The so-called ‘age gap’ in the EU Referendum

Sophia Adey looks at the statistics behind the EU referendum result.

Edited by Isabel Aruna.

Illustration: Cat Easeman
Illustration: Cat Easeman

On Thursday the 23rd of June the UK voted Brexit. Facebook itself was a battle ground, from the ‘Brexiters’ jeering that they had got their “country back”, to the upset ‘Bremainers’ demanding a second referendum. There seemed to be one main issue that many ‘Remainers’ were concerned with after the ‘Brexit’ decision, namely how the older generation-specifically those aged 50+ had forsaken the future of the younger generation.

Polls had been conducted to display that a high percentage of the ‘baby boomers’ had voted to leave, and that the younger generations, specifically those in higher education, voted to remain. However, perhaps it is important to understand what was their reasoning behind this? Thus, is it really fair to blame the older generations for voting to leave a union that they have been a part of for more than 40 years?

One key argument for the ‘Brexiters’ is the fact that many have worked all their lives in the EU, paid a significant amount of money towards the union (specifically in tax), and it may seem to them that it has not been repaid. For the younger generations, we have yet to experience that. We are lucky enough to feel the benefits of the EU. For example, the Penryn Campus is partially being funded by the EU, the freedom of movement (making it easier to study abroad and travel) and a cultural exchange that is experienced through having international students studying here from the EU (particularly through funding schemes).

However, one clear point that many ‘Remainers’ used was how those aged 50+ will not be ‘around’ for as long as the 18-35 year olds (according to average life expectancy) and therefore their vote should have a different weighting. This of course is an example of ageism.  Is it not wrong to discriminate against one age group to favour another? Some people went further to claim that those aged 90+ shouldn’t be able to vote because ‘they would die before they could feel the consequences of a ‘Brexit’.

Unsurprisingly, many people aged 16-17 years old voiced how they should have been able to vote, as the result would impact their future. Can we really be surprised why many older people have qualms about us, when some are stating that they should not even have an equal vote or that their right to vote in this referendum should have been revoked?

Maybe we should consider that although millions are upset and angry at the ‘Brexit’ outcome it should not allow us to be ignorant and prejudiced.  Yes, the younger generation will experience the repercussions of ‘Brexit’ more than the elderly, but Brexit should not

act as ammunition for us to be against the many who have done so much for our country.  Until Article 50 is evoked and formal negotiations of the UK’s withdrawal conclude, we will not know the precise outcome of ‘Brexit’.

So let’s just hold our horses and still invite our grandparents to tea.