20160526 Brexit: the young should register to vote – but they should vote “Leave”

Thursday, 26 May, 2016 – 04:53

David Cameron, speaking in Japan where he is attending the G7 Summit, has said that the young, in Britain, should register to vote. He says it may be the most important vote of their lives and it is for them to decide what kind of country they want to live in. He’s exactly right.

And when they do, they should vote to leave the EU. This is why. And as someone who supported the “yes” vote in 1975, I start with a mea culpa.

In 1975, I was the young that David Cameron now courts. It is ironic, one might consider, that, usually, conservatives are not anxious for the young to vote because the young have a tendency to be idealistic and to prefer a broadly socialist agenda. That’s why socialist parties are always arguing for the voting age to be reduced and why it has been reduced, in recent weeks, in Scotland. The more world weary, the more educated, the more experienced, the more successful in their careers tend to be more centrist or even conservative.

In 1975, the UK was already a member of “the Common Market.” The then Conservative government, led by Ted Heath, held a referendum to decide if we remained in or if we left. The government’s position was to stay and it was to stay for simple economic and commercial reasons: we were sold a “common market,” not a political union under which states became subject to homogenised laws and national identity and freedoms were compromised.

We certainly were not told that our future would be decided by a committee of unelected Eurocrats who, to be simplistic, draft laws, put them before a largely impotent parliament and then require nation states to accept, implement and enforce them without question. And yet, in essence, that is what happens. And if nation states refuse, or do not enforce, the EU applies sanctions.

In 1975, reading the material we were provided with, we had only two primary arguments in favour of membership. First, the commercial benefits of a large market where common standards would ensure that goods meeting those standards could be freely traded across the entire region. Secondly, the disadvantages to the UK working class because its products would be priced out of the market by deliveries of products made elsewhere in Europe by cheaper labour.

We should have seen the warning signs of how authoritarian the EU would become when trade barriers were erected to disadvantage the British purchase of New Zealand Lamb in favour of EU produced meat. But we did not. We believed what we were told.