The EU referendum is the most important decision of a generation, and while every vote is equal the polls show that young voters could hold the key to maintaining Britain’s membership of the European Union.
Young people are also the ones who will live with the decision, whichever way it goes, for the longest. I want to make sure they feel engaged in the debate and empowered to make their voices heard. Working with the Young Greens, I take every chance to talk with young people in the South East, at schools, colleges, youth groups and universities. They regularly inspire me with their enthusiasm for the EU and, for my part; I try to help them harness that energy into democratic engagement, whether that’s simply registering to vote or becoming a campaigner.
And why should young people want to stay in the EU? Well, in the South East, a region world-renowned for its educational excellence, the EU has delivered £100m to our universities, allowed thousands of students the opportunity to study abroad, and delivered significant funding for apprenticeship schemes. When in employment, the EU has ensured young people are not forced to work excessive hours and has guaranteed everybody the right to paid holidays. Whilst on holiday, the EU has demanded fairer data roaming charges and access to free, or cheaper, healthcare treatment. At home, the EU has delivered cleaner British beaches, cleaner air, seas that are safe to bathe in, and a commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change on future generations.
For these reasons, I am wholeheartedly committed to Britain staying in Europe, and, according to the latest polls, so are the overwhelming majority of young people. Those same polls, however, and this is important, estimate that only 43% of 18-24 year-olds are expected to turn out and vote. It is clear that we need to do more to widen a debate that often appears to speak exclusively to older people. Let’s not allow the views of a whole generation of voters to be ignored.
Office of Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England