Features / The EU Debate / Youth

What Will Brexit Mean For Young People?

Young people overwhelmingly voted to remain in the European Union, so how will leaving it affect them? Alex Watson takes a look at how Brexit might affect students and 18-25 year olds.



WITH the agreed date of Brexit, March 29 2019, hurtling towards the British public like a looming dissertation deadline when they have not done any of the required work, and the Conservative government’s refusal to publish any substance from their Brexit impact assessments, the time for debate is over.

As young people, we need to establish how this most extreme form of social and economic self-flagellation will affect us.


Young people Brexit

The only poll of its kind, conducted in May 2016, shows that even then, the public were aware, even a proportion of leave voters, that young people would bear the Brexit burden on their shoulders (Source: whatUKthinks.org).


According to YouGov, 71% of voters under 25 voted to remain, with the rise in incidence of leave votes directly correlated with increasing age.

It is becoming glaringly apparent that, like us, even those in eminent governmental positions have no idea how Brexit will affect us or how it will be implemented. Either that or we are being lied to.

The National Union of Students (NUS) represents more than seven million students based in the UK, in over 600 student unions.

Shakira Martin, National President of the NUS, said: “The result is clearly not the one that many young people wanted or voted for, but most important now is to ensure that students and young people are involved in the decisions that will shape their future.”

“Under pressure from our community the government have given assurances to current European Union students that anyone starting undergraduate studies in the UK before Brexit officially begins will remain unaffected.

“We must now appeal to the older generation to support young people and listen to the voices of students as we move to leave the EU. We must work out how to bring people together and ensure unity in pursuit of the best possible solution in a post-Brexit world.”

The NUS is currently striving to ensure that such celebrated and loved institutions associated with Britain’s relationship with the EU are preserved, or at least replicated where possible, such as the ERASMUS scheme.

The student mobility enabled through this exchange programme – over three million students have taken part – is one more aspect of education that will need to find alternative funding post-Brexit if students are to continue to enrich their lives through cultural understanding, language competency and increased job prospects.

Unfortunately for those of us ready to get out into the big wide world of work just as the UK is bracing for full impact, the immediate job prospects for young Brits does not lift the spirits. According to a survey of its own members by the Institute of Directors, over a quarter plan to freeze recruitment, with 5% planning to cut jobs.

It will not surprise you, then, that the British Treasury projected that joblessness could rise by between 520,000-820,000 post-Brexit.

Despite this, UKIP Euro-MP for the North East, Jonathan Arnott, suggested that the idea that leaving the EU will have a negative impact on young people’s futures is “nonsense”.

He said: “Talk of the decision to leave being a gamble with young people’s futures – what absolute nonsense.”

“Those arguing that there has already been a drop in advertised job vacancies because of employers anticipating the British exit from Europe are just scaremongering.

“Ironically what will actually harm job prospects for both young and old is new legislation approved by the European Parliament.

“This new law expands and strengthens the European job site, EURES, by making it mandatory that UK Job Centre Plus puts all jobs publicly advertised with them onto the site.

“That is not going to help employment prospects for anyone, including young people, and I am particularly concerned as the North East has the highest regional unemployment in the country.”

In a recent study by TopUniversities.com, 52% of students said that they felt leaving the EU would have a negative impact on their future career. These fears are not unfounded; Brexit will take the automatic right of British students to work in the EU after graduation.

As well as this, the Office of Budget Responsibility estimated that EU immigrant labour contribution helps to grow the economy by an additional 0.6% a year – which suggests that far from threatening British jobs in a zero sum game, their contribution may actually create more jobs for British people.

Jude Kirton Darling

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP and I at European Parliament, Brussels.

Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling offered a more disturbing view of how young people will fare in the post-Brexit environment.

She said: “All the data is clear: Eurosceptic tendencies increase exponentially with age.”

“Over 65s were more than twice as likely as 18-24 year olds to vote leave. The older proportion of the population made a decision that will overwhelmingly affect the youngest of our population the most”, Ms Kirton-Darling said.

“It is young people who have the highest unemployment rates, who have most taken advantage of the travel and work opportunities that the European Union offers, who will be most affected by the economic turmoil and uncertainty of Brexit.

“This is a crisis of democracy. It is not as obvious, perhaps, as crises of democracy usually are, but it has lead to the youngest in our country being dragged out of the European Union against their will.”

While young people overwhelmingly didn’t vote for Brexit, the deal we will receive and the potential implications of it remain to be seen through the multitude of possibilities moving forward.

As an historically unique phenomenon, all projections are guesswork. Until we leave, we will not know in which direction, and how far, Brexit will take us.

Keep your hat firmly held. It may be this young generation’s anger that carries us back into the EU.

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