Students were given the opportunity to discuss Brexit with former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas. The talk was organised by the Our Future Our Choice (OFOC) movement, in partnership with UEA Liberal Democrats and UEA Politics society.
The panel was organised with the aim to give students a platform to discuss the impact of Brexit, and to evaluate the pros and cons of a second referendum on EU membership.
OFOC is a leading student pressure group, with branches across the UK, pushing for a second Brexit referendum dubbed by many as the ‘People’s Vote’. Lucas was joined by Marina Prentoulis, UEA Senior Lecturer in Political, Social and International Studies, Will Dry, co-President of OFOC, and two representatives from the SU, Environment Officer Connor Bell and Ethical Issues Officer Rob Klim.
The panel opened with the unanimous agreement that young people will be affected the most by Brexit as they are likely to live with the consequences for the longest. They were also in agreement on the People’s Vote, all supported it and highlighted confusion within the negotiations process, which Lucas described as an ‘absolute disaster’.
Lucas and Prentoulis agreed that any second referendum must address Leave voters concerns, and tackle what Lucas described as the ‘gross levels of social inequality’ that they feel led to discontentment and the challenging of the status quo with the 2016 Referendum result.
They also went on to say that Brexit reflects the type of country the UK is perceived as, with Lucas championing staying in a reformed EU, embracing free movement of people and making the UK an ‘open and generous’ nation.
A torrent of audience questions were directed at the panel throughout the evening, ranging from the influence of the media on the first referendum, how to tackle young voter turnout issues, and how to cope with the legitimate concern that a second referendum could make the 51.9 percent of the country who voted Leave feel they had been ignored.
The evening was not without clashes of opinion; in a slightly heated exchange some audience members challenged Prentoulis for describing ex-UKIP leader and prominent Leave supporter Nigel Farage as a fascist.
The entirety of the panel shared concerns about how Brexit could deregulate commercial and environmental standards and lead the UK to a policy of isolation. Bell responded to a question about how Brexit could directly affect students by raising concerns regarding studying abroad. Klim followed up by cautioning that if Brexit leads to an isolated UK it could cause the interconnectivity of our education system to ‘go down the drain.’
Rachel Crockart, OFOC’s representative in Norwich, and event organiser Nathan Tamea thanked the panel and said that ‘it was great to see so many students, with a range of interesting questions and opinions, turn up to discuss undoubtedly the biggest issue this country has faced in decades.’