Exclusive interview: We met the Nottingham Uni law grad trying to stop Brexit

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By Adam Mawardi on

Legal Cheek sat down with social media star Femi Oluwole to discuss his journey from law to politics

We met the Nottingham Uni law grad trying to stop Brexit

Legal Cheek sat down with social media star Femi Oluwole to discuss his journey from law to politics

Posted by Legal Cheek on Thursday, April 25, 2019

Within the first month of studying law and French at the University of Nottingham, Femi Oluwole realised that he couldn’t see a future in legal practice. Speaking to Legal Cheek in an exclusive interview, Oluwole attributes this to the UK’s common law legal system, which places a heavy emphasis on legal precedent. “You can’t argue, ‘judge do this because it’s morally right’, you have to argue, ‘judge do this because a judge 100 years ago chose the same thing’,” he explains.

Although advocacy appealed to Oluwole, a self-confessed natural arguer, he reveals he couldn’t face arguing from a set of laws that he didn’t fully believe in. “I wouldn’t know for sure that I was always going to be arguing on the right side, whereas in politics I can choose which side I’m going to be on,” he says.

Oluwole graduated in 2013, initially with a 2:2 but left with a 2:1 after a successful academic appeal. From there he eventually found work in Brussels, and later in Vienna, for a non-profit organisation (NGO) and various human rights agencies, where his bilingual French skills came into play. But, following the 2016 referendum result, which saw the UK vote to leave the European Union (EU), Oluwole found his priorities shift.

He tells us:

“I was working at the EU level on human rights because I felt that I was helping protect the human rights of the whole of Europe, and as a Brit, I was protecting the human rights of my own country. If the UK is no longer in the EU, then I would be working for the human rights of every country but my own — and so, for me, Brexit came the priority.”

In 2017 Oluwole quit his internship at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and returned to the UK to begin a one-man Twitter campaign against Brexit. His goal was to fill the vacuum of accurate information around the inner workings of the EU that often led to a misinformed Brexit debate. Having studied EU law during his undergrad, Oluwole took it upon himself to explain jargon-heavy legal concepts, like the single market, and making it as easy as possible to understand.

Oluwole, 29, now has over 150,000 Twitter followers, and his YouTube channel, where he posts explanatory videos on the EU, boasts a total of nearly 100,000 views. Beyond social media, Oluwole tours the country as chief spokesperson and co-founder of pro-EU pressure group, Our Future Our Choice. Whether he’s engaging to voters directly, appearing on the BBC and Sky News, or speaking to LBC, Oluwole’s message is clear: young people voted heavily against Brexit but will end up being stuck with any long-term negative consequences.

As he reflects on his own journey from law student to political activist, Oluwole is almost in disbelief. “There’s no reason that some random guy born in Darlington, growing up in the West Midlands, should make it onto national television at a time where everybody is clamouring to be heard, and somehow I managed to cut through,” he says. Having a law degree, Oluwole believes, grants him a competitive edge. “It’s because I studied law specifically that I’m different to all these politicians who studied philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at the University of Oxford,” he adds.

Regardless of how Brexit pans out, Oluwole anticipates having little choice but to remain politically active — whether it be to stop the UK swinging too much towards the political right or to address growing disillusionment among the electorate. While not opposed to eventually running for parliament, Oluwole stresses that it would unlikely be with an established party due to, what he believes to be, public mistrust in mainstream politicians.

For now, the EU’s recent decision to push back Brexit to October 31 has bought the Remain campaign some extra time. But for Oluwole, the victory is bittersweet. Although relieved by the extension, he reveals to have “mentally budgeted” for Brexit to have finished by May. He explains:

“I have not been taking care of myself at all. I eat, sleep, drink and breathe Brexit, and so the idea of doing this for another six months is tiring, but it’s necessary… the stakes are simply too high not to finish this.”

To find out more about the legally-minded political activist, watch the video embedded above.

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