What do students think of the referendum?

Howard Russell

With the EU referendum approaching, it is inevitable that tensions are high among the British public.

On June 23, residents of the UK who are over 18, will get to place that all important vote, whether to stay in or to leave the EU.

Whilst it is a hot topic for people across Great Britain, it is clear that it is the older generation who have a stronger opinion about the matter.

But why is this?

According to YouGov, 52 per cent of the over-60s would vote to leave the EU, whereas 65 per cent of under-25s would opt for staying in – however, older voters are actually more likely to vote.

Tom Harwood, who chairs studentvoices.co.uk, the Students for Britain campaigns says students are less likely to care about the EU:

“Most [students] don’t really care about the EU.  They don’t know what it does for them and as a result they default to the status quo.

“We’re here to argue that actually remaining in the EU is not the status quo, it means handing over more power and more money to Brussels – but also to debunk a lot of myths that are around. We’re here to put across the arguments to a really apathetic student population.”

This explains why the younger generation are less likely to vote – and that is down to them not understanding exactly what the European Union is.

The origins of the European Union started after the Second World War, over fears that such a bloodshed could happen again. Countries around Europe decided to form this allegiance, in order to prevent another war – in the simplest of terms.

The original counties involved in the EU – which then was called European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), were Germany, Belgium, France, Holland, Italy and Luxembourg.

This was formed in 1952, not just for peace, but to also as a solution for economical problems.

According to EuropeanHistory, France suggested the ECSC controlled Germany, however, Germany wanted to become an equal player in Europe again and rebuild its reputation.

France were also afraid Britain would try and ‘quash the plan’, so initially didn’t include them.

Britain, however, stayed out, as they did not want to give up any power and were already content with the economic potential offered by the Commonwealth.

Despite this, the UK joined what was known as ‘The Common Market’ in 1973, along with Ireland and Denmark.

The community changed its name to The European Union in 1993.

The name change ‘was to broaden the work of the supranational bodies, based around three “pillars”: the European Communities, giving more power to the European parliament; a common security/foreign policy; involvement in the domestic affairs of member nations on “justice and home affairs”.

The European Union flag [credit Dimitar Nikolov]

The European Union flag [credit Dimitar Nikolov]

Some may ask, if the EU was formed for such a good intentions, why does the UK want to leave it now?

A BBC article tried to explain exactly what the EU is about: “It [The European Union] has since grown to become a “single market” allowing goods and people to move around, basically as if the member states were one country.

“It has its own currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries, its own parliament and it now sets rules in a wide range of areas – including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and even things like mobile phone charges.”

One reason why Britain want to leave the EU is down to costs. The UK is a big contributor to the EU, paying up to £11.3 billion in 2013, which is then spent all throughout Europe for things such as investments on new roads – as one example, for poorer European countries.

One argument to leave the EU is the fact that if the money was dedicated solely for Britain, we could do so much to rebuild the poorer areas here, instead of our money going to other countries.

In 2014, Sky News spoke to a number of young people about how they felt about politics, and whether they were excited to vote – the results were not shocking at all.

Most, if not all, the people interviewed, either felt strongly against politics, or didn’t care at all.

One interviewee said: “My honest opinion to anyone young is get out the country now. Go to New Zealand, go Australia, go somewhere like that, where they think about young people.

“They [The UK] don’t think about young people anymore”

Another person being interviewed said: “I think most people just don’t really care”.

You can watch the full video below.

Artefact spoke to some students in London to see how they felt about this year’s referendum.

Biology student, Aisha Ahmed, told us: “I don’t know much about the referendum. Whilst I try my hardest to keep up with politics and watch the news, I seem unable to do so.

“I just don’t think the current Prime Minister is relevant. He only knows how to take money from the poor and how to make the rich, even more wealthy. “Therefore, I don’t feel the need to keep up to date with it.”

Aisha isn’t the only student who feels this way about our current Prime Minister. Habad Olad, a student studying Environmental Technology MSc, said: “Despite the high annual cost of being in the EU and the financial regulations, we are too easily influenced by the right wing and all the Eurosceptics.

“I think it will be incredibly naive for the UK to leave the EU, as it would be quite stupid to leave your trading partners.”
Habad Olad

“Although we’ll see a boost in the economy, it will only be short term and I believe the UK will suffer from leaving and it will be felt in 15-20 years.”

Habad also explained to Artefact: “Furthermore the losses of the economy will trickle down to the poorer people and migrant families rather than big businesses, as it will increase the price of our cheap public services and labour that we acquire from Europe, such as energy and labour markets from East Europe and cheap supplies such as timber and wool.

“Even though it allows to negotiate trade laws as a single country, thus reducing bureaucracy of Europe, its advantages won’t be felt by the common people, only big banks and multinational corporations.

“Therefore we shouldn’t jump into bed with these right wing Eurosceptics who use John Bull and Uncle Sam like propaganda to insight support for Brexit.

“I also believe that it’s a ploy used by the right wing government to garner support from the extreme right such as BNP/UKIP voters without seeming to be racist – especially with such voters tending to be uneducated in such manners as EU policy and spending.”

It is clear that some students do keep up with current political affairs, therefore forming a strong opinion on the matter but there are students who show less interest on a subject that is vital for their future.

It is perhaps a mark of how little confidence students have in the government causing them to show almost no interest in matters that concern all.

 

 


Featured image by Howard Russell via Flickr CC.