While MPs were preparing to vote on Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, hundreds of young people were gathered in Westminster, calling for a People’s Vote. Neither the cold, nor the couple of Brexit supporters put us off as we congregated in Parliament Square, listening to speakers urging the government to look the facts squarely in the face, accept that they couldn’t resolve the mess they had made of Brexit, and give back control of the process to the people themselves.
OFOC NI's Tara Connelly and Doire Finn spoke about the problems Brexit poses to border communities
I spoke to them to understand what had brought them here. Some lived in London, many had come from all over the UK, including two who hailed from as far as Gibraltar. Some were students, some worked in the NHS, some were still at school (but had come without their parents).
I also encountered about a dozen very green civil servants, prevented by neutrality rules from voicing their opinions publicly, but all of whom, in private, wanted a People’s Vote. Every single young person I spoke to was personally invested in the EU in some way: Erasmus, the future of our NHS, Freedom of Movement, family in other countries, the list was far longer than I had expected.
And once they had started talking, they continued, expounding on the state of politics more broadly, in quiet but confident tones describing the sense of outrage and betrayal they felt. About how they had been marginalised and ignored, their interests and incentives discarded and disregarded. About how their leaders didn’t represent the interests of our generation, and didn’t seem to know or care. About how they hadn’t been given a say two years ago, and now friends of theirs who had never shown an interest in politics were realising that now, at last, they had a chance to make a real difference. To the country’s future, to their own future.
OFOC's Femi Oluwole rallied the crowd as the Commons vote was announced
As I made my way around the crowd, their voices seemed to overlap and form a chorus, ringing in my ears more loudly than the MPs on the telescreens, or even the speakers on stage. They grew in volume and intensity, their numbers swelling even as the results of the vote were announced, even as the stage was packed up, and as I made my way home.