As the 15-year-old youth MP for the London borough of Camden it is my role to champion and support the interests of young people in the face of a society which increasingly undervalues our voice in the democratic process. Guided by this mission, I submitted a motion to the UK Youth Parliament manifesto which called for a vote on the final Brexit deal where, crucially, young people aged 16 and 17 would be able to vote. Votes at 16 has long been an issue that the Youth Parliament has campaigned on.
In regard to the Brexit referendum, the youth vote is more important than ever. Unlike a general election, the result of the referendum could result in constitutional amendments, which, differently from laws, cannot be changed by future governments. At the moment, our future is being decided by Theresa May’s desperate attempts to remain as prime minister (and to do this she has to kowtow to the wishes of the three Brexiteers Boris Johnson, David Davis, and Jacob Rees-Mogg). The future, therefore, is not being decided by us.
In four years, when I embark on the debt-inducing adventure called university, will I be greeted by an institution enriched by the diversity and excellence brought by EU migrants? Given the current way the Brexit negotiations are going, probably not. The high academic standards which exist in our universities are at threat due to the potential drying up of EU funding which the supposedly budget-balancing chancellor won’t be able to match. Without a referendum on the deal, an entire generation of young people will be impacted by something they had no say in or, if they were old enough to vote, didn’t want.
By not consulting young people on Brexit, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are playing the dangerous game of turning one of the most powerful future voting blocs against them. Before their Brexit meekness, I viewed the Labour Party as being a credible opposition to the Conservative tirade of neoliberal austerity. Now I perceive the Labour Party as being compliant.
Labour’s relative success in the 2017 general election was undoubtedly due to the support of young people, whose high turnout was the immovable force which knocked May off her weak pillar of a majority in the Commons.
My local MP, Keir Starmer, must back The Independent’s campaignfor a Final Say on the Brexit deal. Many of my constituents, and thus Keir’s, look on with horror as the Brexit negotiations are ripping up the promise of their future. By not backing a vote on the deal the Labour Party is failing to stand up for very group they claim to support: the working class. The current treacherous Brexit trajectory will only worsen the economic conditions of my already financially precarious constituents. Will the Conservative government increase the minimum wage if the economy slumps post-Brexit? Probably not. Will the Conservative government change welfare cuts? I doubt it.
In a meeting I had with Keir Starmer, which I greatly appreciated (not all MPs make time to meet their youth MPs), I challenged him on why he was not backing a Final Say on the deal. His response was that above all else, the Labour Party should be democratic in their approach on Brexit. A couple weeks later I was confronted with the same arguments by fellow MYPs, leading to my motion being rejected. This argument must be rebutted. Why would it be in any way undemocratic for the people to be given the final say on the Brexit negotiations?
If the people rejected the final deal negotiated by May, it would be reflective of the will of the people, not some supposed metropolitan “Remoaner” elitists.
In fact, a vote on the deal would be remembered as a gleaming beacon of democracy. May’s Brexit deal must be put through the toughest test. Not just by parliament, but also by the people.