Young people in France also left depressed by Brexit

It’s not only young Brits who are mourning the result of the Brexit referendum, most young people in France are too.

Young people in France also left depressed by Brexit
Photo: AFP

A majority of young people in France also feel dejected by the rejection of the EU by British voters, a new opinion poll has revealed.

Some 59 percent of French people aged 18 to 30 described themselves via emoticons as ‘sad’ about the UK voting to leave the EU, according to a poll conducted by OpinionWay for the newspaper 20 Minutes.

When participants where asked to express their feelings in one word, ‘disappointment’ was the top answer with 81 occurrences, followed by ‘a shame’,  ‘incomprehension’, ‘surprise’ and ‘sadness'.

However a small minority (19 percent) of respondents declared themselves “delighted” by the Brexit.

The reasons why so many young French people felt disappointment echoed those expressed by young Brits in the days after the referendum.

One respondent Kevin described why he was shocked that the British had voted to leave the EU.

“They followed the extreme right and I find that a betrayal. We have always lived with Europe, it's precious.

“For me the EU means freedom. You just need a passport and you can go anywhere,” he said.

Some of the respondents to the survey had personal reasons to feel dejected.

Student Lionel, aged 25 said: “My girlfriend is English and Brexit is worrying for our relationship, because she wants to stay in France after her studies.

“With Brexit that's going to be complicated. I would also like to do an internship in the UK, but the chances of getting chosen are now far fewer,” he added.

Sixty percent of young people who took part in the survey considered themselves French above European, while only two percent felt the opposite – European before French. Some 21 percent said they felt just as European as French.

“I am attached to my country and all the culture that goes with it, but Europe means being open to others,” said 27-year-old Elsa.

The poll echoed similar feelings of sadness and dismay among younger voters in Britain, thousands of whom took part in pro-Europe protests over the weekend.

A survey by Opinium for the LSE found that 47 percent of 18-24 year-olds cried or felt like crying when they saw the results of the referendum.

Some 72 percent of respondents aged 18-39 said that they were ‘frustrated’ by people who had voted differently to them, while 67 percent said they were ‘angry’ and 61 percent ‘disgusted.’

The EU referendum revealed a stark rift between young, predominately pro-European voters and the more Eurosceptic older generations. 

The remain camp garnered 48 percent of the vote, but 54 per cent of 25-49-year-olds and a resounding 71 per cent of 18-24-year-olds voted to stay in the EU, according to a YouGov poll.

This proportion sunk to 40 per cent among 50-64-year-olds and to only 36 per cent of the over 65 group, prompting anger and bitterness among younger Brits.

by Imogen Wallace


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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.