Brexit series: ‘I love Europe but I don’t think the EU is the way to go’ - Young voters have their say

There is a perception that all young people in the UK voted to stay in the European Union, but as the UK prepares to leave, Anna Colivicchi talks to some about why they voted leave, as part of our series on what Brexit means to Lancashire.

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 5:00 pm
The UK will leave the European Union this Friday, after being a member of the union for 47 years.

After three and a half years, three different deadlines and three different Prime Ministers, the Brexit gridlock seems to be finally over: the UK will leave the European Union this Friday, after being a member of the union for 47 years.

Since the 2016 referendum, the fallout and recriminations have painted the decision to withdraw as being driven by older generations, with younger people more determined to stay in the EU.

According to exit polls on the day of the EU referendum, almost three quarters of British people aged between 18 to 25 voted to remain in the European Union.

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Oliver Knights, chairman of Chorley Young Conservatives

But there are plenty of under 25s who believed the country would have a better future away from Brussels.

Oliver Knights, of Chorley, was among those who voted to leave and still believes he was right to back the leave campaign.

The 22-year-old became involved in politics during the 2016 referendum, and has since then founded a Conservative society at the University of Salford, where he studied TV and radio production.

He explains: “In 2016, the issue of Brexit literally exploded and since then it has been at the forefront of people’s minds.

Richard Johnson, lecturer in US politics and international relations at the University of Lancaster

“I thought it was a very big decision to make - and that there was nothing black or white about it.

“I personally love Europe but I don’t think centralised power is the way to go.

“Leaving the EU is going to give us a chance to be more independent and spend more resources to advance the North.”

Oliver is now chairman of Chorley Young Conservatives and feels it is time for division in the nation to be healed, as we face the future outside of the EU as a whole country.

Max Kafula, student of philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Lancaster

He says: “A lot of people in this region voted to leave.

“But those who voted remain are very respectful of this choice, which was made as one country.

“We need to respect the result, and what we see now is some kind of urgency to get this issue over with, even from people who voted to remain.”

Richard Johnson, a young lecturer in US politics and international relations at the University of Lancaster, is a Labour supporter but, like Oliver, he believes that leaving the EU would

bring multiple long-term benefits.

Richard, who was 25 when he campaigned with Vote Leave in 2016, says: “I always had concerns about depending on a supranational institution like the EU, especially about economic control, immigration and the democracy issues that come with it.

“I think people in this country expect decisions to be made by the MPs they elected, and the UK Parliament to be responsible for decision-making.”

From an international perspective, he thinks that the Government should have more control on immigration policies, and that the UK departure from the EU could mean more immigration from extra-EU countries.

He says: “I lived in the US for some time, and I have friends there who found it difficult to move to the UK.

“Immigration policies have been particularly tough and over punitive with non-European citizens, giving preference to fellow Europeans.

“I believe that leaving the EU will bring a more inclusive discussion, where we will look at people in terms of what they can bring to this country, rather than where they are from.”

In the aftermath of the referendum, there was speculation on the fact that, had 16 and 17-year-olds been allowed to vote, the result could have been very different.

Max Kafula, an 18-year-old student of philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Lancaster, was too young to vote in 2016, but he believes that the withdrawal is the best option for this country, and that Brexit could bring, among other things, better environmental policies.

He says: “After studying politics and economics at A- level, I realised I would have definitely voted to leave.

“I disagree with some of the agricultural policies enforced by the EU, especially regarding pesticides - which are damaging the environment - and fishing rights.

“And having some important decisions taken from the European Court of Justice, rather than in our own country, shows a lack of sovereignty.”