The UK and Europe

Brexit will hit young people - but they're fighting back

Hugo Lucas / Oct 2018

Photo: Shutterstock


A report released this week by my organisation, Our Future, Our Choice, confirms what we were already quite certain of - any Brexit is bad for the British youth. The headline figures make for depressing reading. Whichever Brexit is negotiated, from Norway to WTO, young people will disproportionately bear the cost of a policy that the majority of them voted against.

The worst of the worst case scenarios, a chaotic no-deal Brexit, could cost those under 30 up to £108,000 by 2050 - more than 13,000 hours of minimum wage work, more than double an average first-time buyer’s deposit on a house, just less than four degrees’ worth of tuition fees.

But warnings about a dire no-deal don’t seem to cut through in the way that they should. This is concerning for two reasons. Firstly, because of the seriousness of such an outcome, which our report underlines. No-one stands to gain from no-deal, other than ideologues on the right of the Conservative party, and many stand to lose a lot.

Secondly, and more worryingly, the likelihood has crept up to the point where the only bookies offering odds are now trading at 1/1. That no deal is considered this possible should concern representatives from every country of the 28 - but as our report shows, it is the young who have the most to fear from a catastrophic crashing out.

Even the softest of Brexits, a Norway-style (with a couple of +s and -s) Brexit that could conceivably pass the double test of being acceptable to the EU and enough of the Labour party to pass Parliament, could cost young people as much as £32,000 in lost income relative to a no-Brexit scenario.

These figures are long-term: as our report explains, it’s hard to say whether the hit will be front-loaded (in the case of a short term disruption) or back-loaded (if supply chains take a while to unwind). If the costs are front-loaded, resulting in a post-Brexit recession, the results are potentially even more grim. There is a broad consensus that those who enter work during a recession have permanently depressed wages compared to those who start during more buoyant times.

And we didn’t vote for it. 2 million of us couldn’t vote for it in 2016 because we were too young. Even those who did vote Leave, like Will Dry, co-founder of OFOC, are now regretting their choice. Beyond the financial hit, we’re concerned about the loss of guaranteed rights we’ve enjoyed for a generation. And the effects extend beyond the young: we note that the results could be particularly vicious for children.

Cross-border custody battles, difficulties with coordination on child abduction cases, and a likely increase in child poverty. Are all possible, and contingent on the actions of DExEU and the government, rather than the decision of the people.

That’s why we led the march on 20 October in our thousands. That’s why we’ve started a petition asking Theresa May and Parliament to give us a final say on Brexit. Because Britain deserves better than this - because young people don’t want this future, never wanted it. And because we now know how bad it’ll cost us. The nation is coming to the depressing realisation that our elected officials are lacking in two vital qualities: the ability to deliver a good Brexit, and the courage to admit their failings and put it back to the people.

Our report adds to the growing mountain of evidence: Britain needs a People’s Vote, and young people are leading the charge.

Sign the petition here:   

Hugo Lucas

Hugo Lucas

October 2018

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