Brexit: A Personal View

By John Roche, Haybrooke CEO


When I awoke this morning at 6.30 AM the first thought that surged into my mind was “are we still in Europe”?

I grabbed my phone off the bedside table and searched “EU referendum”. Moments later, the headline that greeted me was enough to give me an instant, gut-wrenching knot in my stomach. “Britain chooses ‘Leave’ as Brexit campaigners claim historic victory”.

I first shouted to my wife; then my daughter; and finally my son. “We are out of Europe!!

My 15 year old daughter was at first close to tears as the news sunk in; then she became angry. “Why are people so stupid?!” she shouted.

My wife showed me a graph that had been posted on Facebook. It was a chart of the age of UK voters. Young people (aged 18 – 25) had resoundingly voted ‘Remain’. But, as the plot of the graph moved along with voter age, it fell lower and lower into the ‘Leave’ category. The biggest shock of all was in the 65+ age group. ‘Leave’ was nearly off the chart at this remote end of the graph.

I wondered if this was telling us something important? Do older people know something that the younger generation do not? Or, do the younger generation understand the modern world we live in better than the old-guard?

I couldn’t make my mind up.

The older generation can still recall the war. They know the true cost of liberty. It is sacrifice; sweat; tears; and blood. Many will feel that Britain and its Allies who helped to win the great wars did so at considerable cost of human life and dignity; only to now lose this to a more subtle, but equally powerful, political and economic enemy. They fought to win the freedoms today’s generation take for granted. But this victory will have been a hollow one if we continue to sacrifice it on a political altar of economic and judicial oneness.

So what do the kids know?

My own three children, aged 15, 20 and 22, in many ways epitomise today’s younger generation. They are confident, opinionated and well educated. They grew up in a multi-cultural environment and were schooled the same way; a process that gave them a deep insight into many diverse cultures and religions. Experientially they have lived in a way that much of the older generation can only imagine. To them, the idea of separating ourselves from a community of what they see as friends and allies, then, is truly bizarre.

Technology has played its part in allowing this paradigm to happen. We live in a globally connected ‘new world’ that the young have access to, minute by minute, via the internet. Indeed, the new world may be the one in which we are all immersed; but it is ruled by the young. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is just 32. Google’s Larry Page is a relative old man, at 43.

So much of our planet’s future depends on the choices of the young men and women who are driving the technology we all live our lives by. The question is, can the reasoning of the older generation, much of which is based upon fear and intolerance – and has effectively taken us out of the EU – be trusted in the new world? There are at least three young people I know who say not.

I said earlier I couldn’t make my mind up. Honestly, I still can’t.

But I just can’t get rid of this knot in my stomach…