openDemocracyUK

Just think what my generation could achieve working across our continent

The EU builds bridges for collaboration in building a better future.

Thomas Gockelen-Kozlowski
22 June 2016
CERN.jpg

CERN Large Hadron Collider, Wikimedia

It looks – crossing fingers, touching wood, throwing salt behind me while kneeling at prayer – like Remain are going to win.
As an 'out of touch' metropolitan middle class millennial type, I'm obviously delighted.
Relying on the over 50s to win, a Leave vote would be a final "up yours" to us predominantly Remain voting young 'uns. This after yanking up the housing ladder, leaving us without much chance of a comfortable retirement and bringing carbon dioxide levels in the pristine Antarctic to those not seen in four million years. Thanks guys.

If God-forbid we do vote for Brexit maybe the Vote Leave victory speech could just be Nigel Lawson and Norman Tebbit biting on a carrot yelling "that's all folks".

Those of us under 30 can then just add it to the list of other things we'll have to clear up over the coming decades.

But if we do win, then what? What should we do with the victory? As I say, we're the ones with decades to make the most of such a mandate.

Speaking to friends, colleagues and perfect strangers over the past few weeks it doesn't seem like Cameron's reforms are a direction of travel many young people are very inspired by. Indeed, my whole life British politicians travelling to Europe have been like embarrassing pushy mums and dads at a parents evening – not really getting the fact that this is a shared project for hundreds of millions of souls and only asking what's best for their charges over the channel. Stuff everyone else, eh?

Older voters were alive for the moon landings, Muhammed Ali's fights, the foundation of the NHS and – yes – the creation of a European project that seeks to emphasis our shared interests, goals and welfare after centuries of war. Somehow being alive for a renegotiation of the EU that stalls ever closer union and cuts benefits to children doesn't quite compare. And, yes, I know they're foreign children whose parents won't get tax credits, but apparently they need similar levels of food, shelter and education to succeed as our Union Jack-stamped British ones.

There is, however, loads and loads we could do. With Britain at Europe's heart we could export more of our great ideas. An EU-wide NHS would be one of the great achievements in human history, a EU living wage based on the cost of living for each region would allow people to live in dignity without having to uproot their families for work.

And what about an integrated railway that secures affordable travel for all? Let's try it. Directing funding that ensures Europe is the place that cures cancer, Alzheimer's and – of course – turns around our climate crisis? Sign me up.

Working collectively, a braver, more confident continent could do these things while allowing the culture, language and local governance of each individual country to remain intact.

Perhaps most importantly, working in common to help the post-industrial areas of every country could mean bringing competitive and stable manufacturing jobs to corners of Europe that the current flawed and unambitious EU has failed to.

The next generation to yield real power – my generation – might try and fail at some to do these things, but if we manage to build a Europe that's stronger and better than it is today then eventually welcoming into our peaceful, prosperous union a Turkey (and even Russia) that wishes to meet our moral and political ideals would be the greatest achievement of all.

This is the kind of positive, ambitious and era-defining dream that's not been heard once during a mostly tawdry campaign. Yet it's one I and millions of my fellow millennials would gladly dedicate their lives to realising.

I just hope we get the chance.

 

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