One of the most tiresome tropes of the anti-Brexit backlash is the well-trodden line that older voters have somehow ‘stolen the future’ of the country’s youth. And that all of us are sitting at home, angry that our “future” is being stolen. I see it differently. Dominic Grieve’s generation may see the borders of the Europe Union as the end of their own horizons, but a good many members of my generation have never understood this Little Europe mentality. We think global, and no one ever speaks for those of us who see Brexit as part of going global.
When David Cameron called the referendum, I was 13 years old – so not able to vote – but even then I supported Brexit, understanding, as I do now, that it would be a clean break from the EU bureaucracy (and everything that came with it). Most importantly, it was a chance for Britain to go out into the world and make a success of it. To finally become a truly global nation.
When I say I backed Brexit, I certainly wasn’t expecting the current shambles presented by Theresa May and her sidekick Olly Robbins. Brexit, to me, was about sawing off our shackles, not rejoining them. It meant allowing parliament (and our voters) to determine the country’s political direction; not a bunch of unelected commissioners.
Some Remain supporters blame their loss on older voters (the majority of whom supported Leave), and arrogantly say that they have less of a stake in the country’s future and could afford to take the ‘risk’ of Brexit. But what about the counter-view? That the real risk was remaining part of an increasingly stagnant European Union, and hindering our abilities to form closer relationships with our further-flung allies: something which should be a particular concern to younger people, especially when the largest growth is bound to take place outside the EU.
Hence why I despair at our current options: an ever-softening “Brexit” or the rise of a Corbyn-led government happy to give Britain some of the medicine tried out in Venezuela. What happened to economic liberalism, deficit control, individual and market freedom, and strong communities? And when did the Conservative Party (of which I’m a member) lose faith in this? Not many people my age join the Tories, but those who do have a belief in a certain set of values. We wouldn’t mind seeing these values articulated by Tory MPs from time to time.
I supported Brexit so I could see the UK regaining control, able to make its own laws through a truly sovereign Parliament without fear of them being overridden. Now we’re presented with a deal which consolidates the powers of EU courts, demands we follow laws we have no say in creating, and places us in a backstop that we cannot exit. This really isn’t taking back control.
If the Conservative party pursues this path, it shouldn’t expect a new wave of young voters to see it through future elections. Brexit was a chance to entice first-time voters with a new approach to politics– one which would open new opportunities and eventually win over those young voters who previously opted to Remain. But May’s deal isn’t this.
The current generation of political leaders might not have caused Brexit as such but they are partly responsible: they have watched as Brussels has taken more powers away from people and communities, and sapped economic freedoms in favour of its European super-state. It’s their responsibility, therefore, to do something about it and make a proper go of Brexit.
If the Conservative party gets it right, it can expand its appeal to a new generation of young voters. There is a new story to be told: one about breaking free of European parochialism and promoting freedom and basic liberty. Get it right, and Brexit may yet go along the lines envisaged by those voting for it. The alternative to a proper Brexit this isn’t the Norway option: it’s the Venezuela option. And one I’d rather not have to live through.