​what could brexit mean for generation z?

With the EU referendum getting closer and closer, we look into the potential impact it will have on our lives.

by Nathalie Olah
05 May 2016, 10:30am

Part of the problem it seems with deciphering the jargon around the forthcoming EU referendum, is that the EU is shrouded in so much maddening bureaucracy. It's one of central points on which we will be voting. And why former Greek chancellor Yanis Varoufakis and Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas recently launched DiEM25, a political movement dedicated to lobbying the EU for greater transparency, whose proposed plans include live-streaming all meetings held by the EU Council, Ecofin, FTT and Eurogroup.

Yet despite having serious objections to certain aspects of the EU - it cost Varoufakis his job after all - both he and Lucas agree that the relevant reforms can only be made with Britain as a member state, where MEPs are capable of lobbying for change. Their opponents, on the other hand, argue that change can only be forced through by leaving. Yet with large portions of the Leave Campaign also stating that they would maintain existing trade relations in Europe, it is unclear how diminished political influence within the bloc would actually serve their interests.

Both sides count among their ranks a mix of left and right, in what is shaping up to reveal some strange contradictions previously latent among the political class. Not least of which, the duelling swords at the heart of the Tory identity: patriotism and an unflinching loyalty to the gods of the free market economy.

What all this means for the rest of us is less clear. We've had a go at making sense of it all, by running through all the ways in which Brexit would affect the lives of teens and twenty-somethings in Britain. We hope it helps at the polling station, or at the very least, gives you a few obscure facts to bandy around and impress people.

There is a problem with diversity in British universities. Not all of them. But the older and richer they are, the worse the problem seems to be. The first time I went to university I met mostly white men whose mothers had embroidered their names on to the inside of their pillowcases. I went to another university five years later and met a Georgian ballerina, a Bosnian peacekeeper, a Spanish photographer, a Senegalese Soviet enthusiast who'd spent three years in Poland, an Iranian journalist now living in France, a Serbian potter, a Spanish aid worker who was sleeping with his best friend's wife, a Mormon and an Irish former intelligence agent. If I have pangs of nostalgia for any part in my life, it is definitely not the former. And the latter was also greatly improved by the fact that I got to study in Europe for a short time too. All that, I'm assured, will be jeopardised if we leave the European Union.

Being a member of the EU also means universities are able to employ experts on a wide range of subjects. We can never underestimate how lucky we are to have that opportunity.

"Currently 15% of academic staff at UK universities are from other EU countries," explains current NUS president, Megan Dunn. And in today's increasingly globalised world, having their guidance often proves to be invaluable.

In 2013/14 alone, 15,000 British students went on a semester abroad under the Erasmus scheme. "If Britain were to leave the EU, UK students would lose their automatic right to participate in Erasmus." Megan elaborates. "Any future access to the programme would depend on what relationship Britain negotiates with the EU after Brexit. In the case of Switzerland, there is a bilateral agreement that grants Switzerland access to Erasmus in return for paying into the EU budget and accepting free movement of people. In 2016 Switzerland had to contribute £18.6m to the EU budget in order to have that right."

While all that money is being siphoned off to support an education sector that presumably only fans of Enoch Powell could be proud of, less money and fewer resources will be open to a generation of graduates looking for employment. Free movement in Europe currently allows thousands of young people faced with the conundrum of a London-centric job market and London-inflated rents, to work in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin, Leipzing, Budapest and other, affordable cities with infinitely more opportunity. Plus they get to learn a language, which really, honestly, is the most important thing any of us can do.

If we leave the EU, finding employment abroad will be a lot more difficult. Young people will be faced with only the diminishing parameters of the already, pretty well diminished British job market. One built almost exclusively on services (great for blue sky thinkers having tent-pole moments. Terrible for rest of us). Plus a growing number of people are starting their own businesses. Current EU trading practices, regulations and standards mean that working with clients in Europe is often a lot easier than working with those further afield. How all this would change, should the UK vote to leave, remains unclear.

*On the subject of jobs, an urgent campaign is needed to pressure The European Commission on its own employment policies: according to some reports, the European Extrernal Action Service had recently advertised for overseas interns to move abroad to complete placements without even the provision of travel and accommodation costs.

One man's hiking up Machu Piccu is another's tactical retch on a side street in San Antonio. Regrettably, Brits don't always travel with the utmost grace in Europe, but those who do avoid the fate of drunkenly sautéing on a sun lounger often end up making some of the best memories of their lives. It's amazing what a £50 Easyjet flight, a bikini, a phrasebook and a pair of hiking boots can do for a grey complexion and a curious mind. According to reports, 76% of all holidays taken by Brits are to Europe, while 68% of all business trips are made within the EU. We can't all afford to fly further afield, and if Britain votes to leave the EU, pretty soon many more of us won't be able to afford to fly to Europe either, with airfares estimated to increase. Likewise, travellers can expect to see an increase in the price of travel insurance (free cover with the European Health Insurance Card will not be available), as well as in the price of mobile phone charges.

Plus, a vote for Brexit would conceivably lead to the return of 750,000 Brits currently living in Spain, mostly on the Costa Del Sol. As nice as that might sound to the Spanish communities living under the constant stench of chip pans in sweltering heat, it presents very few benefits to us. If a population twice the size of Liechtenstein is going to arrive in the UK - stealing our women and stealing our jobs - one that doesn't comprise the majority of Cliff Richard's fan base, might perhaps be preferable.

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generation z
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Nathalie Olah