Monday

20th Nov 2017

Opinion

The young didn’t choose Trump or Brexit

  • Young people on the shores of the world's oceans find 2016 to be the year of barriers and disenfranchisement. (Photo: M. Martin Vicente)

2016 will be remembered for two watershed moments: the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and the United States elected Donald Trump as its 45th President.

In both cases, many awoke to a result they didn’t expect.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But much has already been said of why this has happened, no doubt much more will follow.

One simple truth stands out: it was the youth that lost in the vote.

In the UK 62 percent of the people under 44 years old voted in favour of remaining in the EU, while 58 percent of the older generation voted for Brexit.

In the United States, only 39 percent of the same group younger than 44 gave their vote for Trump, while he gained the support of 53 percent of those who are older.

The common feature of policy direction in both winning votes is isolationism, ultra-nationalism and othering.

For us who are part of the younger generation, the Berlin Wall is a distant memory, something that belongs in a museum. A symbol of what went wrong in the past.

We do not believe in walls, not in old ones and certainly not in new ones whether metaphorically in the case of Brexit or physically such as the Wall that Trump purportedly wants to build on the US-Mexican borders.

No man is an island

Building walls or raising the drawbridge is a manifestation of a false sense of security sold to their supporters.

The world in which this generation was born to was already multicultural.

In their schools, there were people with a different colour, faith or sexual preference. They grew up with diversity as a matter of fact, not a matter of fear.

They do not see the point of wanting to go back to a mythical, pure and quiet society. It’s a society they have never known and never could.

They prefer an open society, not a closed one.

Many of them have travelled, studied or even lived abroad. For them, foreigners are not aliens, but possible friends.

This doesn’t mean this young generation doesn’t take the imminent security threat of terrorism attacks seriously.

But, they think you don’t create security by building walls and profiling people. You also don’t create a safe country by cracking down on media, civil society and other freedoms.

That is at least the lesson we learned in Egypt.

A young world, beyond Europe

If you think Egypt is a safer place now, you need to think twice.

President Abdel fattah el-Sisi is shutting down media, forbidding protests, jailing activists and everyone who is critical and NGOs. Police brutality is increasing with rising cases of forced disappearance and torture deaths.

As if this not enough, the parliament is now passing a highly restrictive NGO law that would kill civil society. But while the world is thinking that Sisi is making Egypt stable again, the consistent rise in terror attacks show the opposite.

Our data at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East policy shows that the second quarter of 2016 saw 228 attacks, compared to 211 attacks in 2015 during the same period, with 195 attacks in North Sinai alone where Waliyat Sinai, an off shoot of ISIS has established itself.

Obviously, this younger generation wants security and wants ISIS to be defeated too. But othering, isolationism portraying every Muslim as a suspect of terrorism and every immigrant a threat will have the opposite effect.

Such polarising and alienation makes society less safe, not more.

Our generation doesn’t believe in false promises of security. We do not believe that more isolation will create safety, let alone jobs.

We are also convinced that supporting repressive regimes like Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad or Abdel fattah el-Sisi will not stop terrorism.

The one thing that is making our world more dangerous is precisely the retreat of inclusive governance and the failure to defend it worldwide.

True, the young generation lost a few important votes and is again ruled by people with barriers in their minds.

But there is hope.

Next time it’s the turn of the young generation. If it’s not too late.

Nancy Okail is Executive is director of Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Washington DC, Koert Debeuf is director of Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Europe

Magazine

Europe's rare youthful villages

Some villages in the EU are bucking the trend by attracting young people. But unless there is outside funding and local action, Europe's countryside will be full of ghosts.

Why is Egypt jailing my friends?

A new wave of arrests against youth activists who, five years ago, helped bring down Mubarak is a sign of Sisi's paranoia, and could prompt fresh unrest.

Farage praises BBC's Brexit referendum coverage

The Brexit agitator says the BBC gave "fair and balanced" coverage of the referendum campaign, reversing earlier comments where he blasted the broadcaster's dishonesty.

Magazine

Brexit by accident

The British vote to leave the EU was, in large part, the product of neglect and circumstance. But it is also too late to put the genie back in the bottle.

Magazine

Trump: The day that shook the Western world

The election of the property magnate after a campaign marked by racism, sexism and "post-truth" arguments will have consequences for EU security, politics and public debate.

EU's eastern partnership needs revival

A week before a summit with EU eastern neighbours, Sweden and Poland's foreign ministers propose "a way ahead" for the relationship that is more focused on people's needs.

News in Brief

  1. European Banking Authority will move to Paris
  2. EU court threatens daily fine over Polish forest logging
  3. EU medicines agency will move to Milan or Amsterdam
  4. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Milan in next round of EMA vote
  5. Three countries pull out of medicines agency Brexit race
  6. Schulz calls for new German elections
  7. EU Commission 'confident' on German stability
  8. EU adopts new border check rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  2. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  3. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  4. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  5. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  7. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  8. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  9. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  12. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017