The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union will impact young people’s future the most

Brexit 24 June 2016

©AP Images/ European Union-EP

The European Youth Forum is disappointed by the British people’s decision to leave the European Union, which may block its young people from many of the advantages – such as the freedom to work, study and volunteer around Europe – that membership brings. It adds insult to injury that the group that this decision will affect the most, the UK’s young people, is the group that has the most positive views of the EU.

It is particularly sad that in difficult times in Europe the UK has decided to turn its back and not stand in solidarity with the rest of the Union. It is in times such as this, with rising euroscepticism in many countries, and with the serious global challenges faced by Europe, that we need a strong union.

In today’s world, there is no benefit to isolation. Globalisation, migration and climate change are only a few examples of issues where we must act together and doing so in the European Union is even more powerful. Close cooperation between peoples and countries within and beyond the borders of the Union is the only sustainable path for the future.

We respect the voice of the British people. We need time to reflect and to look ahead for how to continue to work together. The close result of the referendum reminds us that the EU and its Member States need to better communicate the values and benefits of the European Union. Moreover, the campaign in the UK has exposed that a positive vision of the EU is much needed.

The EU has the responsibility now to deliver more for young people and everyone should be better informed about that. Misinformation on the EU and its actions is only feeding populism, often playing on people’s fears. Economic woes and social disparity, which has hit young people the hardest, is making people cautious and leading to disillusionment with politics, government and institutions. This, however, should not be blamed exclusively on the EU itself.

Much remains to be done to make national politicians see themselves as part of a solution, especially if they are unhappy with the EU. More often than not, national politicians blame the EU for decisions they have been party to, or decisions they have taken at a national level. This foolishness must stop.

The Youth Forum calls on European leaders to now focus on bringing the EU together, ensuring that the Union delivers real positive change for its people, and to forge solidarity between people based on European values of inclusion, peace and democracy. We call on the political leadership both at national and European level to see themselves as part of the solution and stop putting the blame on the EU in a vague way. Europe should be the project that benefits all young people, from the EU and beyond. European leaders should lead the way to a brighter future for young people and future generations.

In the upcoming negotiations, EU leaders must not punish British citizens. More specifically, as young people were largely in favor of the UK remaining a member of the EU, their interest should be particularly taken into account in the discussions.  EU and UK leaders must come up together with a fair agreement, which lets young people take advantage of opportunities for, for example, intercultural learning, cultural and educational exchanges, and trade and employment opportunities. These are the aspects of the EU which young people value the most.

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