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Millennials and the Brexit Bill: a tale by Generation Brexit

Posted by Roch Dunin-Wąsowicz (Admin) 2 months ago

Coverage of the Brexit negotiations has recently become dominated with discussions over the so-called “Brexit Bill” - the amount the UK and the European Union could be forced to pay when the UK eventually exits the European Union. This blog, by Valeria Vigilante, Manuela Cristiano, and Marta Kochetkova, looks at the implications of the “Brexit Bill” and how existing public debates over how and when the amount asked for should be paid have shaped the views expressed by millennials on the Generation Brexit platform. The authors highlight the variety of views young Europeans aged 16-35 have on this issue, one of the most discussed topics on General Brexit platform, and the key concerns and arguments the participants on the platform have put forward in relation to one of the most topical aspects of the Brexit negotiations.

As the first stages of negotiations are taking place in Brussels, the media coverage and public debate, in the UK and across Europe, has been dominated by discourse over money and the so-called Brexit bill. 

But what does this bill exactly entail? 

The “Brexit Bill” is simply the sum of the UK’s financial obligations against the EU. The argument brought forward by the EU is easy to understand: there are multiannual programs in execution for which at the time the UK gave its approval as well as it showed a readiness to support their costs. If now the UK decided to default on its obligations, it would leave a gap in the budget.

Therefore, EU wants first the UK to accept the principle of paying for the commitments made and then proceed to compute their amount.

For its part, the UK could claim those European assets paid with its financial contribution. In these cases, there should be a space for a negotiation.

But, what does the Bill comprehend in terms of money and obligations? 

-       There has not been an official amount of money yet; however, the EU seems to ask 60bn € to the UK as arrears to cover the costs of the commitments made together in the past years as well as financial contributions to the European budget.

-       150bn is the total amount of European assets against which, right as in a divorce, the UK could claim its share post Brexit, which could amount of a share for London equal to over 20bn €, spread across different assets.  

However, it is all still settled in the realm of probability and uncertainty. There are divergent opinions on the Bill, among EU and UK officials as well within the media and the general public. While there is now a generally agreed British obligation to pay the bill, as Brexit minister Joyce Anelay has acknowledged, there are many different scenarios that could take place: from the actual sum to be paid and in what currency to how the bill could be paid, spread over a three-years timeframe, for instance. In particular, young demographics, the famously called ‘millennials, are concerned about the bill and how it could affect them in many different ways, depending on the decisions taken during the negotiations. Negative effects, for millennials, not only in terms of declining GDP (as the British Treasury estimates in case of hard Brexit) and stagnating economy, but also in terms of research and projects funding. Yet, as there many different scenarios and potential negative effects so there are many different opinions among the millennial demographic on what the necessary course of action is: how much to pay, how to pay and for what, what to prioritize. The highly polarized positions across the millennial generation appears clear on the Generation Brexit, an online platform created to crowdsource a millennial vision of Brexit and future UK-EU relations.  

Generation Brexit is an online platform which aims to collect and enable millennials’ opinions and proposals in regards to the Brexit negotiations. As such, it has been a good sample of heterogeneous opinions surrounding the divorce bill.

Overall, the Brexit bill has been one of the most discussed topic on the platform as it was set among the earliest discussion boards, named ‘challenges’, and collecting around 23 different proposals, 230 votes and more than 40 users.

More or less, the over majority of users agrees that the UK needs to pay a sum to exit the European Union, presented as a matter of responsibility, thus mirroring Anelay’s position. However, this shared agreement ceases here: users have presented a wide range of different ideas on how the matter should be carried on. Interestingly, some users have forwarded the idea that the bill should be split between the UK and the EU, while others consider the UK as the sole responsible for the Brexit, thus the sole accountable for the bill; an user suggests that the bill can be paid over time, in different instalments.  On the other hand, others are more concerned on how the exit bill means an exit from common projects, which have benefited the UK in different sectors: form scientific research to arts and creative industry. This last discussion underlines an interesting aspect of the bill, which is rarely, if never, considered within the public media. This uncovers not only how multilayered Brexit is as a phenomenon but also the great potential of initiatives such as Generation Brexit.  

What has been interesting to observe is how the heterogeneous positions on the matter have not hindered the online discussion on the Generation Brexit platform: in many cases, users have welcomed others’ proposals as something new they had not thought of yet. In other cases, a compromise or shared view was achieved. These are all positive signs of how well the project itself is going and, more importantly, of the important role the general public can have: to offer original and different perspectives on complicated matters. Lastly, the project becomes even more significant when considering that the decisions undertaken during the Brexit negotiations will affect directly the general public.

It is has become clear, based on the views that millennials have already expressed on the Generation Brexit platform, that the question of the “Brexit Bill” is just as contentious and discussed on the platform and among the youth demographic as it is in the UK and European media and public arena at the moment. Young European citizens, those living, studying and working all over Europe, view the questions of how much will be paid, by whom, when and how as key and have strong opinions on the topic, opinions they have chosen to express on the platform through numerous proposals and votes, though a majority opinion has yet to emerge.

What has been made obvious, however, is how engaged young people are with the topic and the evident understanding among millennials over how crucial getting the negotiations over the “Brexit Bill” right is, not only for the progress of the Brexit negotiations once this issue has been dealt with, but also as young European citizens and taxpayers with concerns and suggestions worth listening to.

Authors: Valeria Vigilante, Manuela Cristiano, Marta Kochetkova   

This post was edited on Sep 7, 2017 by Roch Dunin-Wąsowicz

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