Soon Brexit will be coming into full effect. Earlier this month, on Thursday 5th July 2018 Brandon Lewis, who is very influential in decision making, Chairman for the Conservative Party, and MP for Great Yarmouth came to Birmingham, looking to “listen” to young people – so got in touch with Beatfreeks who brought together young leaders and artists from the city that had opinions and thoughts ready to be listened to (on the theme of Brexit). Before he came, we were told he would not like to influence our views, but he would rather listen. Essentially, he is in the space to see Brexit through our eyes as young people. But that didn’t quite happen.
Initially there was an intro to Beatfreeks, in which interest for Doink was shown. After this we introduced ourselves - amongst us were actors, computer scientists, graphic designers and activists. Needless to say there were a range of young leaders from different backgrounds present, ready to showcase all of our unique voices, opinions and stories.
The first question was posed which was “If you had to describe Brexit to someone who had not heard of it before, what is it?” We had a range of responses including “it was simply the UK leaving the EU and that it was daunting”. Following that question, concerns were raised such as worries around being an artist who works with European companies and that it was the Conservative party who raised the idea of Brexit. Although we were speaking to the Chair of the Conservative Party, we didn’t want to shy away from saying our opinions. It’s important that people in power take time to actually listen to what young people have to say.
Back in June 2016, I didn’t actually get to vote for if I wanted the UK to leave the EU or not however as a young person it is going to affect people like me the most.
I mentioned this, to which another young leader built upon the point saying how we are not educated enough about it. One young person described the word Brexit as a ‘scare word’. It was at this point that Mr Lewis began responding to the points we were discussing, rather than listening to what we had to say. He commented how the older generations can remember why it was set up, which is a perspective that I have personally never seen. This in my opinion shows how the young and old generation are disconnected, which is why events like this are so important.
A key theme of the discussions was not weighted towards policies, or reforms, but it was relating to lack of education of the subject and how people felt it was frustrating that the right information was not getting to people so they couldn't make an educated decision. Mr Lewis mentioned about the exciting opportunities with trade if we keep the deals, present with the EU. This showed a positive aspect on Brexit that made me for one of the first times see a positive side to Brexit. In the future, I hope that political parties, especially The Conservative Party use social media to promote these positive aspects - as it is a view point we need to hear. Although he mentioned this one positive aspect, there wasn’t much else to be optimistic about.
Since Brexit has happened, I’ve seen first hand the rise in hateful views and hate speech towards particular communities, particularly people of colour.
It’s frustrating that I barely see anyone 'at the top' doing anything about it, and if anyone can, it could be the Chair of Conservatives, a person a part of the party that has massive influence over decision making.
When I brought up the lack of education regarding Brexit allowing room for discriminative actions towards minority groups, and that discriminative views builds upon negative actions, he responded with a lack of understanding. He said that when he goes from Essex (place of birth) to Great Yarmouth (where he lives) he is seen as 'different' too. This comparison is extremely unsympathetic, and a clear example of how the people ‘at the top’ are extremely disconnected to other groups.
The most unfortunate thing to me about this is that we were told he was there to ‘listen to us as young people’, I believe he did not do this.
On top of this he tried to deflect the issue at hand saying; “Even if we told the racists the proper information, they would be the same”. This may be true, however putting out the proper information confirms to the communities that they are wanted, and can relive anxiety about rumours such as people being deported etc. His constituency could easily hire University graduates who are seeking a job in marketing to tweet and post across social media about Brexit, making the information accessible. I personally believe lack of education is the biggest form of oppression in 2018, and I am interested to see if he listens to our views, stopping the disconnect and truly helping our generation.