By Chikulupi Kasaka
Team red arrived in Manchester, the United Kingdom, on a mission to understand people’s views on the possible Brexit and the upcoming referendum. Team red prepared a number of activities to pursue this aim, including conducting a mock referendum, workshops and interviews. Let’s understand what BREXIT means in the first place before we discuss about youth views on it.
BREXIT is an abbreviation of “British exit” which refers to the possibility that Britain will withdraw from the European Union (EU). The referendum is expected to be carried out on June 23 and the big question is “Whether the British people want to leave or remain in the EU”. The Yes and NO vote will determine and shape the future of Britain and the whole of the European Union. There was an important need for the red team to get youth voices towards the referendum.
On 29th April the team entered the Manchester University Students’ Union and settled a platform for conducting a mock referendum on BREXIT, where students were able to vote. In the end, the majority of young people that voted were in favor of Britain remaining to be part of the EU. Only 2 votes were not going to vote at all and 1 vote was for the British to leave the EU. The mock referendum shows that young people are in general in favor of remaining part of the EU due to its benefits like free movement, exchange programs, jobs, culture, and diversity. They don’t want Brexit to affect all these. However, we have to say that many students passed by the voting poll but did not want to vote, reflecting some political apathy.
The workshop was more intense and engaging in terms of Brexit awareness amongst the people that took part in it. Some ideas that came up during the session were that, for many people, the referendum does not come at the right time and that it is not done for the right reasons: it is rather a Labor Party agenda since 2013 by David Cameron to retain unity within the party. The United Kingdom has no need for a divisionism agenda right now; people need their government to focus on substantive issues to foster European Integration.
In general, the conclusions of the debate pointed out that Brexit lacks vision and coherency to what the European future should be. There is a lack of civic engagement from the first place. The government should have educated its people earlier on rather than now, when the agenda is dominated by the media. Eventually, it is made hard to convey the right information in the public sphere because media in the UK has become selective in what they report. Amongst lots of information laid out by the government, they choose one or two elements for headlines which pose a conflict or challenge to people.
In the end, Brexit referendum is not a democratic tool for engagement or integration. “If you don’t know the answer, you are likely to support what you already know”, said one Jury who was one of the participants.
Interviews, on the other hand, were conducted in Cardiff, Wales. However, they were not very successful in terms of getting youth views concerning Brexit. Many seem to take no interest in political affairs to the least extent of not understanding “What EU is”.
Team red is very thankful for the warm hosting by Pablo Palazón from AEGEE-Manchester and all the people from this amazing antenna. All the work of Europe on Track 3 would not have been possible without them all!
Stay tuned for more information from Team Red, see you somewhere in Europe!