Why Remaining in the EU Matters Most to Young People

05/06/2016 17:39 | Updated 05 June 2016

young voter

For the establishment, the news that a majority of young people support Britain staying in the European Union offers a fresh way of seeing the referendum campaign. For first-time voters like me, it simply states the obvious.

It's no secret that my generation is going to get the biggest boost from EU membership - belonging to a 28-nation powerhouse of free trade and free movement makes living, working, studying and travelling easier at home and in Europe, fuels economic growth for the future and maintains our status in the world.

Likewise, wedged at the bottom of the career and housing ladders, we are the ones who will depend most on the outcome and would face the worst of the uncertainty if Britain leaves.

As you might have guessed, then, an Observer poll showed that less than one-third of voters under 35 back 'Brexit'.

Young people have grown up with a global perspective. Along with other major advances, social media has torn down borders and integration is ingrained into our ethos. "Students in Britain do not fear today's modern, diverse world," Megan Dunn, the former President of the NUS, has said. "We fear isolation, not internationalism."

She's right. Nowadays, we are increasingly eager to spend time abroad, especially with the skyrocketing rents and tuition fees in the UK. The 15,000 Britons who study in Europe each year would, obviously, be averse to any obstacles which walking away from the common European zone may bring, such as higher costs, visa requirements and exclusion from the Erasmus scheme.

The benefits of our membership are economic as well as academic. School leavers and graduates need jobs, meaning companies have to be hiring. Yet, some businesses would be bound to move to lower-cost EU countries if Britain rejects its place in the largest tariff-free trading area, with free transfer of goods and services. In fact, according to the jobs website, Adzuna, the number of vacancies has already fallen due to fears about 'Brexit'.

As we agonisingly learned from the recent recession, the youngest suffer most from economic crises. Just last year, 16-24-year-olds were three times more likely to be unemployed than older generations. We cannot afford a repeat result.

What's more, we are children of a united Europe - the generation of Lidl, Nokia and Heineken - and we worry not only about what is best for Britain, but what is best for the world.

"Young people today want to see the UK working internationally to tackle the big problems and issues that they care about," Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, highlighted in a recent speech. "They want to make their world a better place."

We would hate to be stripped of influence in Brussels, Berlin and Paris, sidelined on serious transnational issues such as the refugee crisis, the environment, security and fair trade.

The solution is simple. If we want to be the generation of change, first, young people have to be pro-active on voting day. Our age group is the most vociferous in favour of EU membership, but we are also the most apathetic about elections, with only half of 18-34-year-olds saying they would definitely vote.

This time around, however, there are no excuses for not getting out and voting 'In'. Unlike general elections, the consequences of the referendum will remain with us for a generation and each ballot paper counts exactly the same.

Young people must mobilise their friends, spreading the word about the threat of 'Brexit' to our future and persuading them to turn out. Yet, we must also urge older people to help us close the generation gap.

Everyone who votes should recognise that they are influencing the life prospects of their children and grandchildren. We are the ones with the most to lose from the referendum, so it's vital that our voices are heard.

HuffPost UK Young Voices is running a fortnight-long focus on the EU Referendum, examining what is at stake for Britain's young people on 23 June and why it's imperative you register to vote and have your say. If you want to have your say and blog on our platform around this topic, email Register to vote here.