Now we’ve officially given notice on Article 50, the UK is taking its first steps along a long path of negotiations and deliberations that will ultimately decide the course of the country for many decades to come.
We might not know too much now about what a post-Brexit Britain could look like, but we know at the very least that the Government and Parliament are going to be very busy in negotiations for the next few years. Brexit presents the biggest constitutional and logistical challenge we have faced in decades. And within this context, it’s even more important for civil society and citizens to be giving their perspectives, advocating for their priorities and presenting their solutions to support a Brexit that works for society.
So, here’s an eight step citizen’s guide on how to influence the Brexit process, and ensure your voice is heard.
- Engage with your MP and MEP
Find out who your MP is. Your MP is elected to represent you and your fellow constituents, and that includes representing your views even if they differ to their own. You can have an impact by writing to or meeting with your MP to highlight your own priorities and perspectives, and how you want them to represent you with Parliament.
Similarly, you can write to your MEP to ensure they are representing you at the European level. And even though they’re not directly elected and don’t have a duty to reply to the public, you can still write to a Member of the House of Lords. They will have an opportunity to influence the Brexit process through the House of Lords EU Select Committee, and as we have seen recently, they also scrutinise and can offer amendments to the bills going through Parliament.
You can easily write to your MP or MEP online at www.writetothem.com.
- Focus in on the issues
Brexit could affect a wide variety of different political and cultural topics and policies. To be the most impactful you can be, you’ll need to think about your main priorities and concerns you want to be taken into account for the negotiation process. Choose one or a small number of particular issues you are most passionate about and try to direct your energy in this direction as much as possible.
It’s important to identify what Brexit will and won’t directly affect. You may want to focus on particular issues that are part of the Brexit negotiations, or alternatively focus on areas you think should be safeguarded from distraction beyond Brexit.
Through Brexit Watch, we have identified six key priority issue areas for young people, and will be focusing our activities around these:
- Our experience of public services such as the NHS
- Job opportunities for young people
- Environmental laws and activism
- Educational opportunities and experience
- Democracy and participation
- Human rights and inequalities
- Join forces
Strength in numbers, as they say. Citizens are at their most powerful when they unite towards common goals. Find other people who share your perspectives and talk about what you could do together to become more than the sum of your parts.
Once you’ve decided on the particular topics and areas you’d most like to focus on, do some research into the organisations that are already working towards the outcome you want to see. Get in touch, and see how you might be able to support the work they are already doing.
- Get your voice out there, but listen too
From Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to your local media and community groups, there’s plenty of platforms out there for people to voice their perspective on ongoing developments, engage in conversation and gain support for campaigns. Wrote to your MP or MEP? Share it online. Got an interesting story to tell about how Brexit might affect you or your local community? Write to your local newspaper, or talk to some local community groups. You can also join our Brexit Watch bureau to have your own blogs, vlogs, infographics or other contributions published and presented to decision makers.
There’s a lot of noise out there, and especially with “fake news” such a hot topic right now, it’s important to ensure the voice and the message you put out is meaningful and impactful. Research the information you are putting out and make sure it is accurate; be an informative source for those that might identify with your point of view, or use it as leverage to bring about change. Provide engaging and analytical scrutiny of developments from a personal perspective, and how it applies to your broader audience.
Ensure your voice has appeal beyond those who already agree with you. Think about other perspectives, whether of people in your local communities or decision makers, and identify their drivers and motivators. Think about what might most influence the people you want to influence, and see what you could do to be a part of their influencing network. And be clear what you are asking of your audience, giving a clear call to action.
- Contribute to consultations
Government will hold a number of different consultations on many individual topics and issues during the negotiation process, so keep an eye out for when they do, and make sure to contribute.
Similarly, over the coming months, a number of different organisations will be conducting research and collecting views from citizens to present to Government. We here at Common Vision will be conducting research and focus groups to feed in our own reports – you can join our Brexit Watch bureau to get involved. Other organisations like Undivided are crowdsourcing views from young people to be published by the APPG on a Better Brexit for Young People in June. Take your chances to feed into any research and publications that will influence the direction of the negotiation process.
- Talk, engage, and find some common interests
The Brexit campaign and vote has left us with a society that can often feel divided, with many media reports of intergenerational disparities and families feeling split by their Brexit perspective. Find space to listen, talk and engage with those on every side of the debate. If nothing else, Brexit has shown there’s a real need for us to all reach out beyond our echo chambers and really understand the perspectives of others across the spectrum.
In fact, it’s been estimated that 40% of people made up their mind how to vote less than 4 weeks before the referendum. Perhaps we’re misconceiving and exaggerating the image of countrywide deep-set divides across Brexit perspectives. Whatever your outlook or political leaning, there’s plenty of common ground to be found across demographics and within communities, even in the unlikeliest of places.
What’s more, Brexit has the potential to provide us with many positive changes in policy and legislation, as well as define who we want to be as a country for decades to come.
- Exercise your democratic rights
We don’t know what’s going to happen over the next two years or more of negotiations. There may be a second Scottish referendum. There may an early General Election called. At the very least, there will be Mayoral elections in a number of areas of the UK in May 2017, as well as local government elections throughout the next few years. You can influence all of these by registering to vote and heading to the ballot box. Even if you don’t want to vote for any of the options presented to you, registering to vote ensures politicians know the size and demographics of the engaged electorate they are accountable to. In an age when young people are often categorised as politically disengaged and disinterested, having as many young people as possible on the electoral register sends a clear message countering this, and allows us to demand more policies in our interests.
- Do more politics
Maybe you want to join a political party, a single issue campaign, or a citizens community group. Maybe you want to start blogging or vlogging and sharing your views. Maybe you want to come up with your own ideas on how to get more people actively involved in politics or campaigns. There’s plenty of opportunities to be politically active and change things around us all the time, from the small to the big. However you want to direct your energy and your focus over the next few years, using your skills, passions and experiences and being an active citizen can make a meaningful contribution to the country we define ourselves as post-Brexit.
Brexit Watch is a project aiming to build bridges between policy makers and young people around the politics and process of leaving the EU. The project has three main aims:
– To educate and inform young people about the Brexit process
– To scrutinise and analyse the key announcements according to young people’s values, opinions and preferences
– To identify opportunities for young people to influence the decision making process on Brexit
This project ultimately aims to rebalance levels of political participation between the generations. If younger people do not constitute an active voice in the Brexit process then the risk is that decisions will be made that are not future-proofed and attuned to the generation that will live through these changes.
This article takes inspiration from our 2016 A Generation Apart report, which explored how young people were engaged by the EU referendum, and made a number of recommendations on how both decision makers and millennials themselves can ensure younger people constitute an active voice in the Brexit process. You can read the full report or watch the executive summary online here.