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This Referendum Campaign Has Been Dreadful - But We Still Desperately Need to Win

19/06/2016 18:11 | Updated 20 June 2016

young voter

I'll be blunt - I'm absolutely sick of this referendum campaign. I'm sick of hearing about the "£350m a week" we send to Brussels, which is patently a lie but the Brexiters keep on with it anyway; I'm sick of parades of white men in grey suits telling people how to vote; I'm sick of the scaremongering, and I'm sick of the negative rhetoric on immigration coming from both sides.

But actually looking at the polls in the last week, and realising that actually we are currently on course for brexit, has brought me back to what's at stake in this referendum - especially for my generation.

Because ultimately if we leave the EU, we lose a bridge to other cultures and societies; we lose a vital tool for international co-operation; we lose opportunities to broaden our horizons and work together on the shared challenges we face.

Last academic year, over 15,000 students from the UK studied abroad using the Erasmus programme - making them 50% less likely to experience long-term unemployment.
The EU provides billions in funding for research in British universities, opening up opportunities for further study for students here - and funding that allows the brightest and best postgraduates from across Europe to come to study and carry out research here. Through EU programmes, British scientists participate in international research that has far more impact than research done just within just one country.

Student or not, we all benefit from the EU - from things like European Health Insurance cards, to equalities legislation which protects us all against discrimination across the continent. When Brexiters talk about 'red tape' it's easy to forget that often what that means is guarantees for things like maternity leave, the right to strike, and paid holidays. We've seen the impact of six years of a Tory government on women, young people, minorities, disabled people, and the poor over the last six years - and I think those who believe our rights are safe if we leave are being horribly naive. They have cut housing benefit for under-21s and exclude under-25s from the new minimum wage, they've introduced cuts which hit women hardest, and again and again they have put the interests of big businesses above the rights and wellbeing of citizens: I don't know about you, but I don't trust them one bit to continue to guarantee the protections that the EU gives us.

But there's a lot more at stake here than the current benefits of EU membership. This is about the kind of future that we want to build.

The challenges that we face now, and that we are going to continue to face for the rest of my lifetime, are not challenges that respect artificial borders between nations. Climate change - the refugee crisis - the growing power of transnational corporations: all of these and much more require an international response, and flawed as it may be the EU gives us the framework we need to do that.

And let's be clear - there are those who say that by leaving the EU we could build better relationships with the rest of the world, or take in more non-EU migrants. That is absolutely not what Brexit will mean. Our EU membership does not stop us co-operating with the rest of the world, and Brexit will mean a less open Britain, with more borders not less. And it will mean, too, a strengthening of nationalism and xenophobia in this country.

It's an astonishing thing that we live in a continent where we co-operate like this, where borders have been broken down and peace has been achieved. There's nothing inevitable about the EU. It was born from people's struggles, from the blood of millions, and from people opting to share some sovereignty and work together. It's a beautiful thing - flawed but beautiful - and it needs reforming not abandoning.

I want my generation to be able to look forward to a future where we build a social Europe: strengthening protection of our rights, curbing the power of global corporations, and building a green economy. There are so many things made possible by this Union: from a European super-grid allowing us to meet everyone's energy needs to a continent-wide minimum wage. After June 23rd, the challenge is to get stuck in and engage with the EU to push for greater transparency, democracy and accountability - and for the kind of policies which will put people first.

But for the next seven days, we need to do everything we can to ensure that we don't throw away the chance.

HuffPost UK Young Voices is running a month-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 ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com. Register to vote here.

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