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Articles > News & Politics May, 16, 2016

What The EU Referendum Means For Teens

Harry Coutts
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The upcoming referendum on the United Kingdom’s EU membership is already proving itself to be a considerably challenging and disruptive issue, and it’s likely to become even worse in the lead-up to the 23rd of June. Political and media insiders are worried that voters are becoming ‘turned off’ and growing more ignorant of important political events, due to seemingly endless arguments about the economic implications of voting to stay in or leave the European Union. Here’s why we as young people shouldn’t turn our backs on this debate…

EU referendum

What the EU referendum means for young people…

As a 16 year old student, I know first-hand that even though many young people haven’t yet been granted the right to vote in the Brexit campaign, its results will affect their futures the most. Although it pains me to watch people head off to the town hall to put a cross on a piece of paper without the legal right to do so myself, I personally am not in favour of extending the franchise to 16 year olds. I am not in favour of having political parties ‘dumb down’ the content of important debates, in an attempt to appeal to the “youth vote.”

However, not having voting privileges definitely isn’t an excuse for young people to not take an active interest in the decision. It’s important that we debate and discuss this issue and consider its effects on our futures.

One problem which might be the root cause of political apathy amongst young people is the belief that political matters are for older generations. This is untrue. Consider the following details and how they might affect your opinion:

How it affects young people:

Easier for UK nationals to get into Uni – If Britain chooses to leave the EU, the government will have no obligation to financially support the higher education of EU students: they will be treated as “overseas students.” As a result, the number of EU citizens choosing to study in the UK will likely decline. This will relieve some pressure on UK nationals securing places in further education. Although, this could mean a reduction in financial income for these institutions, and so less money to spend on uni facilities.

Living and working in the EU – Leaving the EU could make it harder for young people to move to another European city. This therefore could also limit young people’s job opportunities in other countries which tend to have a lower unemployment rate than the UK. However unemployment in the UK has recently been improving so you might not even have to pack your bags at all.

We might lose some laws – Many EU laws, such as those establishing consumer rights which restrict misleading advertising and unethical sales, could potentially change. Environmental laws, which provide security for habitats of rare plants and animals, are also seen to be a positive action of the EU which could be lost alongside European membership. The UK could also become exempt from the Human Rights Act, altogether forming a large portion of the “in” campaign’s argument. However, those willing to leave argue that the content of EU legislation can be retained in British law without being bound to EU regulation.

We can stop the Chamber of Secrets – One of the greatest criticisms against the European Union is the suggested lack of democracy within it. The EU is composed of two main bodies: the European Parliament – where elected MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) discuss and amend proposals put forward by another chamber. This other chamber, the European Commission, is seen as the most controversial part, because despite holding the most power (in terms of making laws that affect the entire EU), it is entirely unelected. We have no say on who’s in it.

The greatest argument put forward by the “out” campaign is that, while having the most influence over public life, very few people actually recognise any members of the European Commission. Simultaneously, The European Commission’s unelected status means that it can’t be held accountable by EU voters, which is seen by both sides as undemocratic. Therefore we could be the generation to stop the madness and introduce more democracy!

A social stigma attached to Euroscepticism has become clear over the past few months. The “out” campaign is often described by members of the “in” campaign to be introverted and mildly racist. However, I believe this is very much untrue.

While the UK isn’t part of the Schengen agreement, which allows people to pass through EU nations without passports, any holder of an EU passport can stay in the country for at least three months. Meanwhile, even the most qualified worker from one of the member states of the British Commonwealth (nations where our Queen remains their head of state) is required to navigate through mountains of legal processes before they can integrate into British society. The fairness of this regulation is something to consider when thinking about EU membership.

My Opinion…

Neither side of the campaign has moral high ground. I myself support the “out” campaign; not because I hate Europe; not because I hate immigration; not because I am inward-looking, but because I want to see genuine European friendship. Remaining as a star on the flag of an undemocratic political union isn’t something I can support.

Whatever other young people think, we need to ignore any stigmas pointed at either side by the politicians, and follow our own personal convictions rather than what our peers tell us to believe.


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