Statement of the Youth Intergroup on the result of the UK Referendum
Ensuring a European future for the youth of the UK
The UK Referendum on EU membership showed a very strong divide between young and old. Young people were overwhelmingly in favour of their country remaining a member of the European Union and have expressed their outrage about being side-lined by the generation of their parents and grandparents. Whilst respecting the outcome of the referendum, we stress the importance of listening to the voice of young people and ensuring a European future for the youth of the UK.
According to polling data from YouGov, 75% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted to remain in the European Union. Official results show that voter districts with a lower median age were more in favour of a Remain vote. The older generation has tilted the balance in favour of a Brexit.
The consequences, however, are the biggest for young people. Not only do they have to live longer with this result, being at the start of their lives, they have a lot more to lose. The dreams and aspirations of British young people to live, study, work and trade freely in the EU, things they see as clear advantages of the EU, have been given a strong blow.
We understand the outrage of the young generation that can be witnessed on social media, in opinion pieces and on city squares. We need to listen to the voice of young people and to take their interests particularly into account when negotiating the future relations of the UK and the European Union. EU and UK leaders must come up together with a fair agreement that lets young people take advantage of opportunities for, for example, intercultural learning, cultural and educational exchanges (such as Erasmus+), and trade and employment opportunities.
At the same time, this result has to be a wake-up call to continue work on improving the participation of young people in democratic life. One and a half million 16 and 17-year-olds across the UK were denied their say in the referendum, yet the difference between the vote for leave and remain was only 1,269,501. The result may have been different, taking into account also voter turnout of young people is traditionally lower, whilst the older generation already have a numerical advantage.
Consequently, this has sparked a debate in the UK on how to ensure that the interests and voices of young people are represented. We’re calling to use this momentum to bring this debate also back to the European Parliament. For Europe’s future, we can’t afford young people to lose their trust in democracy.