Shock, shame, disgust and hope: Young people share their feelings after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

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EU and British flags are adjusted before the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, 28 June 2016. (REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)
News-Decoder asked some of its young readers for their views following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. Here is what they had to say.

“I am really worried this vote means a victory for populism.”

– Léa Surugue

I am French but have lived in the UK half my life. The UK is where I discovered a culture other than my own and another way of looking at the world. Ironically, it is where I developed the sense of being European and where I recognized the importance of a united Europe.

Léa Surugue
Léa Surugue

I still cannot believe the result of the referendum. Before the vote, I was confident the UK would never leave the EU. I now realize it is not such a good idea to be overly confident in these matters or to underestimate the power of populism in Europe.

Since last Thursday, I have been swinging between sadness and disbelief. I am very, very angry over the surge of racist incidents. I am disgusted by the political fallout from the vote and the way older and younger generations have been blaming each other.

I understand that some people thought they had no other choice, that for some this has nothing to do with racism but more with anger towards the establishment. I respect their decision to vote Leave. But I do not agree with it, and I believe there are other ways to fight for your rights than to take such a massive step backwards.

I am really worried this vote means a victory for populism in Europe and a blow to more than 50 years of diplomacy.

The EU is far from perfect, and in the last few years I, too, have questioned some of its decisions. It struggles to educate people about the benefits it can bring. Profound reform is necessary.

But the ideals of cooperation and peace on which it is built are worth fighting for. Voting out is a sign of giving up.

***

“This whole debacle may inspire a generation to become involved and informed.”

– Hannah Bedford

I thought someone was playing a bad joke on me as I stayed up to watch the results roll in. I had been quietly confident the Remain vote would prevail.

Hannah Bedford
Hannah Bedford

At first I was outraged and felt betrayed that my country had made such a choice. Then I started to accept the results, as it was what the British population had decided. Having argued all night with the only Vote Leave supporter my age I had met, I concluded that it might not be a calamity. I told myself that perhaps I was disconnected from the general population, having lived abroad in a middle-class bubble, and the results were what would be best for others.

What followed stunned me: After accepting a decision I didn’t agree with, I discovered that those who voted Leave regretted it. A petition for a second referendum emerged and quickly collected three million signatures, many from those who had voted to quit the EU. To my deepening disgust, I read that some citizens had voted Leave without understanding the issue at hand and its ramifications, that they had been caught up in the rhetoric.

This issue has shaken my country to its core. The only positive I can see is that it is finally making the population stop and examine the mess we are in. This whole debacle may inspire a generation to become involved and informed.

***

“Britain has shown itself to be a less-than-friendly environment for foreign nationals.”

– Anne-Sophie van Wingerden

The Brexit vote came as a shock to most people I know in London. I live in a fairly international community, and the possibility of “Leave” winning had seemed unlikely. When I took the Underground home on Thursday, commuters wore red, white and blue stickers labeled “I’m IN” and “I voted RemaIN” on their jacket lapels and purse straps.

asvanwingerden
Anne-Sophie van Wingerden

It’s still unclear what exactly will happen when Brexit takes place, and even whether it will go through at all. Still, many of our family’s friends are already questioning what effect the Leave vote will have on their future plans.

My little brother’s Irish babysitter is concerned about finishing her degree at a London university. My other brother’s singing teacher has a British passport among the three he owns but thinks the vote reflects xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment. He has discussed moving abroad even though he can legally stay here.

My mother is uncertain whether the job she is supposed to start next month will still be open to her, as two years from now her Dutch citizenship might no longer give her the right to live here.

After the Brexit vote, the only certainty is that Britain has shown itself to be a less-than-friendly environment for foreign nationals. This will be remembered.

***

“We must find more effective, multilateral solutions.”

– Simon Hoellerbauer

I believe the UK’s decision to leave the EU is a mistake. Brexit does not affect me personally except that it limits the chances that I will work in England in the future. But as a citizen of an EU country, I do feel affected.

Simon Hoellerbauer
Simon Hoellerbauer

I am a strong believer in international organizations to help us deal with the chaotic world of international relations. Of such organizations, the EU has been one of the most successful. The vote to leave will invariably weaken the EU, although to what extent is not yet clear. In the short term, it seems to have hurt Britain more.

Brexit came as a huge shock to me. I thought “Leave” had no chance of winning. I hoped that reason, not fear, would prevail. But the success of the Leave campaign shows that ordinary citizens have concerns that the regular political process has problems addressing. I feel that this is the case the world over.

We must find more effective, multilateral solutions to the world’s problems. We need more, not less, cooperation. Isolationism does not work. We need more integration and more interaction, not less.

Brexit is a setback, but it is not the end of the road. My hope is the cliché “It gets worse before it gets better” holds true here.

***

“Britain could bounce back.”

– Ally Oh

Most of my friends from Britain and Europe are disappointed and shocked at the results. Most of them never thought “Leave” would ever win.

aoh
Ally Oh

The fall in the value of the pound has worried many people. But I think it’s still too early to make definitive statements about the future.

Britain could bounce back. Remember, the pound also fell after Britain decided not to adopt the euro but soon recovered.

I believe Britain may be able to continue to grow and to bounce back, but I know the EU will be hit hard.

The referendum is not the end of it all, and the process of leaving the EU will take a few years. Anything could happen.


Léa Surugue is a French national who has studied Journalism and International Relations at Sciences Po in Paris and City University in London, and is now a journalist.

Hannah Bedford is a British national who will soon start a History and Politics degree at Royal Holloway University in London.

Anne-Sophie van Wingerden grew up in the United States, the Netherlands, France and England. She has spent the past two years studying in China and Italy. This coming year she will attend Williams College in the United States.

Simon Hoellerbauer (@hoellerbauers) is an Austrian national with the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Eurasia Program and a recent graduate of Kenyon College. This fall, Hoellerbauer will start his doctoral studies in Political Science at the University of North Carolina.

Ally Oh is a U.S. high school student from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who this past year studied in Rennes, France with School Year Abroad. She is a passionate writer and reader, and would like to pursue a career in publishing.

 

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