Explaining the Case for YOLOEXIT - 'Young Left Wing Exit'

14/06/2016 08:01 | Updated 14 June 2016

young voter

YUCAXIT, YONXIT, YOLOEXIT. Fighting your way through the myriad of potential abbreviations to denote a 'Youth Case for Exit' or a 'Young Left Wing Exit' can be surprisingly complex. In fact much more complicated than explaining the merits for leaving the EU to a young audience.

There is one overriding sentiment which pervades many young people's feelings towards the European Union: a bleary-eyed romanticism that a unified continent under the auspices of the EU and its blue flag must necessarily be a good thing. This is perhaps the main stumbling block to an argument as to the merits of Brexit.

Our generation's love affair with the EU stems from a misguided romantic notion that any continent-wide organisation -whether that is NATO or the EU - must be 'internationalist', preaching solidarity and a mutual coexistence between its peoples.

Up until recently, with the ascendancy of Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party, progressive politics had been so far removed from the mainstream that our generation looked to a vision of a social EU, rather in vain, to provide us with a glimpse of something positive, however vague and misguided.

Britain's youth is enamoured with a false vision of a cross-border, free market EU love-in. A recent survey by Opinium found that 53% of young people (18-34 year olds) have favourable opinions towards Brussels, against 29% who will vote to leave.

Crucially, the EU achieves its social and cultural acceptability within the youth demographic, and liberal and progressive thought, by laying claim to idea that the European Union = Europe.

Europe, if it needed to be said, is made up of a set of countries which undoubtedly share strong social, geographical and historical bonds. This does not mean, however, that these countries should be joined in a warped economic union which increasingly is in need of further political union to survive.

The symbolic representative of Europe on the global stage ought not to be an undemocratic organisation working at the behest of the estimated 30,000 corporate lobbyists that circle Brussels.

Nor should an enlightened Europe represent austerity and corrective fiscal and legal mechanisms on countries unwilling to comply with austerity, as dictated by the European Budgetary Treaty.

To take a recent example of the routine humiliation imposed by Brussels, the EU Commission has threatened to sanction Spain with a fine of up to €2.1 billion for its inability to get its deficit down. In response, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy drafted a letter to EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, begging for a temporary reprieve and promising further cuts to public services should his party win the forthcoming elections. The irony is of course that the Spanish Populist government has been a model pupil of European austerity.

What is clear is that any further cuts or reforms to the labour market will principally Spain's youth, who at the last count could boast an unemployment rate of 46.5% for those under the age of 25.

The shared values of Europe - if we are even to subscribe to the existence of such a thing - are surely not these same values of austerity and heavy handed intervention in the economic affairs of sovereign states.

If the progressive youth really wants to realise its romantic vision of a Europe which places solidarity at the heart of its functioning and encourages growth, investment in public services and jobs it must accept the end of the European Union.

Many young people, especially progressives, might agree with many Eurosceptic arguments but will still opt to vote to remain, citing the possibility of reforming the EU and all of the institutions which comprise it. An appealing stance perhaps but there has been no effort to convince the public at large how this could be done, and whether there are any existing mechanisms for enacting change at an EU level.

In Britain, there are established ways of protesting against injustices and changing things - and not just through the ballot box. At a street level there are tangible focal points for political events and demonstrations; whether they be town halls, Downing Street or Westminster. Protesters can rally and or congregate round spaces that are not only symbolic of power, but are the actual seats of power too. The ability to express and congregate in or around our politicians' spaces is a key aspect of a functioning democracy - and one which is largely respected in Britain.

EU institutions, however, are largely shrouded in mystery, even amongst supposedly educated classes. The differences between the European Council, the European Union and the European Central Bank are intricate, and would give any activist deciding where complaints or protests should be directed a serious headache. That's without mentioning the impracticality of arranging a demonstration at, or taking a train to Brussels. Or is it Strasbourg?

In general terms, Britons are among the least well educated about the European Union. A 2015 survey has shown that a mere 27% of Britons are able to correctly answer three basic questions about the EU, while younger participants fared even worse. But the real interest in this survey is that we're not alone - most European youths remain relatively uneducated about the workings of the European Union. There has been a void created between elites who purport to have the facts about Europe, and as such are 'involved' in European-wide democracy, and those that don't.

This issue over our access to power brings us on to the question of whether we can make the EU not only more accountable, but also more democratic.

For instance, could the British populace eliminate the corrective arm of the Stability and Growth Pact, which penalises countries for pursuing what is deemed to be an excessive budget deficit? Could we reject the Lisbon Treaty (bearing in mind other countries have already attempted to reject EU treaties through popular referendums, only to be told to vote again)? Could EU-enforced privatisations of public services be reversed by a Corbyn government? Could a sovereign electorate veto an economic decision made by the Commission or the European Central Bank? It is highly doubtful.

Change is so often aspired to, and can sometimes appear to be elusive. This referendum provides an opportunity for the very real possibility of positive change. It is bewildering to see that so much of the left has a sudden knee-jerk reaction to preserve the establishment. Of course there are the breadcrumbs of 'social policy' provided by the EU to consider, but one wonders whether there is a deeper issue in play: a deep-seated conservativism at heart of those English middle-classes which purport to be radical.

Make no mistake, progressive change will be a difficult, terrifying process that might also be accompanied by a rise in the far right. But a preservation of the status quo is the most counterproductive method of dealing with far right popular discontent in the long term.

The left remain camp accepts as an inevitability the deep flaws of the EU, but argues that they can be changed. But in the event of a remain vote it is doubtful whether the same activists so enthusiastically cheering for 'Another Europe' will really stick around in their positions, hoping to achieve this vision of a progressive EU.

For those concerned about the future of Greece, Spain, Portugal or Ireland a vote for Brexit would really represent a huge fillip for these economically subservient nations, affording them the long term courage to push for abandoning the EU and pursue their own independent futures. Above all this can be a step forward for all of Europe's youth.

A youth-driven Brexit could play the initial role in dismantling the EU, and without this disintegration any hope for social progress may become much more distant.

For the sake of the youth, you only live once: vote for exit! Or as I should say, YOLOEXIT.

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.