It's been widely reported that 73% of those aged 18-29 wish to remain in the EU, whilst 63% of those aged over 60 wish to leave - if you break this down even more, there are strong results to suggest that the further you progress through education the more likely you are to vote to remain in the European Union. So, there is an incredibly strong chance that the person reading this blog now wishes to remain part of the EU.
First and foremost, why does the EU matter so much to me? As a child, it was European law that granted parental leave and has ensured that mothers would not be unfairly discriminated against when returning to the workplace. As a boy who grew up in Cornwall, it was the European Union that provided the vastly underfunded council with more than €600 million of funding for badly needed development programmes. When travelling, being part of the EU means that I am granted the freedom to inter-rail round Europe and that, should something go wrong, I am entitled to free or reduced cost healthcare thanks to the EHIC card. As a student, it has given many of my friends across the country the opportunity to take a year to live and study abroad through the Erasmus programme. As a resident of Birmingham, it has meant that my City has been able to invest in the ICC, the NEC, the town hall and numerous jobs for young people, through a £33 million social grant aimed at helping 16,000 young Birmingham citizens into employment. Finally, as a member of a large research-led teaching university, it has contributed approximately £260 million funding into research on health, food, energy, climate change and more, ensuring continued high quality education across our universities.
This referendum is personal - not just to me, but to everyone. I guarantee that, no matter who you are or where you have come from, you have in one way or another benefited from being part of the largest free trade area in the world! But I need not continue on the countless benefits of being a member of the EU, because given the strong probability that you are going to be voting to Remain in the EU, I'm going to use this blog to help bust a few common misconceptions, so you can get straight on the phone to your parents or grandparents and talk them round to protecting your future!
"EU Migrants are a drain on the economy!"
Immigration has become the crux of the EU Referendum debate, with many arguing it is the freedom of movement that has meant that immigration into the UK has spiralled out of control. Or is this simply what the media would have us all believe? On the contrary, it appears that EU migrants contribute more in taxes than they claim in benefits and are actually a source of economic growth, valued at almost £2bn a year! Additionally whilst more and more European citizens may be working in the UK, this is not at the expense of "British jobs". Research shows that, whilst 850,000 European citizens have been granted to work in the UK since David Cameron become PM, 1 million Britons have also found employment in the exact same time period. We aren't just talking about your "Polish plumbers" - Britain is managing to attract the highest number of university educated migrants of any country in the EU. These are the people propping up our NHS, running local businesses and contributing to our economy!
"Most of our laws come from Brussels"
Weirdly, I had this very debate with a flight attendant on a flight back from New York who, to my surprise, was ready to leave the EU because "we no longer had control". However, no one can seem to agree whether its 15% or 55% of our laws that actually are linked to the European Union. The only thing we can agree on is that everything's pretty unclear!
What is clear, though, is that David Cameron negotiated a new deal with the EU back in 2015. Afterwards, he declared that Britain would not be part of an "ever closer union", signalling a distancing from Brussels. This, coupled with a win for national parliaments giving them a 'red card' veto to block EU law, should start to ease concerns that we are losing our own sovereignty. However, we should also be pointing out that it's EU law that has granted us the Human Rights Act, that's enshrined equal pay for men and women and that's taken on multinational corporations by tackling unfair competition - something that the UK simply would not have been able to do alone. Yes, some of our laws come from the European Union - but these laws are also debated, amended and passed by MEPs, who we've elected right here in the UK!
"Norway & Switzerland get on just fine without being a member of the European Union"
Norway may not be part of the European Union, but nonetheless they still pay the same contribution to the EU and yet have none of the political say so that we do! Almost 75% of European legislation has been incorporated by Norway and their access to the European single market comes with EU product standards, financial and employment regulations and substantial contributions to the EU budget. For those who then argue that perhaps we don't need access to the European single market, tell them that 49% of our trade is within the EU and that millions of jobs rely upon it. Switzerland has opted for an array of bilateral agreements with the EU on most aspects of integration. These agreements are often static and can't keep up with changing markets - furthermore they don't cover services which are an important part of the UK economy. The strength of being in the EU has also recently been bolstered by comment from Barack Obama, who's promised that a UK outside of the EU would go to the back of the queue when forming major trade deals.
So what now?
Get registered! I am still astounded by the painfully low registration figures among 18-25 year olds in the UK. The media so often portray us as the generation who are ambivalent, who don't care and who are politically useless - but we could actually swing this election! If it's true that 73% of us want to remain in the EU, then we ultimately have the ability to win this summer's referendum for our future. This vote will affect us for decades to come: it threatens our economy, it threatens our jobs and it threatens our education. So please, please, take the time to register at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. It literally takes two minutes!
Once you've done this get on the phone to your grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and make the case for our future. Bust the misconceptions that are doing the rounds. Dispel the myths being pushed out by the media. The EU has provided peace, progress and prosperity over the last 50 years and it is certainly not time to let that go just yet!
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