A Generation Together: What do millennials want from Brexit, asks the youth think-tank COVI
By reviewing nine major studies from academics and NGOs which explore young people’s attitudes towards Brexit, we have found a number of clear and consistent messages. These messages should from the backbone of the UK’s negotiations with the EU, as well as the aspirations for future international relationships beyond the EU.
1. Young people are well-informed and want to play their part. Young people have a strong understanding of the complexities Brexit and its potential implications, and want their perspectives to be reflected in the Brexit negotiations.
2. The importance of a strong economy for jobs and living circumstances. Across the research young people and young adults identified concerns relating to needs that interface with a strong economy; young people felt that decent jobs and affordable housing were important priorities for Brexit Britain.
3. A strong commitment to an internationalist outlook. The majority of young people are positive about the effects of globalisation on their own lives and support collaboration with other countries, even if this means a ‘trade off ’ with national sovereignty.
4. Freedom to travel, work and study abroad. Young people are concerned at losing freedom of movement rights and opportunities and want Brexit negotiations to preserve EU membership benefits, including the ability to work and study abroad, and the Erasmus exchange programme.
5. Immigration produces mixed opinion, but is a lower concern overall than for older age groups. Young people are less concerned about immigration than the UK population as a whole. Underlying economic concerns mean that for some young people immigration is a cause of poor job prospects. While for others, immigration is an important part of freedom of movement and brings positive benefits to the UK.
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Of course, more general political literacy is still crucial. It is a common misunderstanding that leaving the EU will lead to the abolition of all EU laws in the UK. Whereas what will actually happen is that current EU rules and regulations – covering environmental law, employment rights, and other issues - will be carried over into UK law. The power to change or remove these laws will fall to UK politicians. As such, there is no ‘end date’ to the Brexit process, and political engagement becomes ever more important.
However, there is a clear risk that the current Brexit process, and the way that it is conveyed in the media, will lead to a generation of citizens who feel disempowered and disengaged from political leaders and institutions. It falls to politicians, civil society organisations and young people themselves to ensure this does not happen.