Miriam Mirwitch: Why I’m calling for a vote on Brexit at Labour conference

It’s vital that Young Labour members have a say in policy that impacts us. When I stood to be national chair of Young Labour, I pledged that I’d fight for young activists and young workers to have our voices recognised within our movement and within our policy. We simply can’t just be seen as fodder for the Labour doorstep.

Brexit is one of the greatest policy challenges of our generation. A hard Brexit has the potential to corrode vital workers’ rights, disproportionately impact women, migrant workers and the most vulnerable in society, and hand our cruel Tory government yet more power. Young people voted decisively against Brexit, and it’s one of issues that Young Labour members mention to me the most.

But that’s not why I wrote to our leader in my capacity as Young Labour Chair in support of members having a say in our Brexit strategy. I wrote to Jeremy Corbyn because it’s vital that young members have our voices heard on issues that will impact our futures dramatically. Whether that be in support of a hard Brexit or a second referendum, I want members to have our voices heard.

Young Labour currently does not have policy on the party’s Brexit strategy. Surely this, if anything, is a clear reason for giving a democratic opportunity for debate and a vote. The letter was not an attempt to lobby for a second referendum, a position that I don’t support in a personal capacity, or any other strategy on Brexit. It was advocacy for debate and a collective voice.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has democratised our movement. It was absolutely not my intention to criticise his leadership or position on Brexit within the letter, and I hope that is clear from its wording.  I’m proud to have joined young activists across the country campaigning for hundreds of hours to get Jeremy and a socialist government into 10 Downing Street. I will keep fighting for this alongside Young Labour and trade union comrades.

It was a privilege to be elected as chair of Young Labour in the first youth election in which every single young member could vote. Just like each member of the Young Labour committee, I hold a mandate from young members in my own role. It was in this capacity that I signed the letter. During my election I was endorsed by the Labour Movement for Europe and pledged specifically for young members to have a voice on our Brexit strategy.

Brexit is far from the only issue that impacts young people. Insecure work, insecure, overpriced housing, the systematic dismantling of our NHS and the erosion of our rights at work and the ongoing prejudice liberation groups face are all burning issues members raise up and down the country.

But a hard Tory Brexit has the ability to fundamentally worsen all of these things. Without the protections that Europe brings, we need to be sure that workers’ rights can’t simply be changed from one government to the next. Whilst we all want to see Labour in government sooner rather than later, we cannot always be in power. Without minimum guarantees on workers’ rights, they could be slashed by a Conservative government intent on working for the interests of the few.

Young members deserve a voice on all of the issues we face. With the deadline for Brexit looming in 2019, it is a debate that simply can’t wait. The volume of support from across our movement for the letter and a say in our Brexit strategy has been overwhelming. This has been the first time that my phone’s Twitter app has crashed from the volume of outpourings of support rather than inpouring hatred from right-wing and antisemitic trolls.

If you’re a Young Labour member, please don’t be put off from getting involved by some of the discourse online. Every young member deserves to feel welcome, able to get involved and that their voice is heard in our movement.

There is so much talent within Young Labour. I will never stop fighting for a movement that is welcoming, empowering and fights for the issues we face. We deserve to have all of our voices heard.

Miriam Mirwitch is chair of Young Labour.

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