Young people, the EU and Dad’s Army
The EU Referendum debate increasingly appears to be like episodes of Dad’s Army. Each side has its Captain Mainwaring addressing the troops with the likely outcomes of exit or remain. Then up pops Private Frazer, ‘We’re doomed!’
I’m not going to discuss various claims; FullFact does that. But, trying to be impartial, I’d like to consider the effects on education and young people of going or staying.
Yesterday’s figures showed net migration at its second highest level. Half of it comprised EU immigrants. Their children are entitled to be educated in UK state schools. This puts a strain on school places. Around 5% of children in English schools are White Non British, White Irish or White Traveller/Roma*. This is a small proportion but it relates to thousands of children, all needing school places. Leaving the EU would reduce the number of such children.
The Remain campaign could argue that if we left we would have to negotiate a UK/EU trade deal which may force us to accept EU rules. The Leave campaign could counteract this: any new trade deal would not necessarily mean compliance with EU regulations – Europe, they say, needs our trade more than we need theirs.
If UK were to leave the EU, children of UK citizens resident there would lose their right to go to publicly-funded schools. Young British people would lose their right to live, work and study in the EU. Denmark is the most popular destination for UK graduates, followed by Switzerland, Sweden and Germany in joint second place. The ability of young British people to enter such countries would be curtailed on Exit.
Switzerland isn’t, of course, an EU member but is a member of the European Free Trade Area. Switzerland is an example of a non-EU country still bound by EU rules regarding free movement of people, goods, services and capital in return for free trade although the agreement is under severe strain after the Swiss anti-immigration initiative in 2014. The EU says free movement is non-negotiable – a sign that it would be extremely difficult to negotiate the type of UK/EU free trade agreement put forward by the Leave campaign.
The EU funds programs aimed particularly at young people: Erasmus+, the fledgling Youth Guarantee and Daphne aimed at preventing violence against children, young people, women and other at-risk groups. Funding would be at risk if Britain left the EU.
The Leave campaign could claim the UK could fund similar programmes from the money saved by not being in the EU. The Remain side could say that while funding may still be possible, EU-wide participation by UK young people would be restricted.
Leave or Remain?
Much of the debate has been crystal ball gazing – doom laden predictions of what might happen if the UK were to stay or go. The vote could hinge on which side frightens voters the most. And there’s the crunch – these voters are less likely to be young people.
The Telegraph cites two surveys which show 80 per cent of British students want to remain but 66% couldn’t say when the vote was taking place. It’s essential that young people, whether Brexiteers or Remainers, should vote. And that means registering to vote by 7 June. Young people will be affected by the outcome for far longer than the oldies whose vote is likely to decide the Referendum. Young people’s future shouldn’t be decided solely by Dad’s (or Mum’s) Army.
*Presumably these are Codes for children of EU citizens not categorised as British.
UPDATE: 27 May 13.05 The article has been updated to make it clear which EU rules are followed by Switzerland. The original article implied Switzerland was bound by all EU rules. This was incorrect.