Passing The Baton

The Future of Britain Hangs on the Younger Generations

How the British government translates the verdict of the EU referendum of 23rd June into action will have a fundamental effect on the lives of British people, not just today or tomorrow, but for many years to come.

One of the striking things about the referendum is that most older people voted emphatically to “leave” and most younger voters made it very clear that they wished to “remain” in the EU.

The votes of the over-65s, who turned out in very large numbers, effectively tipped the verdict towards “leave”.  The majority in favour of leaving, however, was quite narrow.

We are not questioning either the validity of the referendum or the sincerity of the voting decisions of older people. Suffice it to say, they had their own reasons to vote as they did.

The problem is that the future of Britain depends on the dynamism, energy and commitment of the younger generations – the under-50s who decisively opted to “remain”. What seems to be overlooked is that, apart from voting in their own right, young voters were also effectively serving as uncounted proxies for millions of their children.

The young are also the people on whom the future greatness of Britain hangs, whether inside or outside the EU. If the country ultimately opts for arrangements with which they don’t agree, they are unlikely to throw their hearts into making it a success.

It is in the Self-Interest of the Old to Respect the Decisions of the Young

The referendum process stirred up strong emotions, and tensions are still flying high. Sadly, it provoked splits within millions of families, between parents and children, brothers and sisters, cousins. These divisions can be healed by quiet reflection, especially on the part of older people, about the impact of the result on their children and grandchildren.

We are not suggesting that grannies and grandfathers – or even great uncles and aunts – set aside their strongly held views. Perhaps, however, they might now turn their thoughts towards their  instinctive role of caring for the future of their children and grand-children. Listening to the young and showing respect for their aspirations will do much to rebuild inter-generational trust and harmony where it has been shattered within families and in the wider community.

Taking back control of Britain’s economy and borders may be a valid aspiration for many older people who see this as a way of restoring the country’s self-respect and greatness. However, surely the right and proper action for those of us whose years are limited is to pass the baton of control over their lives to the next generations so that they can shape the future that they have said they want.

This is not just a matter of correcting an instance of intergenerational injustice or putting family first, but also one of self-interest.  We must not forget that Britain’s capacity to pay for our pensions, finance the NHS and care for us in our old age is already being sustained largely by the under-50s. If nothing else, it is short-sighted to deny them the future they seek and deserve!

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