Yes, it’s a tough sell but young people should still vote to remain in the EU

UKRAINE EUROPE DAY

The Britain Stronger In Europe campaign may be nothing more than a poor Better Together tribute act but for the nation’s young people, the European Union still represents a beacon of opportunity. 

For many of us involved in Scottish politics, irrespective of our views on the subject of independence itself, the country’s referendum unarguably inspired and energised political engagement among youngsters.

Teenagers turned out in their droves to meetings, newly enfranchised school children had some of Scotland’s top politicians squirming such was the level of incisive questions and on the day itself, youngsters more than contributed to a record turnout.

Yet less than two years on from Scotland’s date with destiny, voters throughout the United Kingdom are faced with an equally important referendum: should Britain remain a member of the European Union?

But if Scotland’s referendum conjured up feelings of enthusiasm and confidence in politics, the European question has brought about nothing except misery, fear, frustration and sheer disilusionment from both sides.

On the one hand we have Vote Leave, spearheaded by former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson, encouraging Britain to take control of its borders again – all the way from his home in France.

On the other, we have the likes of the unelected Lord Rose who can’t even remember the name of his own campaign group telling us to stay in the EU or Britain will become a bankrupt backwater under eternal UKIP rule.

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Many young Europeans have been disenfranchised with a political system they say often overlooks their needs

Both sides are equally ludicrous in their claims. From the tabloid suggestion that we are on a relentless march to a ‘European superstate’ to the notion from ardent Europhiles that Premier League footballers are set to drop their six-figure salaries upon discovering the British public decided to leave.

It’s hard for young people to know who to believe but in an increasingly globalised jobs market, the European Union’s freedom of movement principles offer us phenomenal opportunities.

Finding a job or getting a foot on the housing ladder are perhaps the biggest grievances faced by the current generation.

Government policies throughout the western world often favour older people. In terms of employment, firms often have to give older workers numerous benefits which include making it harder to lay them off which in turn restricts job opportunities for youngsters.

Furthermore, property laws are deeply over-regulated in order to favour existing home owners: the fewer new homes that are built means those with homes will see their prices increase.

Such policies act against young people’s interests throughout Europe but it also means there is less to keep them firmly tied down to their home country.

The EU’s freedom of movement laws mean it is relatively straightforward for British youngsters to apply for jobs in other European countries, whilst initiatives such as the Erasmus + programme allow them to study at foreign universities through EU funding.

The Leave campaigns cannot offer young people the same opportunities whilst simultaneously demanding that Britain’s borders are restricted to other Europeans.

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The press have been keen to push the issues but have the campaigns done enough to inspire?

In other words, as much as globalisation may be uncomfortable, it has also become inevitable. However, this is where the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign is failing among Britain’s youngsters, who naturally tend to be more pro-European.

Not only does the campaign lack grassroots enthusiasm, it’s dominated by Britain’s elite: unelected members of the House of Lords, big business and tired faces from the Blair and Cameron governments.

Its dangers are two-fold; not only does it risk young people becoming so uninspired that they become too apathetic to vote but it also risks Nigel Farage, along with some members of the radical-left such as George Galloway, convincing young people that their interests are better represented through Brexit.

It’s time for someone to inspire hope. Remaining in the EU is hard, but it’s still the right thing to do.

 

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                                                                                                              Brian McLaughlin is a journalist and editor of Generation Europe, a site dedicated to making the case for students and young people to remain part of a reformed European Union. You can follow him on Twitter here. 

 

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