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The Future of Europe's Young Is Being Sacrificed on the Altar of the EU Project

21/04/2016 10:25

As the referendum campaign on Britain's future in (or out of) the European Union begins to heat up, it's clear that young voters are going to be a key battleground for both campaigns.

The "remain" campaign has already devoted a significant amount of time to trying to persuade and energise young people that there would be disastrous consequences to a Leave vote. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is set to address a group of young people on the same issue during his upcoming visit to the UK.

With the polls suggesting that young people are largely in favour of Britain's continued membership, some politicos have been left baffled at why the remain camp has focused so heavily on this one demographic. On closer inspection, however, it makes more sense than you might think.

The simple reason is because this could actually prove to be something of a soft underbelly when it comes to presenting a positive case for remaining in the EU. Not only are young people in the UK highly disaffected by the European Union, with 81% claiming that they are disengaged with it by not knowing how it works, but young Europeans across the continent have seen their futures blighted by the shortcomings of this project in "pooled sovereignty". If there is one group of people that have been emphatically failed by the experiment in integrating sovereign nations under the umbrella of the European Union, it's young people.

When Obama makes his speech, his audience would do well to ask him whether he thinks the young people of the United States would tolerate a youth unemployment rate of 22%. In the United States, the youth unemployment rate stands at around 10%, having fallen sharply from just over 19% in 2010 after the financial crisis. Compare that with the Eurozone where youth unemployment currently stands at approximately 22%, and has stubbornly remained above 20% for over seven years with little sign of any improvement.

It doesn't get much better when we look at the worst measure that factors in the young people who aren't any kind of education, employment or training. There are currently around fourteen million young Europeans in this category, equating to around 15.4% of Europe's young people. The financial cost is a staggering €153 billion, but the human cost is a generation left on the scrap heap with permanently damaged career prospects.

The worst of it all, however, is the sheer disparity between countries that are ill suited to being bound together in a political and economic straitjacket. Whilst standardising rules, exchange rates, regulation and legislation affecting 'key' sectors has worked just fine for Germany and a select few, it has wrought devastation on others. In the countries embroiled by 'Eurosclerosis', unemployment for their young is as high as 49% in Greece, 45% in Spain, 40% in Italy and 25% in France. Economic growth and prosperity for these countries has been sacrificed in the name of ever closer union and harmonisation, but in reality it is increasingly obvious that this harmonisation and desire to create "one size fits all" solutions for a continent of disparate cultures, languages and traditions is at the heart of the problem.

Not surprisingly, the permanently high youth unemployment has seen the levels of poverty and social exclusion suffered by Europe's young rise since 2007, and it has continued to worsen in almost half of EU member states in the last year alone - supposedly a year of recovery.

Luckily for young people in the UK, we have dodged one of the most lethal bullets by not joining the Euro. The last time we embarked on such an experiment, led by 'experts' absolutely convinced it was best for the UK, was in harmonising our monetary policy in the 1990s. It ended with interest rates of 15% and millions of homeowners facing repossession of their homes. But if we vote to stay, be in no doubt- we are voting to stay in a bloc that is wedded to the idea of ever closer union and increasing centralisation in Brussels. The direction of travel has been set, and we have no guarantee that we won't be embroiled in future drives to concentrate power away from the UK and to Brussels.

Co-operation and trading on mutually beneficial terms are things we should preserve. The march towards standardisation and one size fits all solutions for a vastly disparate continent must come to an end, however. We cannot continue to sacrifice the prospects of Europe's young on the altar of this failing political experiment.

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