given a loan or securing a place at university is likely to be harder if you do not have the ‘right’ nationality, and those with more than one nationality are being asked to ‘choose’. Being British shouldn’t prevent someone from also being Italian or Swedish.

Worse, families living in the UK risk being split up. Tens of thousands of households with a British and a non-British European partners, are having to reconsider working in the UK due to fears over permanent entitlement to residency being rejected.

Furthermore, the current UK definition of family unification excludes adult children and family members, except for the sick and elderly.

This could mean that, within the next couple of years, healthy adult children will not be able to live with their parents, and vice versa, thus stopping even those ordinarily considered to be close family from enjoying family life together. Brexit might result in splitting up multicultural families currently living in Britain.

Richard Corbett MEP is Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party. He tweets here.

This is an abridged version of an article originally published on Richard’s blog. The full text can be read here.

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7 Responses to “Young people will pay the highest price for Brexit, but there’s more to it than just economics”

  1. nhsgp

    Really?

    1944–1956 Guerrilla war in the Baltic states
    1945–1949 Greek Civil War
    1947–1962 Romanian anti-communist resistance movement
    1953 Uprising in East Germany
    1956 Uprising in Poznań
    1956 Hungarian Revolution
    1956–1962 Operation Harvest
    1958 Opération Corse
    1958 First Cod War
    1959–2011 Basque conflict
    1967 Greek coup d’état
    1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
    1968–1998 The Troubles
    1970–1984 Unrest in Italy
    1972 Bugojno group
    1972–1973 Second Cod War
    1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus
    1974 Carnation Revolution
    1975–1976 Third Cod War
    1975 Portuguese coup d’état attempt
    1981 Spanish coup d’état attempt
    1988–1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War
    1989 Romanian Revolution
    1990–1991 Soviet attacks on Lithuanian border posts
    1991 January Events
    1991 The Barricades
    1991 Ten-Day War (Slovenia)
    1991–1992 Georgian war against Russo-Ossetian alliance
    1991–1993 Georgian Civil War
    1991–1995 Croatian War of Independence
    1992 Transnistria War
    1992 East Prigorodny Conflict
    1992–1993 First Georgian war against Russo-Abkhazian alliance
    1992–1995 Bosnian War
    1993 Cherbourg incident
    1993 Russian constitutional crisis
    1994–1996 First Chechen War
    1995–1996 Imia/Kardak military crisis
    1997–1998 Cyprus Missile Crisis
    1997 Albanian civil war of 1997
    1998–1999 Kosovo War
    1998–present Dissident Irish Republican campaign
    1998 Second Georgian war against Russian-Abkhazian alliance
    1999 War of Dagestan
    1999–2009 Second Chechen War
    1999–2001 Insurgency in the Preševo Valley

    What has the EU done to prevent European conflict

  2. nhsgp

    Many Brits living in other EU countries are applying to become citizens of their host country in order to be sure to continue living in their homes, which brings its own set of distress and challenges, if they lose the entitlement currently enjoyed by being an EU national.

    ======

    Why shouldn’t their host country decide if the want them and the burdens they impose?

  3. nhsgp

    Being offered a job, given a loan or securing a place at university is likely to be harder if you do not have the ‘right’ nationality, and those with more than one nationality are being asked to ‘choose’. Being British shouldn’t prevent someone from also being Italian or Swedish.

    ========

    It doesn’t. The UK allows dual nationality.

    It’s just the Scots who discriminate against the English in that regard. What have you done to stop that abuse?

  4. Misha Carder

    All this chaos and disruption, heart-ache and economic hardship – because some alt-right Chancers couldn’t believe their luck and jumped in when the Referendum results suggested they could call the shots. We now have a UKIP government. People don’t seem to realise that supporting the LEAVE campaign, means they are asking for low taxation, low regulations and poor public services – thanks to our appalling popular press. The lies, distortions, and exaggerations are an echo of the 1930’s. Have we learnt nothing?

  5. patrick newman

    The conflict list of our alt-right anti-EU correspondent is bizarre as all of the armed events were outside the borders of the EU at the time. I don’t think anyone is arguing that the EU is a guarantee of world peace but it does have clout and rather more than the UK alone which inevitably returns to being America’s poodle. However, I think Corbett is overdoing the youth argument.

  6. greg

    @Misha Carder,

    In my city I have seen political parties having their windows smashed, and in other cities I have seen effigies of political opponents hung from bridges, property damaged, and people injured – and all have come from the so-described ‘liberal left’.

    I have even seen and heard our would-be Chancellor speak of “lynching” political opponents, and describing violent mobs as “the best of our movement”

    The British people are now feeling themselves under an attack from the establishment bodies in our country; the soft fascism of political correctness and the “progressive” agendas being imposed upon them against their will are alien to many who have long believed in free speech and their rights under Magna Carta. We are feeling a jackboot on the back of our necks.

    Believe me, the ordinary person-on-the-street knows full well from where the 1930’s-style violence is coming.

  7. Das

    nhsgp, excellent example of a non existent ‘peace’.
    I also think that it could mean that the importance of the UN needs to be reassessed after the battering from Bush and Blair and their illegal occupation of Iraq and subsequent annexations and occupations From other countries following suit.
    Perhaps some good from the brexit will lead to this?

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