'Young people have the power to swing these elections' says one of the youngest candidates

PUBLISHED: 21:00 27 April 2019

Carmen Smith is one of the youngest candidates in this year's European elections. Photograph: Supplied.

Carmen Smith is one of the youngest candidates in this year's European elections. Photograph: Supplied.

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23-year-old CARMEN SMITH is one of the youngest candidates standing for any party in the European elections. Here she writes why she thinks young people have the power to swing the election.

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In my experience of campaigning with young people and students, I have never seen so many of them so fired up as now.

All across Wales, and indeed across the UK, young people and students have been taking to the streets in rallies and marches almost like never before.

We've been writing to our MPs, we've been taking part in debates, and we've been making it known that this Brexit mess is not what we want for our future.

By and large, people of my generation feel desperately let down by a Westminster establishment that is deeply out of touch with us.

We didn't vote for this. In fact, we know that around three quarters of all students in the UK voted Remain in the 2016 referendum.

And yet today we find ourselves in this terrifying Brexit limbo, facing the very real prospect of our futures being irreversibly changed. This is Westminster's doing, not ours.

In years gone by, people of my generation might have been accused of not caring enough about what's going on in the world around them. But no more.

Young people like me have been at the forefront of the Remain movement since 2016. We've created networks and movements, and we've been campaigning hard for what we believe in.

I've been working with organisations like For Our Future's Sake (FFS) precisely because I know that students benefit so much from us being a member of the EU.

It's our generation that benefits most from things like Erasmus+, the EU's student mobility and overseas study programme. Our access to that is in serious danger if we leave the EU.

And schemes like Erasmus+ benefit the whole of society too, bringing in millions of EU funding to Welsh colleges and universities, helping to boost our communities.

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That would be gone if we leave the EU.

That's why young people and students are motivated like never before to make our voices heard and to claim what is rightfully ours: our future.

That's also why I am proud to be standing as a candidate for Plaid Cymru in the upcoming European Parliament: because I believe that my generation deserves so much more than this.

The challenge for young people and students now is to turn the frustration we feel at this Brexit mess into a message at the ballot box.

If we come together, we really do have the power to send the Westminster establishment a message they can't ignore: we deserve better. We demand better.

We can tell Theresa May and her fractured Tory party that we utterly reject the bleak future they're dragging us towards.

And we can tell Jeremy Corbyn that we're fed up of his ambivalence on the defining issue of our generation, which is tantamount to facilitating a Tory Brexit.

For three years, my generation has seen Westminster politicians going around and around in circles, squabbling amongst themselves about which version of Brexit is better.

But young people and students all around Wales know that there is no such thing as a good version of Brexit. The European elections on 23 May is our opportunity to bin Brexit once and for all.

To do that, we must be registered to vote. The deadline to be registered is Tuesday 7 May. It's really easy to do and doesn't take more than five minutes.

So my message to students and young people ahead of this election is: make sure you're registered, then vote for a better future on 23 May.

Together, we have the power to swing the election.

• Carmen Smith is a former NUS Wales Deputy President and is a Plaid Cymru candidate. She is one of the youngest candidates running in the European elections.

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