THE BLOG

Will I Vote? Maybe in 2017

15/04/2015 11:46 BST | Updated 14/06/2015 10:59 BST

My voting card dropped through the letter box last week along with a load of other bumf. But like so many other young people, I might just bin it with the junk mail. Uninspired by any of my local candidates, whose sole aim seems to be to suck up to the grey vote, I'm pretty sure that whoever triumphs in the early hours of May 8 won't make a iota of difference to my life.

Ironically, I am much more likely to cast my vote if David Cameron is still around in 2017 and holds his promised In/Out EU referendum.

It's not that I'm a political animal, much less a devoted Europhile or an unhinged Europhobe. I'm vaguely aware of the headline arguments of the pro and anti-camps. The EU is our biggest trading partner and membership enables us to punch above our weight in a fiercely competitive global economy, according to the pro camp. We have surrendered our sovereignty to Brussels which writes most of our laws and wastes billions of our money the antis, led by UKIP used to say, before they switched their focus almost entirely on immigration and soared in the polls.

I'm instinctively turned off by the immigrant bashing mostly focused on East Europeans of my generation who I interact with on a daily basis in London as they serve me coffee and sandwiches in Starbucks and Pret, and pull a pint in the local pub I frequent on Friday night after work.

I suppose I became a Europhile lite during a year spent in Lyons and Naples as part of my university course that introduced me to local students and my counterparts on Erasmus programmes from across Europe. I immersed myself in the people, the culture, the food and the quirks of my fellow Europeans - from Finland to Portugal - who were studying in France and Italy.

I began to feel part of Europe unlike the majority of my parents' generation who still think of the continent as little more than a holiday destination, albeit a pretty great one.

Spending a year in Europe at an impressionable age influenced my holiday choices away from the beaches (and bashes) in Ibiza and Crete to continental capitals that had a lot more to offer - yes, even at night!

This might sound a little superficial set against the weightier bread and butter arguments of the pro and anti EU camps and insufficient to support an intelligent vote in a possible referendum.

But I have slowly wised up to how EU membership has benefited me - and my generation - in very concrete ways that most of my peers and friends - and the broader electorate - are unaware of.

I can apply for a job anywhere in the EU on a equal footing with native applicants thanks to the so-called single market which allows freedom of labour across its 28 member states - at least if I make the effort to learn the language. That's why I'm usually served my Pret coffee by a Pole, Bulgarian or Hungarian and why some corners of Hackney sometimes seem like a Parisian arrondissement. In my parents' day it was almost impossible - and unthinkable - of applying for a job on the continent unless you were prepared to work on building sites in Germany.

Remember those eye-watering mobile phone bills you received on your return from a European summer holiday which made you cut down on your calls abroad ever since? Well, the charges have been falling steadily since 2009, I learned, thanks to those much maligned Brussels bureaucrats who have forced mobile operators to cut their exorbitant "roaming" charges year by year. They want to do away with them altogether by the end of this year but face opposition from governments, a Google search taught me.

Another thing we owe to the EU is the creation of a single European air market that allows Ireland's Ryanair and the originally Greek owned Easyjet to fly Brits to hundreds of destinations across the continent at fares that would have been unimaginable a couple of decades ago. Previously our choice was largely limited to national airlines like British Airways which charged the earth to fly to Europe and made "lower'' fares conditional on a Saturday night stay over!

Wonder why there are fewer long delays on your European flights these days? Maybe because the EU passed legislation forcing airlines to pay you compensation of £300 when your plane is delayed by a minute over three hours. I only learned this by reading a poster in the departure hall at Baden Baden airport a couple of years ago. The EU law also imposes a "duty of care" on airlines which is why they will have to pay the hotel, food and phone calls home of hundreds of British passengers stranded abroad because of the recent strike by French air traffic controllers.

I'm also a tad envious of my EU friends who benefit from things Britain opted out of. When I fly into Europe I have to join a passport queue, sometimes behind people on a flight from Asia or North America, while my fellow EU citizens go straight through to the arrivals hall because their countries are member of the Schengen passport-free-travel zone. I have friends across the EU who have jumped into a car or boarded a train at a whim and headed for a "foreign" jaunt because they don't have to be armed with a passport.

I know the Eurozone is a dirty word now as Greece teeters on the brink of bankruptcy but wouldn't it be great if we could roam across Europe without having to be ripped off by banks and bureaux de change and be subject to the volatility of the sterling-euro exchange rate?

My enthusiasm partly reflects my cynicism of all politicians and their promises, but I truly believe that Brussels has had a more direct impact on my life than those seeking my vote in Kentish Town.