Our Brexit: Listening to young people in the West Midlands

Leave or Remain – we need to understand the experiences of others

ashwaaq Thursday February 8 2018

I woke up to the news of Brexit on Friday the 24th of June and I was gutted.

My main question was how? I had been so confident the night before that I went to sleep after only seeing a few of the votes counted. I was certain the majority of the nation would vote remain.

I was born in the Netherlands, we moved to England one summer out of the blue (its actually quite a funny story). Moving was one of the biggest shocks of my life, I was only ten and I had to adapt to a new culture, language and people. However, I soon called Birmingham my home.

Despite the fact that I never felt more left out and shut down than I did during the EU referendum campaign – realising I did not have a say and feeling like I probably should not be allowed to have one either – I felt more European, and did not understand how others did not feel the same way.

On the morning of the 24th I felt panic. I felt I really could be made to pack it all up and have to walk away from the only place I now called home, away from my friends, my education and my life. I love Amsterdam but it is not home anymore.

I still feel uncertain about what my future holds, whether I will be here long term or not. Not because I feel like I will be made to leave anymore, but because it just isn’t the same anymore.

I decided to become an “Our Brexit” ambassador for the simple reason that I want young people like myself to feel like they do have a voice. We can decide what we want from our homes and should speak up for ourselves because that is the only way we will be able to breed the change we want to see in our future.

During the listening campaign I learnt how other young people feel about the state of our nation.

I understand the outcome of the referendum a little more now. It was interesting learning about the struggles faced by those living in smaller towns. Quite a few of the people we surveyed mentioned empty high streets as an issue where they live.

Living in a city, it is not something I have ever even considered. Now I realise that people have seen a real decline in their local businesses and are struggling with access. Perspective is one of the most important lessons I have learnt post-referendum. Understanding that people see the world through a lens different than my own, and therefore struggle with issues different than my own. I believe it is now time to listen and have all our voices heard.