It’s not often that the staid Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sets the British news agenda. But over the bank holiday weekend, that paper’s reporting of a leaked conversation between the EU and British negotiators over dinner set British political commentators alight.
The FAZ report, as relayed in English on Twitter by The Economist’s Berlin correspondent, suggested a poorly briefed British team labouring under illusions about what the EU owed it and what it owed the EU.
No doubt, this was a calculated leak by Jean-Claude Juncker. But if we do take the leak at face value, it serves to demonstrate two things. First, the negotiations with the European Union will be more difficult than Brexiteers imagined. Second, the prime minister’s “deal or no deal” stance could backfire spectacularly for us all, and result in the kind of extreme Brexit we are fighting against.
Another telling detail in the FAZ report was the prime minister’s suggestion that position papers and other documents relating to the negotiations be kept secret. The EU’s concern that papers would need to be published for co-ordination with the European parliament was apparently not one shared by the prime minister when it came to Westminster.
This should be a concern for everyone in Britain. A prime minister entering negotiations seemingly committed to secrecy, having already backed herself into a corner on possible outcomes, risks returning from negotiations with a poor deal and no alternative. The government may try to force parliamentarians to accept a deal they have had no hand in, which will have huge implications for generations to come.
The far-reaching implications of the deal mean that first-time and younger voters have more invested in a parliamentary vote than most: for example, a recent Sunday Times/YouGov poll showed that 43 per cent of under 25s feel that there should be a referendum on the terms of any deal – a significantly higher number than any other age group. Also 53 per cent of the same age group want Britain to remain part of the single market. Many of them are effectively being told that the most important decision in their lives is to be left to their elders and betters.
At the Best for Britain campaign, which I am spearheading, we are keen for citizens and MPs to keep our options open until we see the results of the deal the next prime minister brings back. We have the right to a full parliamentary vote, and MPs should take that, and not be satisfied with agreeing now to a deal they haven’t seen yet, from negotiations that haven’t been started to be decided by a group of unknown ministers in an as yet unelected government.
Many of the millennial generation already view so-called “baby boomers”, with their paid-up mortgages and triple-locked pensions, as selfish. If we want to stem that resentment, we should start by offering them a meaningful choice in next month’s election, and ensuring that they are involved in the process. That’s why Best for Britain will be using part of the funds raised through our gofundme page to support voter registration, particularly amongst young and first-time voters.
Brexit has exposed many schisms in the country, and the age divide may be the most significant of them all. A generation has seen something they grew up with taken away from them, in the name of a blue passport nostalgia they can’t possibly share. They feel truly disenfranchised.
For our democracy to function in the future, we need to ensure they know they have a voice, and that they will be listened to in parliament and by government.
Gina Miller is the founder of Best for Britain, a crowdfunded campaign to support parliamentary candidates who push for a final vote on Brexit.
This article originally appeared in The Times on 3 May.