Students deserve a vote and the only way out of the chaos is going back to the people
It is no secret that the majority of young people, over 70% in fact, voted to remain in the European Union in 2016 and would do so again if given a second say on Brexit.
My generation and those who follow are proud to be European. We’re proud to have grown up without the horrors of war in Europe. We’re proud to have grown up knowing the peace in Northern Ireland – fragile but still there. And we’re proud and forever grateful for the opportunities afforded to us by membership of the EU.
It’s given us the ability to freely live, love and learn in 27 other countries, the ability to experience other cultures and viewpoints, and the ability to grow our networks, make lifelong friends, and become more tolerant and broad-minded.
But my generation, and future generations, face being sold up the river by a group of Hard Brexiteer politicians who have so readily enjoyed and exploited the rights they now wish to strip from us.
As President of NUS Wales, I represent thousands of young people who did not have the chance to vote in the 2016 referendum. Almost every school-leaving undergraduate at university now didn’t get to vote and didn’t get to participate in the decision that has completely overtaken politics and their future.
But we need to make it clear that it’s not too late, Brexit hasn’t happened yet. And the millions of students in Wales and across the UK who watch as the chaos continues have to do so knowing they did not get to have their say in the decision that caused it.
It has been proven that the Prime Minister is incapable of ending it, parliament is incapable of ending it, there is only one viable way to escape the current deadlock gripping our country that is stopping us being able to talk about anything else that matters to people.
A mental health crisis gripping U.K Universities, climate change, the housing crisis. Whilst the Brexit chaos continues, these issues, that I know matter so much to so many young people, are being pushed under the rug.
We need a way to solve this mess that doesn’t leave us still in the lurch, and it’s becoming clearer that there’s only one democratic way to do that.
That way is a People’s Vote. To ensure not just that the millions of young people left out the first time round can decide their future, but that those who voted for a Brexit we now know is unachievable can change their mind. It’s the only way through that doesn’t leave a significant chunk of the population feeling cheated.
Politicians cannot decide what to do and our future still hangs in the balance, why shouldn’t those who didn’t get to vote but will live with the consequences for the longest help to decide it?
We know that young people want and need to have a voice in this debate. Campaigns like For our Future’s Sake are mobilising students and young people up and down the country, with more at stake for them than ever, and we will make ourselves heard. I’ve seen the passion and anger from those I represent.
Because this is not just what they didn’t have the chance to vote for, this is not what anyone voted for.
As someone elected by students to represent them, I would not be doing my job if I didn’t argue that the newly enfranchised young people deserve a chance to make up their minds. They deserve a chance to be part of a democratic process that will decide the course of their future for decades to come.
There is a reason why it was reported that Boris Johnson wanted an October election partly to ensure students were less likely to register to vote, and it is because he knows that Brexit is not what they want, and given the chance, they’ll show him this at the ballot box.
I hope that ballot box is in a second referendum, so that we can finally settle the issue overtaking our country and politics once and for all and allow those enfranchised since 2016 their first Brexit vote, for the sake of their future.
Rob Simkins is the President of the National Union of Students Wales
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