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Why It's Vital Young People Register to Vote in the EU Referendum

05/06/2016 21:00 | Updated 05 June 2016
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Thursday 23 June 2016 is going to be an historic day - the day the United Kingdom has its referendum on staying in European Union. It will be the most important vote on the future of our country that we are likely to have in our lifetimes. It's a one-off vote. There's no re-doing it if we change our minds. We're all going to have to live with the result, but the younger you are, the more there is at stake.

You'd have to have been living in a cave for the last few months to have entirely missed the debate so far, but the good news is that if you're not yet on the electoral register to vote in the referendum there's still time - just. You're cutting it fine, but there are still a few hours left to register. Just go to gov.uk/register-to-vote to get it sorted by the 7 June deadline.

Talking to young people up and down the country over the last few weeks I've been struck by the number saying they just want to make sure they get the facts and 'get it right'. They're right to be taking this seriously. The outcome of this referendum will shape Britain's future in the 21st Century.

Like millions of other people in the UK, I've never had the chance to vote on this before. I was too young to vote in the last EU referendum in 1975. There are pros and cons whichever direction we take. My view, on balance, is that we are better off staying in the EU. The EU isn't perfect, but for me it boils down to opportunity and influence. Opportunity, because by staying in we keep access for our businesses to the level playing field that is the European single market of 500m people, worth £500bn, with all the jobs and opportunities for young people in Britain that come from that. It also means, critically, that we keep our place at the table where the regulations for this massive market are being set.

It's about influence because if you believe Britain's voice counts, as I do, then let's keep it around the EU table. Decisions by the EU will affect us whether we're in it or not, so let's not leave it to others to decide, when we can be part of those decisions ourselves. You don't get to decide the rules of a club by being outside it. So let's stay in.

And walking away from the EU goes against the grain of what I think our great country stands for. It goes against Britain's history of shaping what happens on our continent and around the world by being involved in it, not apart from it. We're the country out there fixing things, not one that retreats into our shell. It's never been more important for us to work as partners with other countries to tackle the big global challenges that we face, challenges like conflict, disease, climate change and mass migration. Those issues will be there whether or not we're in the EU but, above all, it's in our interests that there's a smart EU response to them on our doorstep because they affect us, like it or not. As those challenges unfold, staying in the EU is how future generations will be able to make the UK's voice count.

You don't have to take my word for it. Wherever you look in our society we've seen the top people in their field say clearly they are in favour of staying in the EU - the leaders of all the major political parties, trades unions and business organisations, as well as economists, scientists, environmentalists, academics, people in the military and security services, farmers, health workers, actors and artists - the list goes on. Even our international allies like President Obama are advising that we are better off remaining in the EU.

Though I've just set out the positive case for Britain staying in the EU, a lot has been said about 'scaremongering' in this campaign. I don't agree that setting out risks on job losses is scaremongering. It's about responsibly setting out the issues so that people have the full facts about how they might be affected. When your analysis, and that of numerous other experts, says that taking a certain course of action is very likely to lead to certain outcomes - in this case leaving the EU putting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk, higher prices, and a blow to the UK's economic prospects - I think you have a responsibility to let the public know before they cast their votes.

It's the people on the lowest incomes who suffer most when the economy takes a hit. I know from my own childhood growing up in Rotherham in the 1980s, when my father was made redundant from British Steel, what that is like. Some people who want us to leave the EU think this is a price worth paying. From my personal experience, I completely disagree. It's simply not good enough to ask the nation to take this leap into the dark, to take this massive gamble costing UK jobs and damaging the nation's finances. We deserve a better, more certain future.

I want to see a Britain that is stronger, safer and better off, by being inside the EU. A country that continues to play a unique role in shaping our continent's future for the better, just as we have done in the past. A country smart enough to make sure our great companies can compete and succeed by having us stay in the world's largest trading block, the EU single market. And a Britain that has decided that our next generation's voice will be heard around the table alongside our neighbours when the big issues that affect us all are debated and decided.

This referendum gives us one vote each. But young people's stake in Britain's future is bigger than anyone's. I'd like Britain to stay in the EU, but whatever your own view, make sure it gets counted on 23 June.

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 ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com. Register to vote here.

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