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Placards from young people campaigning for a second referendum at the People's Vote protest in London

Young people in Britain campaign for a second Brexit referendum

  • In 2016, many young people felt their voices were not heard during the initial Brexit referendum.
  • Following a People's Vote protest in London last October, momentum was gathered to secure a second vote.
  • Our Future, Our Choice is an organisation whose efforts focus on making young people’s voices heard on Brexit.

Last October, hundreds of thousands of people marched to parliament in London, campaigning for a second Brexit vote. Many argue that in 2016, when the initial referendum was held, the majority of British people were misled and misinformed by politicians.

Hundreds of thousands attended the People's Vote march in October 2018
Hundreds of thousands attended the People's Vote march in London last October.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, addressed the public with a powerful speech rallying the crowd to acknowledge that "democracy didn't end on the 23rd of June 2016", and since then "the will of the people has changed."

A prominent organisation in this campaign is Our Future, Our Choice, whose efforts focus on making young people’s voices heard on Brexit.

Formed in a living room in East London in September 2017, Femi Oluwole and three other university students recognised that young people were not being represented in the Brexit debate and decided there should be an organisation that aims to do just that.

They started before People’s Vote was launched, when a second referendum was still a distant dream. A lot of the initial campaigns involved trying to gain media attention by being active on twitter and performing eye-catching stunts.

Our Future, Our Choice help with the no-deal stockpiling efforts
Our Future, Our Choice perform a stunt to help with the no-deal stockpiling efforts.
Image Source: The New European

Having become more established in the past year, now the group focuses its attention on talking to politicians and school events across the country, to interest young people in politics and show them their voices are heard. Hugo Lucas, director of communication at Our Future Our Choice says,“We encourage young people to write to their MPs, and organise mass lobbies in parliament in London. We also try to get young people onto national broadcasts and press platforms.”

Femi Oluwole appeared on Sky news after launching the campaign for young people who want Brexit stopped
Femi Oluwole appeared on Sky news after launching the campaign for young people who want Brexit stopped.
Image Source: The Independent

Reflecting on the march in October, Hugo says one of the best things about the event was it was action orientated. Richard Bergen and Mariella Frostrup stood on stage with a massive letter and sharpie, demonstrating how easy it was for people to write to their MPs. Since then, several action days of collective activism have taken place to increase the momentum of progress towards a People’s Vote.

Protesters left placards outside parliament describing Brexiteers as Liars
Protesters left placards outside parliament describing Brexiteers as liars.

Some may argue that younger voters are likely to change their political views as they get older. However, Hugo asserts, “A lot of our organisation is formed by those who are currently too young to vote, that’s one of the reasons why we’re for votes at 16 years old. The campaign is based on the notion that people can change their minds, but at the moment polls show that there is a clear majority for remaining in the European Union.”

Brexitometer polls show that there is a strong majority of people who want to remain in the EU
Brexitometer polls show that there is a strong majority of people who want to remain in the EU.

Our Future Our Choice currently uses a ‘battle bus’ as part of their campaigns, which travels all over the country to involve young people in their campaigns. Engagement with the battle bus has demonstrated young people are serious about politics, as several people got involved with street campaigns in Loughborough, and the bus even travelled with fifty young people to Brussels to protest the withdrawal agreement at the European Council.

Anti-Brexit campaigners from the Our Future, Our Choice youth movement for a 'People's Vote' on Brexit, use a battle bus to take campaigns to new cities.
Anti-Brexit campaigners from the Our Future, Our Choice use a battle bus to take campaigns to new cities.
Image Source: Daily Star

One of the biggest challenges facing Our Future Our Choice is ensuring people see a second vote as a realistic option. With parliament currently in gridlock and politicians struggling to deliver what was initially promised, a second vote may arguably be considered the only way forward.

The grounds on which the initial Brexit debate took place has also changed, since the public are more aware of the divorce bill and a hard border in Ireland or the potential for a backstop. While public debate has led to the public being more informed about issues around Brexit, the inertia of leaving the EU as the result of a democratic vote still needs to be challenged, so that people can reconsider the terms on which the UK may leave the EU.

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