"A vote to leave is a vote to place our future in our own hands"Flickr: Anders Sandberg

The UK’s young people are the most supportive of the European Union, with around 70 per cent of 18-24 year olds thinking that we should remain in the EU according to a recent ORB International poll. With the referendum potentially just six months away, it is possible that our generation is sleepwalking into the wrong decision.

The xenophobia of some Eurosceptics taints the leave campaign – a toxicity felt especially keenly by progressive students, who enjoy living in a diverse society. But make no mistake: there is a strong case to leave the EU in defence of values which we all share.

For a start, if we are going to talk about immigration, why not discuss the injustice with which we are treating those that live outside of the cosy club of EU nations? The pressure on our infrastructure and public services from the ever-increasing numbers of EU citizens, whom we have no power to turn away, means promising young professionals from developing countries and those fleeing conflicts uncomfortably intertwined with historic British foreign policy lose out. We should determine who can come to the UK on merit and need, not nationality.

There are many other similar issues, but they all boil down to one central point: democracy. For all its flaws, Westminster allows us to kick out our representatives every five years – a concept alien to the bureaucrats in Brussels, and barely relevant in the European Parliament, where less than 10 per cent of MEPs are British, and are limited in discussion largely to legislation handed down to them by the unelected Commission. Although some beneficial laws have been made along the way, wherever you sit on the political spectrum I would hope that you trust our national democracy and accept it as the right vehicle for political decision-making whether or not you agree with those decisions. And that is to say nothing of the problematic subject of EU laws on matters where the will of the British people is still sovereign.

Of course we will be told that Britain needs the EU, and that millions of jobs will be lost if we leave. Not so long ago these same people – Nick Clegg, Richard Branson, Peter Mandelson – were making strong claims for us to join the euro, warning of the dangers of not being part of the Eurozone. They were wrong then, and perhaps they are wrong now. We are the world’s fifth largest economy (according to the IMF), and just like numbers one, two, three, seven, nine and ten, have no need to be in a such an extensive political union with any other nation.

There is no doubt that this referendum will be a David vs. Goliath affair, however: bureaucrats in Brussels are very good at spending the £350 million a week we send their way on winning favour. If the EU is already forcing farmers receiving grants to erect billboards expressing their gratitude, we can be sure that its propaganda will be in overdrive come referendum day. Important figures, including our very own vice-chancellor, have warned of the need for EU money, but there is no such thing; it is simply our money which is given back to us by the EU, and cutting out the middle-man would be much more efficient.

Many big businesses, including the formerly Euro-supporting CBI, will be telling us to vote to stay in too. They don’t want to lose the wage-depressing effect that a large pool of low and unskilled workers creates, or the ease with which they can lobby a single incredibly opaque body to make regulation across 28 countries favourable to them. And we certainly won’t be hearing arguments for ‘Brexit’ from former commissioners such as Lord Mandelson, whose £31,000 p.a. pension is contingent upon him not criticising the EU.

But if we do vote to leave we will be able to truly embrace the sort of internationalism the University of Cambridge epitomises. No longer stuck in a declining trade bloc, we will be able to negotiate our own free trade deals across the globe, just as Australia did with China last year. We could take back our seat on the World Trade Organisation, too – the place where many of the rules handed down to us through the EU are ultimately decided – no longer content with having 1/28th of the EU representative. And, of course, we would be able to remain a great friend and trading partner of EU countries without having to share a parliament with them. In fact, our relationships may strengthen once we’ve lost the tension inevitable in a political union of over 500 million people.

A vote to remain in the EU is a vote to remain bound by a bureaucracy increasingly incapable of coping with the demands of the modern world. A vote to leave is a vote to place our future in our own hands, where it is safest. We have an incredible opportunity to realise our potential as a self-governing democracy – to grow as a nation and also to do some good in the world. So please, forget about Nigel Farage. Don’t close your mind to voting to leave.

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