Today, a lot of people are saying they’ve ‘got their country back’; I really can’t help but feel that I’ve lost mine.
On Thursday, the UK voted by a small majority to leave the European Union. The final result was around 52% to 48% in favour of leave.
The leave vote was mainly concentrated among older generations. The ‘youth’, myself included, voted to remain. <insert Steve Buscemi ‘kids’ meme here>.
I’ve long said I identify first and foremost as someone from Somerset. I’m proud of my county, its culture, heritage and parochial chutzpah. Oh, and the cider.
But that only goes so far. Beyond our borders, I am not an Englishman or a Brit, I am a European, I identify as a citizen of Europe.
The EU is a remarkable union, the biggest and most successful political and economic union the world has ever seen, one that has largely ensured peace in Europe for more than 70 years.
Of course, it’s not perfect; nothing is. But I feel the frustration that has led to this decision has been misdirected. People went to the polls yesterday to give politics (and politicians) a kicking. I don’t blame them.
But the EU was the wrong target for this frustration. The EU hasn’t ground the NHS into the dust. The EU hasn’t failed to build sufficient housing to meet demand and the new schools we need. The EU didn’t fail to chase corrupt firms for their billions in unpaid taxes (which, you know, could have fixed the NHS in a heartbeat). The EU hasn’t persisted with a voting system where millions of votes are, in essence, worthless. The ills this country bear are firmly rooted in Westminster, at the very heart of our parliamentary democracy, not Brussels.
I’m 27. Just. It is my generation who will live with the consequences of this vote, a vote which was decided by two generations unlikely to feel the shockwaves.
Generation millenial will live longer than any generation to date. We will retire later than any generation to date – and we will pay the most to support, sustain and care for the generation that sealed this vote.
Today, I feel bereft.
There is one positive though. Thursday was the day the ‘youth’ of this country woke up and sent a very clear message to our government. Some 70% of young people voted to remain in the EU, a huge (albeit ultimately worthless) mandate and one future governments will need to be wary of – and will need to appease.
We are the future of this country, and we did not vote for this.
UPDATE (3.30pm): These two quotes have been doing the rounds today in various think-pieces and on social media. I don’t know who said/wrote them, I don’t even know if they are attributable to a real person, but they sum up my feelings fairly succinctly.
“The younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors.”
“A generation given everything: free education, golden pensions, social mobility, have voted to strip my generation’s future.”
Note: I am sure there are many conscientous, forward-thinking, reasonable members of my parents’ baby boomer generation just as disappointed as I am with the result of the referendum. But the numbers stack up. Sorry.