Why May’s warning that we ‘risk no Brexit at all’ is fine by me

PUBLISHED: 15:40 11 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:40 11 October 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May delivers her keynote speech at the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

Prime Minister Theresa May delivers her keynote speech at the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Theresa May’s ‘Dancing Queen’ routine ahead of her big speech went viral. But does it mean she’s finally won over the youth of today? No, argues CHEVAN ILANGARANTE, but scrapping Brexit would be a start.

Dancing her way on to stage at Conservative party conference was always going to attract headlines – and so it did. As a 24-year-old, I asked many in my peer group what they thought about it. I got a general vibe from conversations that though the dancing itself was cringeworthy to the say the very least, the mere audacity in attempting it – given what happened in Africa earlier this year - is to be praised, a stunt which served to showcase a more playful and human-side of the otherwise robotic prime minister.

Self-deprecation to the rescue; and this might be exactly what Theresa May wanted. If there’s one thing the 2017 general election demonstrated – it’s that young people aren’t, by and large, voting for her Conservative party. Which explains why conversations circulated around Tory conference on how they could appeal to and reconnect with younger voters. And it is perhaps another reason why May recently attempted to rebrand her Party as the new ‘moderates’.

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Here’s the thing though. Young people want more than just empty rhetoric and dancing queens. And this is underlined by how in the 2016 EU referendum, an estimated 75% of under 25s opted for ‘remain’.

From Erasmus and EU-funded university research programmes, the right to travel freely and work in over 30 European countries, human rights and environmental protections, to the thousands of jobs in the UK created in part due to membership of the EU’s thriving single market – the youth see the European project as a force for good, whilst being alive to the indisputable fact it has its flaws.

They also see Brexit - which is going to take forever to implement – as a huge and unwelcome distraction to the real issues of the day. Good schools, well-paid and diverse apprenticeships and jobs, cheaper higher education, affordable transport and housing are surely priority.

I would welcome anyone to explain to young people how May’s Chequers deal – or even a no-deal Brexit – would deliver these aspirations.

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The days of believing there will be a Brexit dividend are over. There’s no extra £350 million per week for the NHS, and less jobs and opportunities brought about by the probable hit to our economy should Brexit proceed looks likely to thrash young people the hardest – for the longest.

So, we the youth – contrary to popular belief – are not naïve. We’re ambitious, open-minded, and love Britain just as much as everyone else – even you Mr Farage! Which is why most of us think our departure from the EU is a backwards step.

In her conference speech, Theresa May said:

“…If we all go off in different directions in pursuit of our own visions of the perfect Brexit - we risk ending up with no Brexit at all.”

Fine by us, prime minister.

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• Chevan Ilangaratne is studying a Masters in human rights law at the University of Cambridge

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