A letter to Parliament calling for a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal has been signed by elected representatives from 60 students’, graduates’, and university unions.
In the letter, representatives claim to represent ‘just under one million students across the United Kingdom’. They state that they believe that ‘the European Union has been a force for good for UK society’.
The freedom to travel, work and study abroad, as well as environmental protections, and Womens and LGBTQ+ rights, were identified as being particularly valued by students.
Though claiming they accepted the result of the referendum, they state in the letter that ‘the world is a different place to 2016’. The letter goes on to say that they ‘firmly believe that it is in our members’ interests to retain the benefits of European Union membership’ and adds that many of those members could not vote in 2016.
‘Because of this, we call on our elected leaders to deliver on a people’s vote on the Brexit deal so that young people can once and for all have a say on their futures.’
The organisation behind the letter, For Future’s Sake (FFS), describes itself on its website as ‘a young people and student-led anti Brexit campaign, fighting for a People’s Vote on the terms of the Brexit deal’.
Guild of Students President Ellie Keiller signed the letter and is a spokesperson for FFS. She told Redbrick ‘the campaign isn’t about opposing Brexit, it’s simply calling for a vote on the Brexit deal’.
Keiller said she got involved in FFS because, though she accepts many people voted leave, she does not believe voters were informed on ‘the reality of Brexit which has come to light since.
‘Regardless of which side you’re on, we know that during the referendum, lies were told and voters mislead. Now, it’s clear to me that Theresa May is struggling to get a good deal; I believe the British people deserve a say on if we accept it or not.’
Keiller told Redbrick that if the letter’s request was granted ‘it means that students, and all people in the UK, will be given an informed decision on whether to accept the Brexit deal (which will be the best Theresa May can get so there’s no ‘renegotiation’ option) or to not accept and therefore to remain.
‘Unlike in the 2016 referendum, in the question proposed, there will be terms to vote on which means an understanding of the true implications of Brexit, both good and bad, can be presented to those voting.’
Tom Harwood, who led the student wing of Vote Leave, was quoted in the Independent dismissing the campaign as ‘100 people from the NUS who are very upset the referendum result didn’t go the way they wanted it to go and so they want to have another go’.
Responding to this in Redbrick, Keiller said ‘Tom Harwood says a lot of things so that’s not surprising. He deliberately attempts to antagonise and divide students on these things’. She added that ‘it’s clear that many young people and students are supporting this campaign’ and reiterated the goal was a vote on the deal.
Second year Classical Literature and Civilisation student Harriet Ellis, who voted leave in the referendum, told Redbrick, ‘I think that it’s wrong to assume that all students voted remain and are unhappy with the results. However, if I could vote again I’d vote to stay in so for me, another referendum wouldn’t be so bad.’
73% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 who voted in the referendum in 2016 had voted to remain, according to polling data from Lord Ashcroft. This makes them the most pro-remain age group.