David Downing is a MA student at the University of Hull studying Global Political Economy. He is specialising in notions of the common good.
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June 23 draws nearer and with it the referendum on Britain’s EU membership. Polls currently show that the younger and more educated are more likely vote to stay in the EU. Yet, if the popular vote dictates we leave the EU, what benefits of EU membership might the younger generation end up missing out on, or find harder to access?
“If on June 23 we vote to remain, our rights to movement, employment and education would be left intact. Perhaps then the UK could take a role in shaping the EU to closely reflect our vision as a nation.”
Benefits for Education
All of us that are of university age, benefit from being EU Citizens. How you ask? Well, firstly, all EU citizens are entitled to use a host country’s education system on the same terms as its own nationals. So for instance, a UK national can study in a variety of countries including Germany, Sweden and Greece for free. Alongside this, many EU countries charge usually less than €1000; these include Austria, Italy and Spain. The EU is also a large funder of PhD’s across the continent through its various schemes. For example, the Marie Curie Fellowships and Erasmus+. As a citizen of the UK within the EU, these sources of funding and laws apply to us all. With domestic PhD funding scarce and the possibility of further undergraduate tuition fee increases likely, for those of us wanting to access PhD funding and less expensive university education, it would seem unwise to leave.
Benefits for Work
Let us now assume that you have finished your university career and you want to look for a job. The EU allows citizens to work self-employed or as an employee in any EU country, without a work permit. While working in the EU, you are also entitled to all the benefits that are awarded to national citizens. If you work in the EU you are also given access to all the benefits granted to EU nationals.
In an increasingly global and competitive job market, this freedom to live and work wherever you wish within the EU, without restriction, is something that we ought to take care to preserve and strengthen. While it is often stated that London is now “France’s sixth largest city” it also needs to be remembered that the inflow of EU migrants coming to Britain is more than justified by the numbers of youthful Britons heading to the continent to work, or retirees trading drizzle for sun.
Benefits for Travel
Let us now assume that we have a fictional UK citizen, who has been educated for free within a mainland European country and has been utilising their right to stay and work there. They decide they wish to go on holiday, again within the EU. As a UK and EU citizen they can hop on a plane or train and get straight to their destination. There is no need to faff around with Visa’s courtesy of the Schengen area. They are able to travel from Porto to Tallinn or Stockholm to Athens without trouble or hindrance. Indeed the moment you step onto mainland Europe, you too are able to access all of this.
The Cost of Leaving
If Britain were to leave the EU, many of these rights would no longer apply to us. While, for instance, certain countries charge international students the same tuition fees as domestic and EU students, some follow the UK and America and charge them far more. It would also mean that it would be harder for you to find and begin working a job in an EU country. Even if you did manage to get through the paperwork and begin your job, it is likely that many of the benefits you would be entitled to as a EU national, would no longer apply as a citizen of a non-member state. These then are some fairly selfish and individualistic reasons why it is better for the younger generation to remain in the EU.
Yes, like many things in this world, the EU has problems. First and foremost perhaps being its democratic deficit. We in Britain seem to have it in our heads that the EU doesn’t listen to us. Well, in actual fact, history has shown that when Britain properly engages with the EU, the EU does listen to us. It was due to British Influence that the 2004 enlargement took place. It was due to UK lobbying that the Common Market exists. Furthermore, it can be said that without UK lobbying various pan-EU deregulation would not have happened. A prime example of this being the current wave of EU rail deregulation, which when examined closely reflects Post-British Rail, UK rail services. It is only when we refuse to engage properly with the EU, or make noises about vetoes and referendums, that the UK is likely to lose influence within Brussels.
If on June 23 we vote to remain, our rights to movement, employment and education would be left intact. Perhaps then the UK could take a role in shaping the EU to closely reflect our vision as a nation. The coming referendum has no doubt knocked EU confidence in the UK. But hopefully following a remain vote, we can begin to rebuild and regain a key role in EU leadership. Similarly, it is possible that British workers, students and travelers will still be found nestled in all corners of the continent.
Edit: Link added to first paragraph to clarify the source of the claim that “the younger and more educated you are, the more likely you are to vote to stay in the EU“