Brexit Cafés: young people share their opinions with their local MEPs.
The European Parliament Liaison Office in the UK, organised, with the support of the youth organisation “My Life My Say” a series of meetings across the UK, which gave the opportunity for young people to express their feelings and ideas about Brexit to their local MEPs.
The meetings, held in an informal style, gave the opportunity for under-30s to have a coffee and discuss the implications that Brexit could have on them and their local areas with their local MEPs. The meetings were structured as roundtables, with participants discussing in small groups which policy areas they wanted to discuss on the day before a more general debate with all the participants and the MEP facilitated by experts on youth and policy.
For instance in Bristol, participants talked with Molly Scott Cato MEP on how Brexit will affect the University, especially in regards to research funds. Participants also expressed their desire to remain part of the Erasmus+ scheme after the UK withdrawal. The participants in Bristol agreed on the difficulties of getting involved in politics and how this is exacerbated by a lack of political education in schools and emphasised the importance of civic engagement.
In Belfast, unsurprisingly, the most pressing issue discussed was the concern over how Brexit will affect the Irish border. Particularly important for them was that UK negotiators minimise the effects of Brexit for migrants and maintain the human rights standards and enforcement mechanisms, and particularly, that there is not a return to the ‘hard-border’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. They also talked of their disillusion towards the political process, as they do not feel their voice is heard in the political arena.
In Edinburgh, the participants discussed with Alyn Smith MEP the implications of Brexit for citizens’ rights. They spoke of the need of having a public discussion of those implications as well as ensuring that the rights of the people who voted to remain in the EU are guaranteed to avoid a possible violation of human rights. They also highlighted how (social) media representation might alienate young people and turn them off politics.
In the two events held on the South coast of England, the main topics of discussion centred on the political process, nationally and at a European level. In Portsmouth, young people asked Keith Taylor MEP how he represents the people of his constituency and what be an MEP entails. While participants in Bournemouth highlighted the lack of political education in the region as a barrier to engagement, while also highlighting to Clare Moody MEP, their fears that cuts to culture and the arts in the local area will be exacerbated following Brexit.
Meetings held across the country showed young people expressing their worries for the UK post-Brexit. From the Erasmus programme to research funding for the universities they are another indication of young people as being a ‘core constituency’ for the EU and the realisation of what it really means to leave the EU.