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British Youth Feel Completely Screwed by the Brexit Vote


Younger generations will experience the results of the Brexit more than any other group. (Tomek Nacho/Flickr)

You may have noticed apocalyptic headlines and anguished social media posts when you woke up this morning. What happened? Britain voted 52% to 48% to leave the European Union (EU) in what's called the Brexit (British exit).

Young people in the UK are devastated--they largely voted to remain and feel their future has been endangered. Their EU membership provided them with ease of travel in Europe and easier access to jobs, affordable education, and social services on the mainland.

Soon after Thursday's vote, #WhatHaveWeDone began trending on Twitter.

Who voted for the Brexit?

Yesterday's vote mostly asked adult citizens of the UK whether or not their nation should remain or leave the EU. And despite early polls signalling a dead heat, most people voted to leave by a margin of 4%--roughly 1.3 million votes.

Britain experienced an extraordinary 72% turnout for the referendum.

But young, multicultural Britons voted overwhelmingly to remain.

British youth believe their nation is stronger and better off in the EU. Many grew up with European passports. And England's cultural center, London, is a cosmopolitan city filled with families from all over Europe and the world.

In fact, 75% of British youth age 24 or younger voted to remain in the EU. Moreover, 57% of people ages 18 to 34 voted to stay.

Unfortunately for young Brits, older voters outgunned youth turnout.

Basically, most young people in Britain feel totally disregarded by the older generations who won't have to live as long with the Brexit's consequences. The life expectancy for 18 to 24-year-olds in Britain is 90 years.

Watch British youth react to the Brexit:

So why should you care about the Brexit?

A little background on the European Union.

To understand Brexit, you have to know a little bit about European history. The European Union was founded after World War II. Much of Europe was decimated after the brutal war. European nations, including once bitter enemies like France and Germany, decided it would be best if everyone decided to get along.

The general idea is if European countries are linked economically, they are less likely to invade one another.

Today, EU citizens can freely travel between member states, and many EU regulations apply to all 28 members--soon to be 27 now that the UK has decided to leave. The Brexit may end this ease of travel for British youth, endangering their employment and educational opportunities.


Most of the people who voted to leave didn't live in the UK's cities. (Garry Knight/Flickr)

Why leave, anyway?

Prime Minister David Cameron actually introduced the Brexit idea in 2015's general election--at the time, it was something of a tactical ploy meant to placate the far-right members of his own Conservative Party. Cameron promised to hold an in-or-out referendum if re-elected. Well, he was, and so here we are!

Those in the Vote Leave campaign, headed by UK Independence Party leader and self-proclaimed radical Nigel Farage, argue the UK needs to regain control over its finances and borders.

The Leave campaign famously featured double-decker buses covered with advertisements claiming the UK currently sends the EU 350 million pounds a week (that's around $482 million with the current rate of exchange). Farage promised to spend that money on the UK's National Health Service (NHS) if the UK became independent.

But he's already backtracked on that promise.


Here's Prime Minister David Cameron shaking hands with European Parliament President Martin Schulz in February. (European Parliament/Flickr)

The Stronger In campaign wanted to remain in the EU.

Prime Minister Cameron--the same fellow who introduced the referendum in the first place!--led the Stronger In campaign. Members believe leaving the EU is a calamitous mistake and that Britain is "stronger, safer, and better off in Europe than we would be on our own."


Here's Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon signing Scotland's Independence Referendum in 2013. The referendum failed in 2014. (Scottish Government/Flickr)

Northern Ireland and Scotland want to remain.

Northern Ireland and Scotland weren't having it--particularly Scotland. Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland will likely seek independence from the UK so that they can rejoin the EU:

"I intend to take all possible steps and explore all possible options to give effect to how people in Scotland voted, in other words to secure our continuing place in the EU, and in the single market in particular."

How will the Brexit actually work, though?

The UK will now need to negotiate two big deals to become independent from the EU. The first will be the terms of the actual exit from the EU. Secondly, the UK will need to negotiate new trade deals with the other 27 members of the EU.

Fair enough. But nobody actually knows what is going to happen now that the UK has voted to leave.

One problem is that the Leave campaign never actually presented a plan for an alternate relationship with the EU. What?!, you gasp. No, that's right. No plan.

Here's where the UK will need to start.

Article 50 in the Treaty of the EU explains how a country can break away from the EU. The UK has 24 months, or two years, to negotiate exit terms. The clock is ticking.

The UK won't be able to negotiate with individual countries, but will have to face the European Commission. The remaining EU countries will meet to decide their own terms--at least 65% of these member states must agree (20 out of 27 countries). You can see how an "us vs. them" situation could develop really quickly now that the UK has voted "Leave."


David Cameron gambled on the referendum and lost. (Department of Energy and Climate Change/Flickr)

Why did Prime Minister David Cameron resign?

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron resigned after the vote. He said that the UK needs "fresh leadership to take it in this direction."

Also, markets immediately plunged.

Global markets shuddered after the historic vote. There is a worry that the Brexit will damage the global economy. US stocks and retirement funds could take a beating.

One scary scenario is a possible recession that starts in Europe and affects all countries.

As the dollar gains strength against the pound and Euro, US trade and companies doing business elsewhere could decline. Travel to the UK and Europe will likely become more affordable, however.

How American leaders are responding.

Although Obama believed that the UK should Remain, he was diplomatic in his official response today:

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton immediately acknowledged the financial insecurity that this vote could bring to the States:

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump was thrilled. After all, Trump's campaign has focused heavily on ideas of isolation and closed borders:

What happens now?

Former London mayor and Leave campaigner Boris Johnson is now a favorite to succeed PM David Cameron. Many believe that he has a lot in common with Republican candidate Donald Trump--and not only because of his fabulous blond 'do.

The future is uncertain for the UK--and for much of the world. Young UK citizens didn't ask for this, and their votes reflect it. #WhatHaveWeDone indeed.

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British Youth Feel Completely Screwed by the Brexit Vote

Clementine Amidon

Clementine is a graduate of Mount Holyoke, where she studied English and French. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, the New York Observer, USA Today, BUST, and Odyssey. Clementine is an undercover short story writer, and in her spare time she’s on a quest to craft the perfect tweet.

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