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Brexit will deny young chance to go out into the world

by David Hannay | 13.05.2016

The mathematical near-certainty that the younger half of the British electorate will have longer to live with the consequences of that vote than older generations has hovered around the debate over Britain’s EU membership. And yet should those consequences be negative, the implications will be far-reaching indeed, not least by alienating the younger generations from any respect for, or the desire to participate in, the political life of the nation.

This issue did briefly come into focus late in 2015 when a substantial majority in the House of Lords voted in favour of giving the franchise on this occasion to 16 and 17 year olds, as was done in the Scottish referendum on independence. In a whipped vote in the Commons that move was rejected.

Now, as opinion poll after opinion poll shows a substantial inter-generational disconnect over the EU membership question, the matter is, rightly, getting more salience again. The younger half of the electorate appears to be heavily in favour of Remain; and the older half in favour of Leave. This would not be so significant if it were not for the evidence that the older half has a much higher propensity to vote than the younger half.

Should this inter-generational tension worry us? I would have thought it should, all the more so as this is by no means the only source of that tension around. Think tuition fees, the protection of pensioners’ income, the continuance of subsidies for winter fuel and television licences for even the well-off elderly.

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Moreover, a successful Leave campaign would cut the younger generations off from one of the main benefits Britons have have enjoyed for centuries, the possibility to go out into the world in search of work, study, experience and indeed a wider vision of what life has to offer. Determined to cut on immigration into the UK from other European countries, we would lose our rights to move freely around the 27 other member states (30 if you include the the members of the European Economic Area ) with health and employment rights safeguarded.

It would be no good hoping that those traditional havens for British emigration, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States would take up the slack. Just glance at those countries’ current immigration rules and you will see how unlikely that will be to materialise. As to the rest of the world, which our forebears did so much to develop, the demographic trends make a liberal development of their immigration rules rather unlikely.

There is clearly no methodological or legislative solution in the time scale of this referendum to the conundrum of a rising inter-generational conflict of interests. So what remains are two possibilities. The first is to encourage the younger half of the electorate to register and vote in proportions closer to those of their elders. The second is to stimulate a more fruitful and tolerant dialogue between the two halves of the electorate, as appears to have taken place in Ireland at the time of their referendum on same-sex marriage.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

10 Responses to “Brexit will deny young chance to go out into the world”

  • Totally agree. I am an example of freedom of movement the other way – (the UK media never mentions us and always treats freedom of movement as if it happen into Britain.) Economies go boom and bust. In the early 80’s Britain was the sick man of Europe – i was very happy to move to France where I have been able to live and work just like a French person ever since. Leaving the EU would throw all this into doubt. There are already signs of British people in the EU getting the “let’s wait and see if you remain in the EU” treatment from local administrations. Apart from the devastating effect Brexit would have on my life and that of an estimated 2 million British people living elsewhere in the EU, it would deny future generations the right to benefit from simply having the same rights as locals. The British media simply refuses to talk about us or this at all and buys into the “freedom of movement only happens one way” narrative of the right wing press and UKIP. On top of it those of us who have been abroad for more than 15 years and whose very rights are threatened by Brexit can’t even vote !!

    • This is a very emotive topic today but I feel the need to say, you left when admittedly your country was having problems, and now you are incensed that you may not have the same rights as before. You left. You made a choice. If you have been absent for so long, do you really have an allegiance to the UK?

  • thank you for the site
    its getting a bit same-ish…..picking holes in the Leave campaign’s attacks.
    Please can you pick out (and pressure the Remain guys to talk about) positive plans for the Remain guys AFTER they win?
    PLEASE give us some positive thoughts and commitments!!!!!
    Surely not difficult to commit to increasing UK negotiating weight behind EU trade deals, behind US trade deal, behind EU free market for financial services, behind improving how we implement EU laws to our advantage ie get our politicians and civil servants to smarten up their acts and frankly do their own jobs better.
    We might find that when they did, being in the EU became as good as many of us think it could be!
    Jonathan

  • Dan Evans is the regional chairman of Young Independence for the South West (younger branch of UKIP). Why can you not hold a debate between him and a younger member of the In campaign? We’ve got plenty of debates coming up for adults; why not one for the youngsters! InFacts can ensure that what’s being said on both sides of the debate is correct.

  • I read such comments as, I remember how bad it was before the EU, well I remember too, but I do not recall the streets being filled with foreign people. I do not remember such pressures on housing, welfare, education. Need I say more , Leave for me, is the way to go. stop the scaremongering.

    • This is your opinion Jim, and it adds very little to a website about facts. Opinions are the basis of the Leave campaign, therefore I’d suggest you post them on a Leave campaign website, as you may find a better audience. That is where you’ll find the real scaremongering too, by the way.

  • Brexit will signal the END of the Massively
    Biased German Euro gravy train. Endex.
    The EU will not survive Britain leaving. It
    Will trigger an avalanche of exit votes from
    The smaller nations. THAT’S why there is
    A panic over the water. Cameron is in a tizz
    Because he is BANKING on TTIP getting ratified behind closed doors. He knows that
    The NHS will then get carved open by the big
    corporations from Germany France and the USA. He knows he can just turn round and
    Say YOU LOT VOTED TO STAY IN EUROPE.
    Mugs. Everyone thinking we will fall flay on
    Our arse outside the “G.Eu” is a mug

  • The writer of this article appears to be completely bonkers.
    He has actually written that a leave vote will deny young Brits a right they have enjoyed for centuries – to go out into the world, etc, etc…
    We have indeed enjoyed that right for centuries.
    But we have only been part of the EU for 40 years.
    Do you get the drift?
    We will carry on enjoying that right.
    Seriously, your paymasters will stop your backhanders if you don’t come up with more convincing lies than are in this article.

  • And another thing… the writer says

    It would be no good hoping that those traditional havens for British emigration, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States would take up the slack. Just glance at those countries’ current immigration rules and you will see how unlikely that will be to materialise.

    Au contraire… in fact, 1.8 million Brits are spread out across the EU, with a hundred returning every day – while 5.8 million live in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. Leave have made a good start on an agreement for free movement between the UK, Aus, NZ and Canada – average of 80% polled are in favour. And it might have escaped your notice, but most Brits actually do want to live in the UK/
    There are few jobs or prospects in the EU which is why so many people migrate here (we are the only growth economy.)

  • As usual, the brexit camp are polluting their negatively all over this perfectly well written article. Its true not just oir young people, but sll of us will loose our rights in employment, healthcare and just the ability to live, move, create businesses or futures in other member states if we so choose. Yes Europe has problems, however it functions too perfectly fine on many levels. Why throw all our gains away on some little England? Because you can be sure if we exit that Scotland and eventuality Wales and probably Northern Ireland will vote to rejoin the EU, so actually not only will Brexit throw away all out benifits of membership in Europe, they will be responsible for the breakup of the UK.