Young People's Votes Remain Up for Grabs - Here's My Case for Why We Should Stay in Europe

13/06/2016 17:26 | Updated 14 June 2016
Chiaki Nozu via Getty Images

young voter

Often ignored, at worst discarded, it is a rare event us under 30s are actively courted by the big beasts of British politics, not least a significant portion of the Conservative Party. Yet despite overtures from the Remain camp - unsurprising when most polls consistently show that 18-24 year-olds hold a clear preference for staying in the EU - we are confused about the debate.

Polling from BMG research for the Electoral Reform Society shows just 16% of 18-24 year olds feel well-informed about the referendum, while only 47% of them said they would definitely be voting. Young people remain up for grabs, and as a result I want to lay out my case for why we should vote to remain in the EU.

What's that you cry? 'Please no, not another overly earnest op-ed from an ill-informed minor celebrity about how nice the EU is'. Fair enough, I mostly feel the same way when I see these articles, but I'm going to try and convince you nonetheless.

The Economy

Like most politicians, I'm not an economist; unlike most politicians, I'm not afraid to admit it. Nicholas Barr, Professor of Public Economics at the LSE, is a rather good one. His blog is by far the most sensible thing you can read on the subject.

Travel and Work

As someone who frequently travels for work, my career has undoubtedly benefited from having the freedom to travel throughout Europe. Cheap flights, visa-free travel and the soon to be introduced removal of mobile roaming charges are all EU success stories that don't just benefit musicians, but all Brits who want to work, travel and live in Europe. While leaving the EU may not remove all of these benefits, the truth is we simply don't know what will happen, but we do know what we have now, and it's pretty good.

Even if you don't buy the long-term argument outlined above, in the short-term the pound will almost certainly fall in the event of an exit from the EU - bad news for your wallet if travelling abroad; in a Bloomberg poll of economists, most said that the pound would decline against the dollar to $1.25-$1.30, down from $1.45 now. That summer holiday just got a lot pricier.


Like me, you are probably pretty sick of the referendum. Well, if we vote to leave, expect more news coverage focusing on little else but negotiations with the EU and Tory in-fighting. In other words, it will be much like the last couple of months, but spread out over a number of years now too. Even Michael Gove has admitted that withdrawal from the EU could take years. This point is more serious than just concerns about what will be on TV and Twitter though. The government will be distracted from its purpose, instead of dealing with questions about the future of the NHS, the economy, the automation of jobs, and whether any of us will ever be able to afford to buy somewhere to live, its focus will be extricating us from an institution that on balance, isn't all that bad. Add to this that those shaping post-Brexit Britain will include the worst elements of the Tory Party and the years following Brexit look less than hopeful for our generation.

Big Issues Need Big Institutions

Britain can't combat climate change on its own. Not that many on the Leave side have an interest in doing any such thing - indeed The Economist has laid bare the links that many have with climate change denial. While the green transformation of our current party of government has long since been abandoned, the EU has pressed on with playing a key role in brokering the Paris Agreement on climate change, which led to those involved pledging to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. If climate change is, as much of our generation believes, the key issue facing our generation, we are best placed to face it within multilateral institutions.

European Security

Despite the continuing threat of terrorism in the UK, our generation has remained protected from large-scale conflicts. While David Cameron overreached when he suggested that withdrawal from the EU might lead to war in Western Europe again, the stability and consensus that followed the end of the Cold War can no longer be taken for granted. Although NATO, and not the EU, secures most EU members from external threat, a unified EU security policy has a crucial role to play. As Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King's College London, suggests, increasingly the risk is not of an EU army that undermines US involvement in Europe, but that the US might move away on its own accord. President Obama has frequently complained of European 'free riders', while also calling for Europeans to become more self-sufficient in defence. The prospect of a (God forbid) Trump presidency also emphasises that the future of NATO may not be as many believe.

It is easy to suggest that mainland Europe's problems are not our own, but as we have found in the past, disengagement is not an option. Indeed while we assume that the older you get, the more likely you favour Brexit, it is telling that the last generation (75+) to experience a large European war do show a preference for remaining in Europe. They, better than anyone, appreciate the costs of national rivalries predominating over co-operation, shared interests, and most simply, states talking to one another regularly.

Better Together

Our generation is going to face a huge array of issues in the coming years, both at home and abroad, and while I am of positive of our ability to overcome them, we give ourselves a greater chance of success by working closely with our European counterparts. Much as we told our friends in Scotland in 2014, we are better together. We would do well to heed our own advice.

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 Register to vote here.