Young activists in Hackney are campaigning to have an influence on the new relationship between Britain and the European Union following the UK’s vote to leave the EU five months ago.
East London for Europe is a Hackney-based protest group which wants to make sure Britain has the closest possible relationship with the EU once it has left the union.
Stefan Hyman, 30, a trainee barrister from Dalston, and one of the seven organisers of the group, said: “Hackney was the second highest remain vote, so we tried to harness that energy by forming a smaller group, so we could try to affect political change.
“East London has many citizens from Europe, they work with us, they send their children to schools here, we want them to feel welcome, it is their society as much as it is ours.”
He pointed out that the borough’s young community had voted overwhelmingly to stay, and that his group wanted to give them a voice, adding: “I think it’s a disgrace that the younger generation have been taken out of the EU out of their own collective will. Young people don’t vote for various reasons and that was exploited by the leave campaign as they knew the older generation would turn out in the masses. It’s a shame because a block vote is not getting their voice represented.”
“Young people are definitely getting a rotten deal; tuition fees are in the thousands, they have much less job security and it’s only going to get worse when we leave.”
Hackney had the second highest “remain” vote in London, with 78.5 per cent voting to stay. The turnout in the borough was 62.5 per cent. There was also a wide difference between those voting to leave and stay between generations; young voters (18-24) cast a 75 per cent remain vote while 61 per cent of the older generation (65+) voted to leave according to a YouGov poll.
One of East London for Europe’s main aims is to keep the UK within the single market. They’ve created a petition and in one day gained over 500 signatures within 4 hours.
The single market allows countries to trade with each other without any restrictions. The European single market came into effect on January 1, 1993 and is still considered an ongoing project, but could potentially be lost after Britain leaves the EU.
East London for Europe say they want to put pressure on the government to make decisions with the public’s best interest concerning public services such as the NHS, education and the emergency services. He said their group is comprised mainly of former ‘Stronger In’ members, who have now divided up into their boroughs and there are over 120 pro-european groups across the country, including Tower Hamlets and Lewisham groups.
Article 50 has still not been triggered yet, which will be the formal start of the Brexit negotiations, and the group hope there is still enough time for the public to have an influence before anything has been finalised.
Hyman explained that East London for Europe believe that “in order to have any say on what our government does now, we have to be keep being passionate and loud, otherwise our opinions will get steam rolled”.
Hyman added: “We have to respect the result of the popular referendum, it would not be fair to the leave campaign to have another referendum. Britain has decided to vote against the current relationship with the EU, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a close relationship in the future.
He said the situation for young people – particularly students – was tough. “Students possibly even face losing the Erasmus programme, they could already see themselves losing opportunities that the EU has handed to them,” he said.
Erasmus, the programme that enables UK students to study abroad, said that they “remain wholly committed to the programme and its benefits. We hope that the UK can continue to be a full member of the programme, so that at least 250,000 people across the UK have the chance to study, train or volunteer abroad from 2014-2020.”
East London for Europe are running a street stall in Leyton on November 5 with their petition focusing on why it is in the best interest of the NHS to stay in the single market. They will also be running pro-eu social meet up on November 22 at Dream bags and Jaguar Shoes in Shoreditch. Their campaign can be found at @EastLondonForEurope
In all four of the ELL boroughs there was a win for remain.