YOUNG VOICES

Youths And The EU: What Millenials Want For The Future Of Europe

08/07/2015 11:30 BST | Updated 08/07/2015 12:59 BST
Tim Ireland/PA Archive
The Union Jack pictured behind the European Union flag in London.

The future of the EU has never been less certain; Greece recently voted to refuse billions of euros in exchange for more cuts, while David Cameron has promised Britain a referendum vote of its own in the coming years.

Analysts had predicted the Greek ballot could be swung by the youth vote, with some suggesting 80% of young Greeks would vote against the bailout, as they have been hardest hit by their country's crisis.

But what do Britain's youths think of the EU? And how will they vote when the time comes to decide on our future?

David Neal is a fifth year medical student at Cambridge University, and his fiance is from the Netherlands.

"We met at university in the UK, which probably couldn't have happened in the first place without the EU allowing free movement to access higher education," he says.

"EU agreements also allow us to easily get married in whichever EU country we happen to be living in. Sofie currently lives in Belgium, where she works for the Dutch embassy representing the Netherlands within the EU.

"From her insider description, the EU sounds less like an amorphous, characterless monolith of an institution and more a lively forum for discussion between partners whose voices nonetheless retain a distinct character. The conversation, of course, includes the UK.

"I do worry that there is the potential for Britain to be misguided into leaving the EU; to move from being one voice in that forum, to one voice outside that forum, trying to shout in through closed windows.

Neal adds: "I have a personal interest but I would like to think that our relationship could represent the EU in microcosm and we're preparing to commit."

"I do believe that the EU has a future," says 20-year-old Milo Barnett. "It's a difficult task, but I feel that EU can do it, as its capable of adapting and becoming even more relevant for the people of Europe.

"I strongly feel that no European country would be better going alone, we live in a globalised and we depend on each other even more now than ever."

Barnett, who lives in Northumberland and studies at Warwick University, highlights the "unprecedented growth" of the EU, and urges the public to look beyond the economic benefits of Europe.

"Most notably, protection of workers’ rights, which has benefitted millions of people across the continent. These rights should belong to all, not those in a few lucky nations. Funding for cultural and economic projects, for example my home region of the North East would greatly suffer if Britain were to leave. The EU has also helped foster peace to a region so used to settling issues with war; the EU was born after the horrors of war and vowed never for European states to go to war again with each other."

He adds: I am hopeful the EU will gradually reform to become an entity which works for all in Europe."

Morgan Tarr agrees, saying quitting the EU would be "a big mistake".

"The majority of our trade is with the EU and it would have a negative impact on our economy if we were to leave and put up barriers," says the 24-year-old from Warrington. "Countries like Norway are often cited as an example by those who want us to leave the EU, but as they are trading with EU countries they have to abide by EU laws even though they have no say in how they are formed.

"Surely it is better for us to be in the EU, changing the policies we don't like rather than being on the outside and having no say in the matter, even though they affect how we do business?

"I've yet to see any reason why breaking it up would be in our best interests.

"We are better together and working as one to improve rather than splitting up and going it alone."

But Julian Jones begs to differ. "It's a bogus organisation which strips away the power of sovereign countries to make their own economic decisions - as evident in Greece," 23-year-old argues.

"The EU is completely incompatible with progressive (or even social democratic) measures of wealth redistribution, state ownership of public services, and so on.

"What most worries me is that, say in 30 years, the NHS might have disintegrated to such an extent that it will no longer be recognisable as a publicly funded healthcare system, and that the EU will have had a huge say in dictating this opening up to the market of our beloved NHS.

"I hope we realise before then the dangers that EU-driven 'liberalisation' pose for our generation. If a future government wanted to bring back the railways under public control, it would be stopped by EU legislation- that is its nature.

The UCL graduate continues: "Some would say that the EU has been a great harbinger of prosperity and opportunities. But by what measure? GDP? Wealth creation? I prefer to measure it in terms of youth unemployment, especially in countries such as Greece, Spain or Portugal, where the rate can reach 60%."

Jones is keen to point out the importance of UKIP and backbencher Tories not dominating the discussion with reactionary views on immigration and "Little-Englander mentalities", and that the dialogue is opened up to youths.

He adds: "In what we might call 'liberal' Britain especially, I think that the EU has managed to present itself as a democratic, progressive force for good, as an organisation that brings people together under its nice blue flag.

"It's been very clever. I love Europe, I love Europeans. but not the EU. I studied French and Spanish at university and love most things about those countries! The literature, the languages, the history, the food, the sport!

"But I think that increasingly more young people are starting to realise the great sham that is the EU and its complete lack of democracy and transparency."