Let's Talk About BREXIT
Access for Success (AFS) have been working in partnership with the #OneThingAboutBrexit campaign set up by MEP Martina Anderson with the aim to raise the profile of matters which affect and concern young people in the light of the changes the EU referendum could have on Northern Ireland. It is important to us that the voices and opinions of young people with disabilities are heard and taken into account during the EU negotiation process. Through this campaign our elected Access for Success members will be telling you all what their "One Thing" about Brexit is that concerns them greatly. They will then be drawing up their lobbying letters to lobby their local politicians and this is then compiled within the campaign and included in the Withdrawal Agreement. Check out our Facebook for some videos and photographs of our young people getting involved.
What was most concerning during the OneThing campaign with our group was that 80% of them did not vote. This was because they were either too young at the time to vote or they did not feel knowledgeable enough on the subject to vote. When speaking with these young people they all had something to say about BREXIT therefore the fact they were not eligible to vote at the time means their voices have not been heard. Until now!
Let us share with you some of the concerns brought forward from the young people
"Hard" Border Vs "Soft" Border
Many of the group either live near the border or would cross the border into the South of Ireland on a regular basis. The group's concern is how their freedom to travel across the border might be affected? One member stated:
‘’as I live very close to the border I would travel into Ireland a lot to spend time with family and friends, if a hard border is put in place how will this affect my freedom to travel?’’
A Sectarian Divide
Northern Ireland has a long history of sectarianism and a lot of work has been put into the peace process to improve the issues from the past. Some of our members stated that they feel Brexit will serve to be divisive for Northern Ireland and undo the positive work that has been done around the peace process and bring communities together.
"It will turn into a blame game between Protestants and Catholics and I don't want that. The majority currently have good relationships with one another."
The group stated that it is challenging enough to get employment with OR without a disability. BREXIT will see a stop to funding opportunities which create jobs, therefore that will result in jobs loses throughout the country. The fear here is that there will be fewer employment prospects for young people and what is the UK going to do to cater for this? 90% of the group were not currently in employment, they were still in education or else struggling to seek employment. BREXIT will affect them directly.
Some of our young members stated that they fear that local issues and their voices will not be heard or acknowledged. Some of the members have done great work previously around improving transport conditions for people with disabilities but fear this has been forgotten due to the collapse in assembly and the possibility of direct rule. Having no assembly in Northern Ireland and doubts that it will ever been resolved has lead to fear and a lot of "what ifs" for these young people. If Northern Ireland is ruled directly from Parliament will the issues affecting young people in Northern Ireland really get heard?
These young people should be able to put faith in their government and politicians and know that their country will support them in their future. However, this is not the case. A study in the UK done with over 4,000 young people aged 16-30 showed that almost 50% of them were worried about their future. This should not be. At this age you should have the world at your fingertips which is why our group discussed the detrimental affect BREXIT may have on peoples mental health.
"People are anxious, worried and stressed about what could be, we are in fear of what might happen to housing costs, job opportunities, the ability to be financially stable and that is not good for your mental health."
These are concerns and opinions from a group who do not have a lot of knowledge around how much impact BREXIT could have on Northern and the UK - but how many of us do? However, it is clear to see that there is a level of worry and uncertainty about their own futures and the consequences of withdrawing from the EU. The group are keen to learn more about BREXIT and try to influence discussion makers to negotiate the impact it will have on Northern Ireland and on young people in particular. Let's try and make BREXIT a positive thing, an opportunity to improve ourselves and strengthen our country as a whole.