No, don’t listen to your elders

North Devon Journal

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Contrary to what Nigel Farage says, last Thursday was a tragic day for our country, but more importantly for us – its young generation.

It didn’t take much for majority of Britain’s older generation to fall for the blustering rhetoric of the Leave campaign – 61% of those aged over 65 voted leave.

But then compare this to the slim 25% of those aged 18-24 who voted for a Brexit, a shocking statistic that has massive implications.

The hashtag ‘NotInOurName’ has been a popular trend on Twitter since the result was revealed, highlighting how distraught, outraged and cheated the majority of young people in Britain feel.

The Vote Leave campaign dismissed the numerous social, economic and environmental warnings as ‘scaremongering’. All they wanted to hear was ‘immigration’,’ ‘£350m a week’ and perhaps the most overused, deceptive and vacuous mantra in history: ‘Vote Leave, take back control’. Now these warnings have become the reality, and some who voted leave are even wanting to reverse their votes!

Then there’s someone like myself. I’m 17, six months short of 18 and I, like many others, had a prominent voice in the Stronger In campaign and cared intently about this momentous political decision. Yet, when it came to polling day I was powerless. Is it really fair that our futures have been decided by those three times our age?

This is a travesty. The young generation warned you, we tried to get our voices heard, but you ignored us. Though hindsight is a wonderful thing, now we have to live with your mistake. We can only cling on to the hope that we will rejoin the EU some time in the future.

 

Radio report on Tory leadership crisis

Broadcast

As experience in my ambition to become a broadcast journalist, I produced this Radio 4 World At One-style news report on the leadership crisis facing the Conservative Party. Today drama unfolded as Michael Gove was an ally turned rival when he sabotaged Boris Johnson’s bid for Prime Minister, leading to his withdrawal from the race.

Radio report on EU Ref renegotiations

Broadcast

As experience in my ambition to become a broadcast journalist, I produced this Radio 4 World At One-style news report on the long road ahead facing Britain in its renegotiations with the European Union. I feature clips of Nigel Farage MEP and Alyn Smith MEP speaking at the European Parliament yesterday, and of Jeremy Corbyn MP and David Cameron MP speaking at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

EU Ref: Interview with local councillor

Broadcast

Set against a stunning Barnstaple backdrop, I quizzed David Chalmers, Liberal Democrat councillor for Bickington and North Devon ‘Stronger In’ campaign co-ordinator, about why he wants to remain in the European Union.

This was published for polify.co.uk, a brand new local political engagement project, designed to reach out to all demographics, especially young people, using modern, unique, and innovative methods.

EU Ref: What local businesses think

Broadcast

 

Following a local Parish Hall debate, I heard the thoughts of Philip Milton, founder and owner of a North Devon financial firm, on the EU Referendum.

This was published for polify.co.uk, a brand new local political engagement project, designed to reach out to all demographics, especially young people, using modern, unique, and innovative methods.

EU Ref: What should young people vote?

Broadcast

I felt the voices of young people had been underrepresented in the national discussion over the EU Referendum, so following a local debate I chatted to two students, representing each side, about their thoughts.

This was published for polify.co.uk, a brand new local political engagement project, designed to reach out to all demographics, especially young people, using modern, unique, and innovative methods.

 

EU Ref: Interview with Julie Girling MEP

Broadcast

I filmed this interview with Julie Girling, MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, following an EU debate in North Devon.

This was published for polify.co.uk, a brand new local political engagement project, designed to reach out to all demographics, especially young people, using modern, unique, and innovative methods.

Why young people should Remain in EU

North Devon Gazette

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Ahead of a third work experience week with the North Devon Gazette, my local newspaper, I proposed an idea to the editor Andy Keeble of a visual debate on the EU Referendum between two young people. He loved the idea, so I contacted fellow student Alex Mullen (in favour of leaving the EU) and he wrote a 200 word piece to accompany mine. They appeared in the following week’s paper and online (see here). Below is my case for Remain…

REMAIN:

The European Union offers numerous benefits for young people, many of which we take for granted.

Almost every educational institution in North Devon, and certainly Petroc, is, in part, funded by the European Social Fund.

Furthermore, the Erasmus Mobility Programme subsidises numerous educational trips elsewhere on the continent and allows both UK and foreign students to study in other EU countries for a ninth of the UK tuition fee, if not for free.

Professor Melissa Percival from the University of Exeter recently warned of the impact exclusion from Erasmus+ could have on modern foreign language students.

Undoubtedly, membership of the EU is vital for British universities. Professor Sir Steve Smith, vice-chancellor and chief executive of Exeter University, wrote in the latest edition of campus newspaper Exeposé that the EU funds numerous research projects.

Even the one and only Professor Stephen Hawking has expressed his concern at the UK shutting its door to a budding community of scientific research.

Then there’s immigration – vital to young people’s futures because hard-working, opportunistic economic migrants use the EU’s freedom of movement to enhance our country’s workforce.

With the ongoing recruitment crises in the NHS and education sectors, we need these skilled professionals if they are to remain stable for our lifetimes.

I witnessed the devastating reality of climate change on a visit to Iceland in February, incidentally a non-EU country.

The rhetoric of both campaigns in recent weeks has demonstrated how low this issue is on UK governmental agenda, but the EU provides a framework that forces us to prevent further damage.

Ultimately, voting to remain isn’t a cop-out. Rather, it’s a safe, sensible and well-considered choice that will ensure that we, young people, will have prosperous futures.

Poll finds Barnstaple shoppers want Brexit

North Devon Gazette

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With just over two weeks to go until Britain’s referendum on European Union membership, our reporter Ewan Somerville headed down to Barnstaple High Street to hear local opinions on the issue.

On Saturday, May 28 in association with North Devon political engagement project ‘polify.co.uk’, Ewan, 17, filmed a series of interviews with passers-by and conducted a street poll on how people would vote on June 23.

The poll of 268 people found that 49 per cent want to leave the European Union, 35 per cent want to remain and 16 per cent are undecided.

More men (26 per cent) than women (23 per cent) wanted to leave.

Ewan interviewed three people – one leaning towards ‘remain’, another towards ‘leave’, and a young person who was undecided.

He said: “It’s striking how disinterested the people of Barnstaple were when we were filming and conducting the street poll. Nonetheless, we did gain a flavour of how people in the area are likely to vote.”

Polify is a new initiative set up locally to engage more people in politics.

Its co-founder David Vaughan, 31, who studies politics and international relations at the Open University in London, said: “I wanted to do politics as well as study it. I wanted to support my academic studies with some real interactions.

“North Devon is traditionally a black hole for politics and this project is aimed at changing that,” he added.

Mr Vaughan hopes to host frequent debates and meetings around North Devon, and present relevant information and statistics in engaging ways on the Polify website.

People are encouraged to attend Polify’s ‘town hall’ style EU referendum debate in Braunton this Saturday.

It is being held at the Parish Hall, starting at 6.30pm and will be chaired by Mr Vaughan. Both sides of the debate will be represented by three people, including South West MEP Julie Girling on the ‘remain’ side and North Devon UKIP Chairman Stuart Robertson on the ‘leave’ side.

For young people, there’s more to the EU Referendum than just statistics

Indiependent

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I know I’m not the only young person who is sick of all this petty squabbling over the European Union. As we saw in the BBC’s ‘How Should I Vote’ debate aimed at those aged 18-29 in Glasgow last Thursday, students across the country want answers, they want certainty, they want prosperous futures. As one undecided audience member put it to the panel: “I have no idea what to do, and I blame you lot entirely for that”.

Speaking to fellow students in Devon, there’s undoubtedly a general consensus that spurious and unfounded claims from Remain, such as ‘Brexit would leave families £4,300 a year worse off’, are pointless and unintuitive. Likewise, the blunder on the battle bus has left Boris Johnson’s pocket more than £350m lighter when it comes to trust from young voters. Indeed, a Treasury Select Committee recently concluded that these respective claims were “mistaken” and “deeply problematic”. Even those on the Remain and Leave sides in Glasgow admitted they had been confounding; one young pro-Leave voter said it was “appalling”.

Although the sentiment behind the BBC debate was fantastic, many of Britain’s students are still perplexed. So who knows what to vote? What choice is best for students? Recent polls by the student union at Petroc, the college I attend, and King Edward’s School in Bath found that 80% want to remain in the EU. I agree with them, and I firmly believe that all the evidence shows that students would lose out if we voted to leave on June 23rd.

Victoria Derbyshire hosts the BBC referendum debate
Victoria Derbyshire hosts the BBC referendum debate

It almost goes without saying that there will be better future job prospects for the current young generation if the UK is a member of the largest trading block in the world. Access to the European single market, the free trade area of the EU, is vital for thousands of businesses across our country and hence many jobs rely on it. This is particularly significant for city jobs; as Sadiq Khan said in his speech on Monday, over 500,000 London jobs will be at risk if we leave. Also, however sensationalist they may be at times, we cannot ignore the dire economic forecasts in the event of a Brexit. Do we really want to narrow the amount of job opportunities for our future workforce?

Then there’s migration, a topic that is increasingly being used by each campaign as a political knife, when actually it’s incredibly important to young people’s futures. It was revealed last week that the UK’s net migration has increased by 20,000 in the past year, reaching 333,000 in the year ending December 2015, 184,000 of these from other EU countries. Since 2004, when many ex-communist Eastern European countries joined the EU, the UK has seen an influx of thousands of skilled workers. The latest Leave video exclaims: “If you want to save the NHS, Vote Leave.” This is somewhat ironic as the current recruitment crisis in the British health and education sectors is making hard-working immigrants all the more vital if these cornerstones of society are to be strong for our futures. It‘s also a fact commonly overlooked that the UK’s population would be declining if the rate of immigration were lower.

HARD-WORKING IMMIGRANTS ARE VITAL IF THE NHS IS TO SURVIVE

Then, of course, there’s education. The education sector is likely to pay one of the highest prices of a Brexit, a fact that even Stuart Robertson, North Devon UKIP Chair, couldn’t deny when I presented it to him. It goes unnoticed, yet a large number of school facilities are at least in part funded by the European Union, particularly new builds. The website of the further education college I attend clearly states that the facilities are funded by the European Social Fund. The EU also subsidises numerous trips, such as the £150 five-day visit to Brussels I was lucky enough to go on with my secondary school.

Crucially, however, current or aspiring university students could really lose out if we choose to leave the EU. The Erasmus Grant is a European Commission initiative that accounts financially for any added costs incurred by UK students studying abroad and ensures tuition fees are completely free at the host university. This also means foreign students can more easily study in the UK, enriching our universities with multicultural diversity. A 17 year-old GB volleyball player I know told me that the Erasmus Mobility Programme fully funded her team of sixteen to travel to and stay for seven days at an Austrian volleyball academy in February. She was also given 530 Euros through Erasmus to cover all living expenses.

And let’s face it – our government hates students. Since 2010, tuition fees have trebled and deluded University Minister Jo Johnson announced in May that they are increasing yet more. Maintenance Grants have also been scrapped and the government is proposing to backfire on yet another promise by retrospectively freezing the student loan repayment threshold at £21,000, despite over 100,000 students signing a petition opposing such a move. For many students in England, Erasmus is one of very few ways out of a debt exceeding £45,000, simply for studying at university.

Employment, cheaper data roaming, migration, education, stability of the population, workers’ rights, the position of women… the benefits for us – young people – in voting to remain are endless. Ultimately, this is about our futures as we will be the demographic most affected by the nation’s decision on June 23rd. We must look beyond the lies, damned lies and statistics and get our voices heard. Politicians will engage with us if we make them.

Words by Ewan Somerville