Nearly a month has passed since the British people voted for Brexit, providing the biggest democratic mandate in British history. And yet there’s still no sign of Brexit. Voters were promised immediate action following a Leave vote; but a growing anti-democratic sentiment, expressed in public marches against Brexit, media articles calling for a second referendum and MPs saying we should stall leaving the EU, threatens to scupper the people’s will.
Parliament will soon debate an online petition calling for a second referendum after it was signed by more than four million people. Our new prime minister Theresa May has said she will delay the triggering of Article 50, the part of the Lisbon Treaty that allows a nation to leave the EU, until there is an agreed ‘UK approach’, backed by Scotland. For her part, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland is in ‘a strong position’ to block Brexit. She says she will not allow the UK to take Scotland out of the EU against its wishes.
All this interference in the democratic process by the political and media elites should be of concern to everyone — not only those who voted for Brexit but anyone who believes in democracy. The people have spoken and the outcome is clear, but it is what we do next, it is how we stand up for the people’s vote against the powerful interests seeking to undermine it, that will be really key, and really binding.
A majority of young people campaigned to remain in the EU, but they now must campaign for democracy, for the enactment of the referendum result, regardless of whether or not they support it. Too many are telling young people that Brexit, apparently spearheaded by old people, has snatched away their futures. A Mirror columnist says ‘younger voters will be the losers’. A young writer for the Guardian says ‘it is we who will live the longest with the consequences of this referendum’. We shouldn’t let this generational fearmongering blind us to the fact that it would be the failure to follow through on Brexit that would snatch something incredibly important away from young people, and from all people: democracy.
What better issue to get politically involved in than the demand to uphold democracy. I think all students, whichever side they were on in the referendum, should now back the fight for Brexit to be made a reality and democracy to be respected. That is a radical cry, and young people should be making it.