Brexit: Frustrated Young Britons Should Vote Again, This Time With Their Feet

People queue as they wait at the St. Pancras international train station terminal in London, Thursday, July 2, 2015. French p
People queue as they wait at the St. Pancras international train station terminal in London, Thursday, July 2, 2015. French port workers are due to strike in Calais, France, and some disruption to the EuroStar train disruption is expected. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

It used to be the case that moving around for jobs was reserved to European elites. No longer. I recently came across a young Frenchman from the Banlieue on the Eurostar who could not get a job in Paris and now drives public transport buses in London instead.

Four years ago I founded the Barrez-vous! (literally, "Scram!") movement with two Frenchmen of North African descent encouraging young people in France, my country of birth, to pack their bags and leave. France's political class has tolerated youth employment hovering around 25 percent for over 35 years now. Such an over-centralized, decrepit gerontocracy run by highly endogamous elites, we argued, did not deserve its youth and it was time they vote with their feet and leave. Members of the country's establishment soon accused us of anti-French sentiment and of encouraging young people to give up on their country. It occurred to no one back then, not even us, that this wasn't just an idiosyncratic French phenomenon that was playing out then, that actually the entire world's youth's allegiances might be shifting.

A few years later, I founded Europeans Now, a transnational movement which aimed to encourage young voters across Europe to vote as Europeans rather than as citizens of this or that country. The time has come for young Britons to take their destiny into their own hands. While their elders just decided to leave the EU -- a decision many of them will not have to endure the consequences of -- young Britons voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. Now they can vote with their feet. By going to Berlin for instance, by far Europe's coolest, hippest, youth-friendly capital.

Brexit is only the latest in a series of intergenerational holdups -- think of the unilateral decision made these past few years by baby boomers to take trillions of bad debt accumulated privately by... baby boomers (!) and convert it into... public debt (!) -- in a world run by elders and baby boomers for elders and baby boomers whose obsolete views of the nation-state as the be-all and end all of modern governance stands increasingly in the way of the prosperity of younger generations. And while it is true young voter turnout for this referendum wasn't high, this has a lot to do with the incapacity of national politicians (in this case Britain's) to truly embrace transnational aspirations close to the heart of the world's youth.

Young people's sense of identification and belonging are increasingly tribal. They don't care so much where you come from, what color your skin is or whether you are a Muslim, a Jew or an atheist. They are much more interested in where you are going, i.e. what your values are: Are you a racist? What drives you? Do you pretend global warming is a myth? Are you driven by individualism or fairness and social justice, hate and division or love and inclusion?

Youthonomics, a new kind of think tank dedicated to youth empowerment, ranks countries, cities, companies and schools across over hundred criteria to say where young people are courted and allowed to prosper and flourish. Our aim, by producing and making this data freely available to young people worldwide, is to allow those of them who feel disempowered to make informed decisions about where to work, live, study, what languages and skills to learn. We aim in so doing to turn the vicious circle affecting them negatively (mostly) on a global scale into a virtuous one by turning the world into a beauty contest of cities and companies, countries and schools vying to attract youth. Indeed, the world's elites and gerontocrats seem to have forgotten that without young people, not a single entity, whether a government a company or any other kind of organisation, can innovate, grow and prosper in the longer run. Migration, the act of moving from point A to point B because one is dissatisfied with the way things are going in point A, has always been a means of emancipation for mankind. But this is the first EasyJet generation. With proper data and low cost air fares, the world is young people's like it never has been before.

Europe has long been the world's single most ambitious and exciting political project. It is floundering in no small part because of national political establishments made up by and large of selfish and self-centered gerontocrats and baby boomers. Many in the greater public have accepted the myth that national politicians in Europe are of two kinds: Eurosceptics and pro-EU. In truth, the vast majority of national politicians in Europe who are not in favor of some kind of federalism are the problem. They are composed of two kinds of Eurosceptics: ontological ones like Mr Johnson and Farage, who for better or for worse, are against the EU because they openly refuse the notion that nation-states are becoming archaic structures of governance. And a far larger group of closet Eurosceptics, who say "remain" but are reluctant to see any of their power devolved from their respective National Assemblies towards the European Parliament. These lukewarm Europeans bear a special kind of responsibility for the continent's current state of affairs. They have ensured the European Commission never became the executive branch of European governance it was supposed to eventually become after the Single European Act. They have made a point of sending mostly incompetents to Brussels as a means to weaken the European Parliament and then complained about the incompetence and corruption found in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Europhiles in Brussels seem meanwhile to have spent far more time building a sense of common shared identity among elites in Brussels than among Europeans. There would have been no single more effective way to do the former than to encourage young Europeans to move around member-states to seek jobs by subsiding their job search on a European scale instead of a national one. A European-wide employment agency was created a few years ago to facilitate such an approach but it failed miserably due, as always, to lack of cooperation among national employment agencies. The solution to Europe's ills, whether it be lack of growth, massive youth unemployment, the rise of nationalist and sovereignist movements or the lack of solidarity among European states when it comes to each welcoming their fair share of refugees lies in the fostering of internal migration and a professional corollary to the Erasmus student exchange program. Give young Europeans, young Britons included, a chance to make the search for a future, a life, a career a European-wide one by subsidizing it and they will build Europe... with their feet. In the meantime, frustrated young Brits should pack their bags and in so doing show their elders and their national political class that ignoring their interests and aspirations is untenable in the long run.