The Current

Some young Brits are calling for a new Brexit vote. Others argue it's undemocratic

British MPs have voted to take control of the Brexit process, prompting speculation that Prime Minister Theresa May could soon name her own departure date. We explore the latest twist in the Brexit saga, and ask how young voters are feeling.

As Brexit drags on, we hear from young people on both sides of the debate

EU supporters, calling on the government to give Britons a vote on the final Brexit deal, participate in the 'People's Vote' march in central London on Saturday. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)
Listen19:40

Read Story Transcript

Young people calling for a second Brexit referendum are missing out on "the fundamental basics of democracy," says the head of a pro-Leave social networking group.

"If you start letting votes sort of be manipulated into second referendums, without upholding the first referendum, you're starting to slip into a very undemocratic situation," Lucy Harris, director of Leavers of Britain, told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"It's the value we put on democracy which is most important, and that matters to every single person — not just young people, not just old people."

On Monday, British MPs voted to take over control of the stalled Brexit process from Theresa May's government. The move will allow lawmakers to vote on alternatives to the prime minister's withdrawal deal, one of which they hope can secure majority support.

Hundreds of thousands of anti-Brexiters marched through London on Saturday, calling for a new referendum on whether to leave the EU or remain.

Lucy Harris, who founded the Leavers of London social network, poses with her British passport outside the House of Parliament in Westminster, central London, on January 21, 2018. She is against holding a second Brexit referendum. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

Harris worries a second vote could get ugly.

"Last week I was in the street leafleting ... I had a guy come up to me and tell me that I should be lobotomized," Harris said.

"I mean, that's aggressive. It's disgusting. And just imagine if we're actually to have a campaign on those terms, where the country is divided, we're angry, we want to get at each other, we're not talking to one another.

"It would just be a horrible situation for everyone."

Hugo Lucas, with the pro-remain group Our Future Our Choice, argues Brexit will have harmful economic impacts on young people in Britain. (Chris Allnutt)

On the flip side of the debate, the leader of a pro-remain group focused on young people does want to see a second referendum.

"I find it a very curious thing to say that giving the people a vote could somehow be undemocratic," said Hugo Lucas, director of communications for Our Future Our Choice.

"I don't think it's that insulting to people to ask them if they're sure that they still want this when what is actually on the table now is so different from what was promised in 2016."

About two million young people have come of electoral age since Britain voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, according to Lucas. And a report from Our Future Our Choice shows strong pro-remain sentiment among young people compared to older voters, according to polling data.

"Young people are the ones who are going to have to make sense of this Brexit mess," he added. "It's not going to stop anytime soon."

Placards placed by anti-Brexit supporters stand opposite the Houses of Parliament in London on Monday. British Prime Minister Theresa May was making a last-minute push Monday to win support for her European Union divorce deal, warning opponents that failure to approve it would mean a long, and possibly indefinite, delay to Brexit. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

Instead of talking at each other, Harris is trying to get young and old people, from both sides of the Brexit coin, to talk with each other.

"Pitting young people against older people, I think, is really unhealthy for society," she said.

Lucy Harris and Hugo Lucas tell Anna Maria Tremonti how they think Brexit will change Britain. 1:40

However, Hugo argues young people are going to suffer economically under any Brexit deal.

"We are a very, very different generation to the ones that have come before," he said. "We have different priorities, and a lot of those priorities rest on continued membership of the European Union."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Produced by Allie Jaynes, Danielle Carr and Imogen Birchard.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.