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Do Students Care About Brexit?

On Friday evening Remain Heavyweights graced Nottingham Trent University. Preaching to the crowd of mostly non-students, Ken Clarke MP, Chris Leslie MP, Natalie Bennett, Tim Brake MP, Femi Oluwole and Eloise Todd brought the Brexit debate very much to Nottingham.

With Brexit day fast approaching, March 29th to be precise, the panel discussed what they could do, or what the mostly over 40s crowd could do to stop Brexit.

‘What next?’ was the over-arching question that plagued the discussion. Was it another referendum? Or good old-fashioned Parliament sovereignty riding in to rescue us from Brexit misery, as Ken Clarke suggested. The rest of the guests could not see any way but to re-run the 2016 vote and ask the country again. Most would not articulate another vote as a re-run of the referendum. Former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett put it as a reaction vote to Theresa May’s government negotiating a final deal with the European Union.

This idea seems to be agreed upon in principle by the whole discourse coming from the guests. There is logic to the idea to have a different vote on the terms of the deal that May could bring back. Brexit is a mess. It began a mess and carries on being a total disaster run by careerist politicians who will not ever feel the effects that they have unleashed upon the public. The only problem is a deal must essentially be agreed by the end of this year, which makes no-deal the likely reality.

The panel, who fundamentally agree, only disagreed on strategy and tactics- which this discussion seemed more of a meeting of. A wall was reached, however, as the talk seemed to go round in circles as so much looming uncertainty rattled in the background in almost every sentence that was uttered.

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The panel debating…

A pivotal part of Brexit is that young people do not want it, with students being part of the 75% of young people who voted against Brexit. The normal phrase from Femi Oluewole being re-stated ‘those that will live with Brexit, don’t want to live with it’.

Which is almost an accurate representation? The EU, overall, is great. Freedom of movement around Europe is amazing. To have my University colleagues come from France, Italy and Germany, to name a few, to study and share our cultures, experiences, education and opinions, is something that should be cherished and encouraged. The EU is beneficial to students, as being the umbrella for such schemes as Erasmus show Talks like the one held, here at Trent, do sometimes miss the point though.

The crowd at the talk had little NTU student presence, with the crowd mostly being populated by those who would be best described as older than the term ‘young person’. Symbolising my point, a group of Sixth Formers left halfway through the talk, making a lot of noise on their exit leaving a big gap in front of me at this sold-out panel.

Do students, or young people, just not care about Brexit? I cannot speak for us all but I feel that most young people care about material and immediate things, like not having high tuition fees that straddle us with debt for the rest of our lives, having a job when we graduate, paying our rent, taking care of the homeless so another human being does not have to sleep rough this winter and just simply going out-out.

Brexit does matter to us, but it is not the totality of our worries and a talk like this should reframe from being an echo chamber of thought and maybe invite some fundamentally challenging panellist to engage in debate with us. 52% of the population voted to leave the EU, I was not one of those, however, to address the rationale behind Brexit maybe the other side should be heard as well.

By James Evans

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