Make no mistake; Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is historic, writes Campaign group Undivided’s Charlotte Gerada. The consequences, whatever you think of them, will be with us for decades. Which is why charity leaders and young people got organised, creating a campaign aiming to get the best Brexit deal for our country’s next generation. After all, we’re the ones who will live with the outcome the longest.
January 5, 2017
Charlotte Gerada is Co-Leader of Undivided, a campaign that’s crowdsourcing under 30s’ demands for post-Brexit Britain. Charlotte campaigns in her spare time and for work, focusing mainly on fighting for social justice. As a second generation Maltese immigrant, Charlotte is passionate about championing migrants’ rights and challenging perceptions of borders.
It isn’t just young people that will be most affected by Brexit – it’ll be migrants too. So many lies were told during the referendum campaign, with politicians focusing almost exclusively on the perceived negatives of immigration. They criticised EU nationals moving to Britain, without mentioning that more than a million Brits live in Europe.
Migrants were blamed for unemployment and a lack of affordable housing, to pressure on public services, like the NHS. The reality is at odds with that: immigrants are likely create jobs and form a significant part of the NHS workforce. While Britain has seen declining living standards for a decade, that is because of our economic model – not migration.
Blaming immigrants for our problems isn’t new, and immigrants’ contributions are quickly forgotten. Irish workers in the 1800s helped build homes and roads, vital for the rapid growth of cities like Manchester and Liverpool. In the 1950s, Commonwealth citizens were invited to fill in labour gaps for key services, like the NHS. Similarly, Pakistani workers in the 1960s filled shortages in steel and textiles industries. These communities were actively recruited to fill employment gaps and they served a crucial role. But they still faced terrible racism and abuse.
Today, not much has changed. It’s no lie that living conditions in the UK have got worse. It’s no lie that young people are set to be worse off than their parents. But it is a lie that migrants are to blame for all of this.
Migrants bring so much to Britain. They tend to be younger and highly motivated to work, being of major benefit to the British economy. They are entrepreneurial, more likely to start a business and then employ people. As well as adding to our wealth, they enrich our society, with different cultures, music and food. In short, they are part of a Britain which could work for the many, not the few. This is central to a country at ease with itself and a more globalised world.
The media and politicians paint a very different picture. They’ve stirred up fear about migrants in Britain. And this has caused deep divides in our society. Days after the EU referendum, racist and religious abuse spiked. Migrant communities have been the target of violent crimes. All the while, the real reasons for peoples’ suffering are unchallenged. A poorly performing economy, low pay and rising living costs are the real reasons for these problems – not migrants.
The EU referendum has only made divisions worse. It’s caused divides across generations and places in Britain. And that’s why Undivided formed. It’s in the name: we won’t let the country remain divided anymore. We bring together those who voted Leave, Remain and those who didn’t vote at all. Our aim is simple: to get the best possible Brexit deal for young people. They will live with the outcome the longest, so their ideas must be listened to. We’re using our website to find out what matters most to anyone living in the UK, aged between 13 and 30.
Importantly, young people have to see themselves as leaders in creating a progressive Britain after Brexit. Let down by politicians, they have been ignored for too long. They must now build a coalition with working people – those born here and those who have chosen to make Britain their home – to fight for the best deal possible. Rights to work, live and study – both here for migrants and abroad for Brits – will soon be negotiated. We have a shared interest in coming together. British citizens may have voted to leave the EU, but they didn’t decide on what terms.
Over the next few months, the Undivided campaign will ask young people what they want from Brexit. We’ll then take the top ten most popular ideas to the government. While many young migrants wouldn’t have been able to vote in the EU referendum, now they have a chance to make their voices heard. So take it, because what happens next is up to us.