Students, join the fight to invoke Article 50

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.

Students should challenge the idea that young people are the victims of the referendum, and should show that we are in fact politically competent individuals who value the importance of democratic debate and decision-making. We should join the fight to invoke Article 50 to show that we do have political leverage, and that we are going to use it to defend the ideal of democratic politics that so many earlier radicals and progressives fought for. Democracy is a far bigger and more important issue than the EU; it goes beyond left and right, and beyond generations. Democracy is something we must push for collectively because it affects us collectively. Politics should be done for the people and by the people, and the winding back of Brexit threatens this ideal.

The consequences of undermining the democratic will would be far graver for the young, and for all people, than any risk that might come with leaving the EU. Active students have traditionally been seen as providing a radical, progressive, democratic voice — we must now live up to this and push hard for Article 50 to be invoked now.

Deniz Karaman is a writer, student and a campaigner for spiked’s Invoke Article 50 NOW! campaign.

For permission to republish spiked articles, please contact Viv Regan.

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