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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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  1. Morgan Allen

    This is a very coherent article, I like it a lot! I have to admit I’ve had a blindfold over my eyes when it comes to the EU referendum and I now find myself in a mad dash trying find the relevant information from both sides in order to make an informed decision when it comes to voting day.
    As far as I’m concerned listening to political debates on this issue has not impressed me much, as both side in my opinion have failed to present compelling arguments, but thank you Harry for presenting a few points from both sides offering some clarity.

  2. Jasmine Anwar

    I think… the lack of political education for young people is disgraceful- personally, I have spent much of my time researching for myself just to allow myself to have an informed opinion on any political issues that arise however I know that many young people would not and have not taken the time to do this important research. The astonishing political apathy I see (although I know it is not the case everywhere) in young people local to myself is something I feel is a big problem. It is because of this lack of information that I too agree that not all young people should be allowed to vote however I believe there should be a scheme in place that could allow those interested to have a say; after all it is our futures these choices are affecting. I find it hard to stop myself feeling bitter as I watch much older people debate their opinions over the future of this country when many of them are unlikely to live through the implications of their choices.

  3. Nikita

    I think…that Britain mustn’t leave eu

  4. James Cameron

    trump FTW

  5. Iona Sinclair

    I think… that in regards to whether young people should vote, as young disabled people can become in charge of any benefits they receive at 16, and anyone can get a job at 16 that 16 year old should be allowed to vote. Schools tell us we are becoming more responsible but we can’t if we are given the responsibility. Furthermore an older person could vote and then never live to have to deal with the outcome they’ve helped bring about, which isn’t fair on older generations.

  6. Josh Wick

    The arguments for remain are much stronger and there are simply more of them. When you look at all the things the EU has done for our country the list is incredibly exhaustive, including human rights and free movement. Leaving would cause the value of the pound to fall approx 1.5% against the dollar (HSBC), and because the pound would therefore be cheaper it would cost more to import goods into the UK leading to a rise in inflation, meaning that everything imported will rise in price; from TVs to grapes everything will be more expensive. If we leave the UK would possibly be the most hated nation which means that we couldn’t set up any old trade deal we like, the US have said we’d be at the back of the queue behind the EU and then the EU countries wouldn’t be as open to trade as they are now meaning they’d charge more causing more inflation.