The myth of the EU-loving twentysomething
It might be time to put the image of the inter-railing, EU-loving twentysomething to bed. The results of a recent YouGov study, which asked 6,000 young people in France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK about their attitudes to Europe and the EU, challenge the notion that young Brits are in love with Brussels.
According to the study, young people in Europe do not believe that the EU embodies what it means to be European. Quite the opposite: the results showed that less than a third of young people see the EU as an alliance of countries with similar cultural values.
The idea that support for the EU is synonymous with feeling European is also defunct: only 29 per cent of young people in Britain see themselves as both Brits and Europeans. This goes against the widely reported claim that the young vote for Remain was in excess of 75 per cent. Clearly, youngsters are not convinced that EU membership connects us with our European neighbours, or makes us feel like internationalists.
The study also showed that many young Europeans are sceptical of the EU as a political body. Almost 40 per cent of all respondents believe their national governments should have political power returned to them by the EU. For young Brits, this stretches to 44 per cent – for young Greeks, it’s 60 per cent. Youngsters across the European continent have concerns about the watering down of their nations’ national sovereignty, and are not unanimously in favour of regulations imposed on them by bureaucrats in Brussels.
So what is it driving EU support among the young? An ‘economic alliance’ seems the most persuasive argument in favour of the EU, with 76 per cent of respondents seeing shared ‘economic cooperation’ as a primary purpose of the EU. And it should come as no surprise that young people living in countries with greater economic prosperity are more in favour of the EU. But for young Greeks, who have lived through destructive economic turmoil at the hands of the EU, the idea of prospering economic collaboration is a farce. They are two-and-a-half times more in favour of leaving the EU than their German counterparts.
As a Brexit-backing youngster, I find the results of the survey encouraging. No longer should the young people of Britain – or Europe – be described as being infatuated by the European project and threatened by a future outside of the EU. Young people are concerned by issues such as national sovereignty and economic prosperity – they’re not just interested in cheap data-roaming charges. We realise that European culture does not exist because of the EU – it exists despite it. It’s time, once and for all, to dispel the myth that young people are vehemently pro-EU.
Emily Dinsmore is a writer and student.