Alex Britten / Jan 2017
Theresa May's speech last week gave us the biggest insight yet into what Brexit could mean for future generations. But whilst government positions itself on the path towards a harder Brexit and talks tough on immigration, our new poll conducted by Opinium reveals that reducing immigration is at the bottom of the list for under 35s when asked what is most important in determining the UK’s future outside the EU.
Top of the list for those aged 18 to 34 were are ensuring jobs are available in the UK, protecting human rights in the UK, and ensuring the UK’s public services are well funded. In fact, out of 22 options posed, reducing immigration still only ranked 14th most important for 35-54 year olds, and 13th for the over-55s.
This is not to say that reducing immigration is unimportant to all those we polled (it averaged 5.85 on a 0-10 scale of importance for those aged 18 to 34). But perhaps it indicates a danger that we’re being too focused on a narrow set of issues that may not actually reflect the balanced priorities of the wider UK population.
What is clear is that there are a wide variety of differing views held by people across the country, and many are being underrepresented both by the narrative in the mainstream media, and the approach of the government. Our poll found that just 34% of the representative sample of 2,007 people we surveyed are confident that Brexit is being negotiated in a way that represents their interests, a percentage that decreases to just 28% amongst 18 to 34 year olds. With a Parliament that had an average age of 50 when elected in 2015, and negotiations taking place that will affect the direction of the country for many decades to come, it’s even more important than ever to ensure that young people have an active voice and are given opportunities to influence the Brexit process over the coming years.
Indeed, many of the politicians we have spoken to do want to engage with young people and represent their views, but the noise around the Brexit debate can mean getting a balance of perspectives is difficult. This is why we have recently launched Brexit Watch, a project that aims to build bridges between policy makers and young people around the politics and process of leaving the EU. Through this project, we will be providing commentary and analysis of key announcements and policies from a variety of youth perspectives, that will be useful for people of all ages.
And if you are under 35 and feel like your voice is underrepresented, then join our bureau and help us scrutinise the Brexit process according to the priorities that matter to you. Visit www.covi.org.uk/brexit-watch/ to find out more.