On the 23rd June 2016, I turned 17 (which was almost a double insult; it was my birthday and I was still a year away from obtaining the vote). The biggest birthday present would’ve been to remain in the EU. I remember when the results were released: I was about to go to Italy on a school trip with my friends. Their parents arrived to drop them off and I listened to their pro-Brexit arguments. It made me want to cry, because, though they seemed to have valid reasons, they didn’t get it: they were sending their children to Italy, to Europe, where museums, art, culture – education – was free for us as European students (or at least heavily discounted). I had no voice because it intimidated me that they could be angry at something so foreign to them.
I remember joking to my friends on the way: ‘maybe we can stay here, not go home, busk on the streets with Eurovision songs!’ And however shallow or naïve that sounds, it masked an underlying truth: that I would have been happier in any one of the 28 states that form the EU than in Britain. Because Europe was where I was educated, not Britain. Europe was where I spent family holidays, visited the best historical sites, ate the best food… it was where I was happy, where I wrote and wrote and wrote – where I was inspired.
“To whom am I addressing this letter? Who will read it? Who will even care to read it? Everyone is so caught up by the great cause that small personal fates are not important any more.” – Mira Furlan.
I am sorry if you, whoever you are, did not have my experience. I am also sorry if you think I’m missing the point of the EU, or that I’m confused or getting carried away with technicalities. But I wish I could give you the kind of experience I had, the kind of belonging I felt, yet I can’t presume you want the same. I just want you to understand how heartbreaking it is that you, if you voted Brexit, if you never enjoyed or even experienced Europe, are taking something away from me, who did. No one made you go to Europe, the European Union didn’t compel you to go there. It was free movement. You could choose. Now you’re compelling me to stay here by making it harder to leave.
But it’s not your fault, I get that. It is your vote not mine, and I don’t believe someone should ‘vote for a child’s future’ because that is conceding that you don’t deserve an opinion of your own. But now I’m 19, I can vote, and I’m sitting here watching my future being dictated without me. At university I feel like an international student, an observer. At home I feel like I should be embarrassed that my pro-EU parents are sending letters, attending protests, because people laugh at how “middle class” that is (well, we are, sorry to disappoint).
In Europe I still feel most happy.
“A few years ago my homeland was confiscated, and, along with it my passport. In exchange I was given a new homeland, far smaller and less comfortable.” – Dubravka Ugrešić.
That day the result was released, I said something along the lines of “bye in four years”. I still plan to leave, even if Brexit tries to stop me or makes me feel trapped. Maybe, then, my opinion isn’t needed, maybe my vote or my passport or my language doesn’t make me a British citizen as much as it convinces me I am not one. But at the moment, I do have a vote, just as you had a vote on the 23rd June 2016.
My request is simple: a second referendum. It does not undermine your decision, it only strengthens it. It does not ignore my opinion, it actually considers it. You get a voice, I get a voice. And if the result is the same, you get to leave Europe and I get to leave Britain. If the result is different, I’ll still get out of your way, and you can still stay in Britain. But Europe will always be there for you if you change your mind (because we’re human, that happens from time to time).
And now, more than ever, we are being given a chance to show that we are human, that we can change our minds. That vote does not define your identity, but what you do now does.
Help me get a second referendum,
Your fellow citizen.
“The point is not for all its nations, ethnic groups, culture, and religions to blend together in some amorphous pan-European sea, nor is the point to create a kind of monstrous superstate. The point is to create a theatre of close and equitable cooperation among the autonomous elements of Europe, that is, to build a Europe in which no one powerful could any longer suppress anyone less powerful, in which it would no longer be possible to settle disputes by force.” – Václav Havel.