“It’s just a shame that when we should be coming together and knocking down walls, we are instead building barriers, Donald Trump style.”
On 24 June the United Kingdom announced that the public had voted to split from the European Union in a historical referendum, which saw the Leave campaign win with a 52% majority. As the reality of the situation began to set in, the breakdown of the referendum vote by age group was revealed: 75% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted to Remain, while only 39% of over 65-year-olds voted the same.
With a clear pro-EU sentiment among the younger generation, the IPF spoke to Johnny Luk, a 23-year-old entrepreneur about what this decision means for him. As CEO of the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs, Johnny was certain that the vote would be close but that the Remain campaign would ultimately emerge victorious.
Like other young people in the UK, the results shocked Johnny. While Brexit campaigners have claimed that a vote to leave the EU would bring better immigration control, as well as more opportunity for young UK nationals, Johnny worries about the truth behind this.
“The perception is greater freedom and potentially better immigration controls, maybe even more immigration from outside of the EU, which I welcome, but I worry they are false perceptions.”
Instead, Johnny’s mind remains focused on the ramifications this decision will have for young people and entrepreneurs on a practical level. Flexible travel to Europe, EU funding for projects, and the number of postgraduate positions in the UK are issues of concern to him in the wake of Brexit. However, he emphasised that the impact of Brexit won’t be felt for the next few years and urged young people, particularly young entrepreneurs, to continue taking advantage of the benefits of EU membership.
Writing for NACUE, Johnny said: “In the short term, we haven’t immediately jumped off the EU cliff; we are still in it for now and will always have a strong relationship with them. You can still go to Holland with your passport, existing foreign exchange programmes still exist, if you have import/export start-up, no trade traffic will suddenly hit you.”
Although he admitted that uncertainty is bad for jobs and investment, he also remained optimistic about the UK’s economy and home grown talent. He insisted that opportunities will continue to come around for budding entrepreneurs in the UK.
“Entrepreneurs among us have to step and take advantage, create the jobs we need – build collaborations beyond any artificial border and become role models.”
He added: “Heck – at the very least, the reduction in the value of sterling might help exports.”
Johnny noted that while EU membership does have its negatives, he believes that these could have been solved by re-evaluating Britain’s position within the Union, rather than by leaving the EU entirely. He described the EU as being “sluggish” and stressed the need for it to be “streamlined”, using English as a standard negotiating vector: “The EU needs an Entrepreneur in Residence to bring it closer to the people.”
However, he notes that there is no point stressing over the outcome now. Instead, he urges people to take responsibility of the result and make the best out of the situation we have been presented with. He reminded young people to continue getting involved in politics as much as possible, and to take the time to research issues in depth and challenge assumptions on both sides of the debate.
“The minimum is to vote – the second is to go out and represent, not just moan about the injustice of the system.“