Students get behind people’s vote on final Brexit deal

by Richard Brooks | 06.04.2018

March 29 was a symbolic milestone: one year since Theresa May invoked Article 50, and the beginning of a one year countdown to the UK crashing out of the EU. But as the clock ticks, resistance to May ramming through her Brexit package is building – especially among young people, 73% of whom voted Remain.

Something else happened on the week of the Article 50 anniversary which many may have missed. The National Union of Students threw its weight behind a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal.

Amatey Doku, the deputy president of the National Union of Students, took to the stage at the NUS’ annual conference. There was nothing irregular about Doku’s speech, he was standing – successfully – for re-election to his role. It is what he said that should draw your attention.

“I am announcing here on this stage today. That if re-elected I will support a national student-led UK wide demonstration to call for a people’s vote on the final Brexit Deal.

Because no matter which way you voted we need a say on the final deal. We need to take back control. We need to write our own history.”

His words followed a debate the day before, where the NUS voted for its official position to be one publicly supporting a people’s vote on the Brexit deal.

As the largest democratic gathering of students in Europe, the NUS’ annual conference is often seen as a good barometer for what those pesky students are busying themselves with. A thousand elected young people from across the UK gather to debate policy, elect new leaders and plan the year ahead for NUS’ 600 member students’ unions.

The NUS backing a people’s vote is significant for several reasons. Firstly, because students’ unions are active in almost every single postcode and constituency in the UK, and their proven lobbying tactics can be extremely effective in influencing decision makers.

Secondly, students and young people play a significant role as voters and activists in political parties, particularly the Labour Party. They overwhelmingly voted Remain, see the benefits of being a member of European Union and want a vote on the terms of the Brexit deal.

And finally, Amatey’s speech is just one piece of a wider movement. Take the group I helped launch last month. We’re called For our Future’s Sake. And yes, we know that spells #FFS. We’re working with hundreds of students and young people across the UK. And our goal is simple – to call for, instigate and win a people’s vote on Brexit deal before time runs out on March 29 2019.

We’re coordinating the efforts of those young people and will be making the public case for a people’s vote and remaining in the EU. We do not believe that Brexit is inevitable, or that we should sit idly by as our futures are stolen from us.  

Over the next year, you will be seeing and hearing from us – putting the public case forward for a people’s vote, pressuring politicians and elected leaders and mobilising students across the UK.

You can find out more about FFS on their website, or by following them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. If you want to get involved you can also email the team at [email protected].

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    Edited by Luke Lythgoe

    4 Responses to “Students get behind people’s vote on final Brexit deal”

    • Richard,

      The influence of the National Union of Students is an interesting development, on the back of the following:

      At the moment, the media and politicians seem to be accepting or forced to accept the current truce in the Brexit dialogue – we all know that this doesn’t feel healthy – the ticking bomb hasn’t been removed.

      Having acceded to the EU negotiating positions on virtually all their red lines, the Brexiters have now run for cover in that belief that no one can now stop Brexit. They really don’t care about all the ‘uncomfortable’ truths – Northern Ireland, Customs Union, etc. etc. plus the likelihood that the transition period will probably have to be extended to a period of 5 years. They think that Remainers can say what they want, but they don’t care so long as their ‘holy’ date of the 29 March 2019 is not tampered with – meaning, the UK finally exits the EU.

      I get the impression that many UK remainers seem to be resigned to this fate?

      Enter the students! My latent optimism for the pro-EU cause has just risen further. I’m that they can now start to add to the process of tipping public opinion, provided that they are able to mobilise themselves well. The reasons:

      – they are motivated by an objective which will adversely affect their lives most
      – they have a fresh face, not tainted with political positions, chicanery, sleaze, etc.
      – they should be very capable of articulating the political landscape very cleverly and persuasively
      – they are present everywhere, not in strong or weak pockets around the UK

      When people get really angry, they can make a difference. We’ve seen all types of grassroots movements across the continent. Therefore, I think noone should ever give up and assume that there is nothing which can be done to stop Brexit.

      Presently, legal challenges are coming to court, there is the potential Tory embarrassment with the pending local elections, and of course the changes to the Tory legislation by opposition policians in parliament, to name a few points. Plenty of work in progress and fireworks to come. I don’t think that we’ve seen anything yet!

      I would just urge the general public, with an EU leaning, to keep on agitating. Never give up.

      Please, Richard, continue with articles about the students and how they are organising themselves. We need to hear about it.


    • Hi Guys
      We have been in the EU for over 40 years and for hundreds of years before we did ok you know.
      The EU is more and more becoming a federalist state more and more run for the few not the many.Here is the youth unemployment rate that over a decade was much much worse
      95% of MPs gave the people the vote the govt agreed to abide by the result and the largest ever turn out said we leave.Our youth have a chance to demand change to demand we do things fairer and better post Brexit. Dont waste your energy fighting the democratic will of the people otherwise you risk killing your future democratic rights for ever.You have the chance to roll up your sleeves put your brains your thoughts your energys into making our country great again.Grab that chance with both hands.

    • @ Anthony Hutton
      Yes, we were not in the EU 40 years ago, but the World has moved on since. The EU was not as important a player on the world stage then. This nostalgia for the past argument is turning the clock back to a world that no longer exists.
      How does putting up barriers to business with our largest and closest market, creating scores of complications for people trying to move around Europe, abandoning the trade deals with about 80% of the world, distancing ourselves from co-operating with our closest neighbours on environmental, research and security, diminishing the UK’s influence in the world, make our country great again, as you put it?
      The Referendum result has been hijacked by a group (mainly inside the Conservative party) who want a complete separation from Europe so destroying the spirit of co-operation and progress we have made in coming together since the last war.

    • Oh how I agree with NJ – similar initials to myself, so no wonder I have the same viewpoint! I agree with Nick that we shouldn’t give up on trying to reverse Brexit. Only 37% of the electorate voted for what was an undefined Brexit. Now that much more information is available, including the hypocrisy of the Brexiters promises, just to get the vote, then there must be a new vote. Let’s face it, that’s how democracy works. We change our minds as new events unfold. Were that not so then only one party would always be in power. Personally, I do not favour referendums as we elect our MPs to make such decisions and if we don’t like them then we vote them out. That is democracy. That is why I say that this government is just playing with democracy when they agree to a final vote and then say that vote is Deal or No-Deal. The National Union of Students (I was a member many decades ago) should insist that there must be a third option – Remain in the EU. In Parliament there could be a vote on Deal or No-Deal, PROVIDED that a No-Deal would result in a No-Deal versus Remain referendum.

      Alex Wilson also makes strong arguments for remaining in the EU. Europe is made up of many proud nations, which is why the EU is so difficult to run. However, we are acutely aware of competition turning into war which is why the spirit of Winston Churchill gave rise to the EU as an agent by which we could ensure Peace in Europe – and it has.