We asked a Tory MP why he’s campaigning to remain in the EU
Should we stay or should we go now?
With just 70 days to go until the EU referendum, we chatted to Sam Gyimah MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Education, to discuss the Stronger in Europe campaign and to chat about the impact Brexit would have on young people now and in the future.
For many students, coming to university is an investment in their education, an opportunity to better themselves and to secure a strong future. A survey conducted last year showed that more graduates since 2005, approximately 88 per cent, were working, the highest rate of graduate employment since 2008.
How would a vote to leave the EU affect graduate employment?
You’re right, the graduate jobs market is in a much stronger place than it has been for years and leaving the EU would only put this jobs recovery at risk.
Don’t just listen to me. Expert after expert says that leaving Europe would be bad news for the job market. Everyone from the Governor of the Bank of England, to major employers like Rolls Royce and Airbus, as well as the credit ratings agencies have underlined this fact.
The EU gives Britain access to the world’s biggest Free Trade Area, the Single Market, which is where we send up to half of the UK’s exports worth £500 billion a year. Every other pound that is spent on British goods across the world is spent by customers in EU countries.
Ultimately this means three million jobs are linked to our exports to the EU.
As businesses would be less likely to invest in the UK, divorcing Europe would cause an economic shock that would make young graduates especially vulnerable.
What, if any, impact would Brexit have on the cost of living for young people?
Being in Europe keeps prices low for British people, students included, and leaving would be a sure-fire way to put that at risk.
Thanks to the EU, energy prices in the UK are set to get cheaper, to the tune of about £150 per house per year by 2020. The EU has introduced schemes that keep prices low for specific products too. Air fares, for example, are 40 per cent lower thanks to EU action. And data roaming charges have been capped so you don’t get ripped off phoning home if you’re off on holiday. They’ll be gone altogether by 2017.
And going back to the Single Market, this tariff-free area means businesses from across the EU can trade freely with one another meaning increased competition, more goods and lower prices for you and me.
What almost every credible economic expert agrees on is that leaving would mean higher prices for everyday goods here in the UK, with students likely to be hardest hit.
How would an exit from the EU affect UK students’ ability to study abroad?
One of the nicest things about the EU is that students can take a year studying in another country, learn a new language, make new friends and get to know another country. If we leave the EU this would be put at risk.
More than 120,000 British students are set to benefit from the Erasmus programme by 2020 by being able to study at a European university – on top of the 200,000 who already have.
If we voted to leave, there’s no guarantee our students would be able to carry on benefiting from the Erasmus programme. British students could, on June 24, find themselves shut off entirely – the first British generation in decades to not benefit.
What would you say to those who think that EU membership is too expensive and would rather see their taxes spent in other ways?
Like every EU member, Britain pays into the EU budget. But the Leave campaign grossly distort the figures: what they don’t mention is that Britain gets back far more than we pay in – by a factor of about ten to one.
We each pay, on average, 30 pence per day for our EU membership, while every household gets back in the region of £3,000 every year in wider benefits in terms of jobs, investment and lower prices. Quite frankly, the idea that being in the EU is a net cost for the UK is a total fallacy.
What’s more, leaving would be a big blow to the UK’s finances. Some have compared the contraction in the economy and government spending to the financial crisis of 2009 –a serious downturn with serious consequences for people’s jobs and economic growth.
How would you respond to claims Parliament has lost its ability to legislate because Brussels pulls the strings in so many different areas?
It’s simply not true to claim that being part of the EU means we have to give up our sovereignty. After all, what more sovereign act can you imagine than a referendum? The fact we’re having this debate shows that Britain is in control of its destiny as a member of the EU.
Right now we have the best of worlds: we get many of the benefits we want from being in the EU but we’re not part of the passport-free zone and we can opt out of the Euro bail-out fund. We’re got ourselves a very good deal.
Leave campaigners like to talk Britain down and say we can’t influence Brussels, but we definitely make our mark in Europe. Over decades, British Prime Ministers from Churchill to Wilson to Blair to Cameron have all shaped Europe to work better for Britain’s interests. I’m confident that the next generation of leaders – many of whom will be students today – will continue in that tradition if we stay in.
What would you say to a young person considering whether to vote or not?
The decision Britain will make on June 23 is the biggest in a generation – bigger than a general election. Because, unlike in normal elections, if it turns out we don’t like the choice we’ve made there’s no way to change our mind. Once we’re out, we’re out. No turning back.
It’s young people who are going to have to live with that – whichever way we choose. People of my generation have a stake in the decision, make no mistake. But it’s young people, just setting out in the world, who have the most to gain by staying in the EU – and the most to lose if we leave. So I think it’s crucial that young people make their voice heard in the debate and, most importantly, get out and vote.
It’s young people who’ll find it harder to find a job after graduating if we leave. It’s young people who’ll find their wages going far less further than they used to. And it’s young people who’ll lose their automatic right to work, study and travel abroad.
Just last week, new research was published showing that, because the youth unemployment rate is twice as sensitive to economic fluctuations than for older people, young people would be on the front-line of any downturn sparked by leaving the EU.
So to young people, my message is: get involved.
Register to vote and then get out and do it on the 23rd. Talk to your relatives, tell your grandparents, your friends, people you work and study with. This is a massive decision that will directly affect the prices you pay, your chances to find a job and your freedom to travel cheaply and easily abroad.
The EU referendum is on June 23. Register to vote by clicking this link. Remember to make sure you have registered for the address where you’ll be living on June 23. For information about postal or proxy votes click here.