We Must Remain in Europe to Tackle the Challenges Facing Young People in the 21st Century

31/05/2016 07:54 | Updated 01 June 2016

young voter

Young people are being told that their lives will be more insecure and less prosperous than their parents or grandparents. I won't accept that.

There is no reason why - as the fifth richest country in the world - Britain's young people should not have the chances given to previous generations.

In fact we live in a world where there is the potential for more opportunity than ever. Our relationship with the European Union can be part of what provides that opportunity.

Labour believes that remaining in Europe can help meet the challenges of the 21st Century. The urgent need to tackle climate change cannot be undertaken alone. Air pollution, rising sea levels and rising temperatures steadfastly refuse to recognise national boundaries - we can only address environmental issues by working together.

This government is taking away opportunities and holding back young people.

Under David Cameron college students from lower income families have had educational maintenance allowance taken away; university students have had tuition fees trebled and maintenance grants taken away. They not face the prospect of fees rising above £9,000 a year in many institutions.

Housing has become increasingly unaffordable whether to rent to buy, and young people under 35 are now unable to claim housing benefit in full. The welcome increase in the minimum wage doesn't apply to anyone under-25 and youth unemployment rose by 6,000 in the last three months.

Too many young people I meet feel insecure about their housing and working life - where low pay, insecure hours and temporary contracts have become the norm.

There has never been a more important time to get political. In the words of the US politician Ralph Nader, "if you don't turn on to politics, politics will turn on you."

The cutbacks made by the government are disproportionately harming young people's prospects, yet it is clear they are a political choice not an economic necessity. At the same time, the government has cut taxes for the richest and for big corporations.

By working with allies across Europe we can also tackle the scandal of big corporations and the super-rich avoiding their taxes, exposed by the Panama papers. By co-ordinating our efforts we can stop one country being played off against another and clamp down on this global problem.

Labour MEPs have been working hard to make this happen - and to ensure that the 'TTIP' negotiations over a EU-US trade treaty do not give corporations powers over nation states or a free hand in diluting environmental standards, rights at work or consumer protections.

We want Britain to remain in Europe - but also to reform the EU: strengthening workers' rights, ending the grip of destructive austerity, supporting public enterprise and democratising its institutions.

The more people participate in our democracy, the better decisions we will make as a country. That's why I have been so encouraged that young people are turning to Labour in increasing numbers.

Our party membership has doubled in the last year, and our youth membership (for those under 27) has more than trebled. Labour now has more young people as members than Ukip or the Liberal Democrats have members in total.

I want young people to have their voice heard in the EU referendum on 23 June and in politics more generally. That's why it's so important that you register to vote, encourage your friends to register to vote by 7 June - and then use that vote.

It is your generation that will be most affected by the decision Britain takes in three weeks' time. Young people will live with the consequences for the longest. If you believe we can together make this country better, then start by registering to vote.

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.