For all the activism that students have participated in over the past 100 years, Europe is one issue on which they have remained decidedly quiet. OneEurope and Students4Europe think this is because the complexity of the European Union creates a wall of misunderstanding between the governed and the governors. Therefore, these grassroots organisations are now seeking to facilitate debate and recruit students to campaign in the upcoming referendum.
They form a collection of students and graduates from countries across Europe who uphold the idea that students have a collective interest to remain in the Union. Such a diverse spectrum of nationality exemplifies how students are united in their diversity. But the regionalisation of OneEurope, by opening branches in Nottingham, Birmingham and Kent, also avoids the top down approach taken by the national Leave and Stay campaigns, instead seeking to build a network of campaigners on the ground.
They believe the future is the “choice of a generation”, and fear that if the UK opts to leave the Union there will be no return. Cynics often cite the success of nations like Norway and Sweden, who are not in the European Union, but have access to the single market through the European Free Trade Association, as a reason to leave the Union. Frank Oxley, member of OneEurope, calls this a ‘fax democracy’. These nations have little decision making power over how the single market is run. And this is beside the point; Britain could not expect to exercise power in an organisation that it has just stuck two fingers up to.
“Students4Europe want to remind people that Europe is formed by Europeans, and that collective interest is what keeps the Union intact and prosperous”
Amy Longland, editor of the Nottingham branch of OneEurope, is convinced that the benefits of being in Europe trump the negatives. Freedom of movement to work, travel and study, European wide human rights, the prosperity of the single market, and the opportunities for research outweigh the bureaucracy of the Union.
Many firms, including Nestlé and Goldman Sachs, have considered moving key offices to the continent if the UK chooses to leave; reducing the scope of graduate job positions and the benefits that come with having a degree.
But neither do these organisations support a European federalism. Policies and power structures must be necessary and proportionate so that individual nations retain their unique identities. This hangs on David Cameron’s attempt to reform the Union, a feat that can only be completed from inside the Union.
“Britain could not expect to exercise power in an organisation that it has just stuck two fingers up to”
Reform will be hard, but it is possible. Other nations have a vested interest in keeping the UK in the Union; this nation is central to the single market and can help to foster European-American relations. Students4Europe want to remind people that Europe is formed by Europeans, and that collective interest is what keeps the Union intact and prosperous.
The other issue of the referendum will be voter engagement and turnout. The European Union is frustratingly convoluted in its institutions and policies, and this creates a barrier that discourages many from caring about the political organisation. By debating issues and sharing information both OneEurope and Students4Europe hope to draw more students to the cause.
This involves not only your atypical politics student, but science students whose research depends upon a coordination of European companies and investments. Economics, maths, English, business management – there’s a reason for everybody to care about Europe.
If you are interested in campaigning on European issues please visit the OneEuropeNotts Facebook page for more information.
Image: Rachel Lewis