Family & Education

Brexit youth: 'I am angry and the future scares me'


Not many students at Coventry City College voted for Brexit - the vast majority weren't old enough.

But two years on, the views of 18- and 19-year-olds in this strongly pro-Leave area are pretty striking.

When asked how they feel about the vote to leave the EU, there's one overriding emotion: anger - at the fact nobody asked them what they thought.

It's not that they have not been heard, says Jeevan, 18, it's that they have not been allowed to speak.

"It's annoying," says 19-year-old catering student Morgan, "that the people who voted for this aren't going to be dealing with the fallout for as long as us."

'Decided for us'

Gemma, also 19 and studying catering, says: "I feel annoyed because it's about the jobs really.

"And it's going to be harder because of everything that's happening."

Her friend Zoe, who wants to open a bakery, thinks her dream will be harder to realise as a result of Brexit.

Johnny, who travelled to Europe for two weeks as part of his course, says: "I feel anger that other people aren't going to get the opportunity that we have had."

Daniel, 17, says he originally supported Leave but now he's not so sure.

Of the adults who backed Brexit, he says: "If they want their children to lose out like that then that's on them."

Johnny says: "We don't really have a say in anything right now - will we have a say in the future?

"Our future was decided for us basically."

There is also a sense among these particular students that opportunities will be more limited than they have been.

Coventry already has the highest proportion of learners in further education that are from the most deprived background.

Everyday racism

Ayanda, 18, who is studying health and social care, wanted to travel the world working as a midwife and gaining experience along the way.

She says: "I wanted to start out in Australia - that's OK. But then I wanted to go to countries in the EU but I think Brexit means it will be more difficult to go and get a job there."

She then planned to come back to England to work, but says she would start a family somewhere else.

She agrees with the others that immigration was a big driver of the vote.

"I felt like the 50% that voted for Brexit didn't want immigrants here. Most of it is to do with racism," she says.

"I experience racism on a daily basis - it's less than it was but it's still there.

"This is my country but I feel like the people who voted for Brexit wanted to get the migrants out of Britain."

And later she admits to being very scared about the future.

'Taking our jobs'

Jo Gaffney, a youth worker at the college, says she has seen racism raise its ugly head since the vote.

"In Coventry there's a lot of young people joining far-right groups," she says. "We do a lot of work around that.

"What we saw was at the time of the vote was that some of these views were legitimised.

"A lot of people could suddenly say things that they had kept to themselves for ages.

"Now people think it's OK to hate migrants.

"You could hear it from the way young people were talking."

She adds: "I hear things now that I haven't heard since the 1980s."

Johnny, who came from Latvia with his parents when he was aged 11, says: "When people say all that about, 'They're coming here and taking our jobs,' the thing is that these jobs were there beforehand anyway - people just hadn't applied for them.

"The jobs were there to be taken."

Jake, 17, who is the one person in the group who has a more positive attitude towards Brexit, says: "I've grown up in Coventry, which is a multicultural city.

"We are the ['UK] City of Culture 2021 - we wouldn't have been given it without immigration.

"I have gone to multicultural schools all my life. My best friends are from different ethnicities.

"I am not scared because I've been in a multicultural city my whole life."

Future fear

But he can understand why someone living in a different area might be frightened if they suddenly had a lot of new people moving in.

Morgan says that he would have voted Leave in the referendum, because of "the propaganda out there" - but he has changed his mind.

"I really, really wish people would have voted Remain," he says.

"The future scares me.

"Nobody has told me how it's going to affect me.

"No-one has told me how it's going to affect my college life, my career later on in life.

"It's my future that's going to be affected."

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