Why the EU referendum is so important to young people

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Why the EU referendum is so important to young people

In 36 days’ time our country faces its biggest decision for a generation: ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’. The result of the referendum will affect our generation and future generations to come the most. We will live with the outcome the longest. That’s why it’s absolutely vital every single young adult across the country makes voting on the 23rd June a top priority.

I believe, and polls suggest, that the youth vote – Generation-Y – could ultimately decide the outcome of the final result. Many people claim that young people will vote for us to stay in the EU. I would challenge this suggestion as most young people who I have spoken to haven’t made up their mind or have barely even thought about it so it’s all to play for on both sides.

After last year’s general election, some groups of young people complained that the result was determined by older voters, who are much more likely to turn out on polling day. Whilst I can fully understand those young people’s frustration, they will have no right to complain about the referendum result – whatever it may be – unless they have made the effort to vote. As an elected local decision maker, I will always seek to be the champion of the residents who put me into office and every demographic group within my parish. However I, like every other elected politician, cannot represent those views unless we have a mandate on which to raise these issues at local meetings. If you want to change this, then make sure you’re registered to vote.

As the generation of millennials, we aspire for a better world where we have unlimited access to reach opportunities and make our dreams a reality. On one hand, the Remain side argue that the EU helps to create jobs and apprenticeship opportunities for young people and has a big role in tackling major issues such as climate change. On the other hand, the Leave side argue that the EU has been disastrous for young people due to widespread high levels of mass youth unemployment and suggest that young people should be allowed to elect and hold those who have our laws to account. Whichever argument you lean towards, you won’t be able to express that view at the polling station unless you take power and register to vote.

A fantastic charity called ‘Bite the Ballot’ are working with ‘Hope not Hate’ to really push to increase voting registration by 500,000 amongst young people. I would highly encourage everyone to get on board with their new positive campaign #TurnUp, where they will be running sign up at events in universities, youth clubs, workplaces and cafes. More information about the campaign can be found at www.turnup.org.uk.

Whilst a lot of young people don’t trust politicians and the political process, it is encouraging to see that 52% of 18-30 year olds in a YouGov poll see the economy as the most important issue. The 23rd June is a people’s referendum and should not be, as Bite the Ballot’s director Mike Sani argues, the preserve of politicians and business people. As their campaign points out, registering to vote “allows you to put yourself in control of your identity, improve your credit rating and ensures we have a representative jury service.”
Whether you believe the solution to this lies in the UK remaining a member of the EU or us voting to leave, the deadline for registering to vote in the EU referendum is the 7th June.

If, like me, you’re very political and want to get involved with one of the referendum campaigns – ‘Vote Leave’ or ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ – then now is the time to act. The youth movement groups for Vote Leave are ‘Students for Britain’ and ‘BeLeave’, which can be found at www.studentsforbritain.org and www.beleave.uk. Then, to join ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ you can visit www.strongin.co.uk.
If you have any questions about the upcoming EU referendum or need a speaker for any events over the coming weeks, then please don’t hesitate to contact me at j.c.porter@hotmail.co.uk or you can find me on Twitter at @cllrjoeporter.

By Cllr. Joe Porter, 20
Joe Porter is one of the youngest local councillors in the country. He is the West Midlands Representative at UK Youth Voice, West Midlands Chairman of Young Liberty, Chairman of Staffordshire Moorlands Conservative Future and is a second year ‘Marketing & Politics’ student at Keele University, where he is a Trustee of Keele Student Union. He supports ‘Vote Leave’ and is the Constituency Campaign Coordinator for Staffordshire Moorlands and President of Keele Students for Britain.

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