Skip To Content

    Why Today Is The Most Important Vote Of Your Life

    If you're going to cast one vote in your entire miserable life, do it in the EU referendum.

    Right, guys. After what feels like 8,000 years, it's finally upon us: It's time to vote in the EU referendum.

    Jorg Carstensen / AFP / Getty Images

    By this point, the very thought of voting probably makes you sick.

    Jorg Carstensen / AFP / Getty Images

    Which is fair. Everything about this referendum has been awful.

    But as much as you may like to shut your eyes and fall into a deep, blissful coma for the next few days until it's all over, this referendum is the most important thing you'll ever vote on.

    Jorg Carstensen / AFP / Getty Images

    God, these two are really into each other, aren't they?

    As you've probably noticed by now, the referendum campaign has been full of lies and misleading statements. But the one thing both sides can agree on is that this is a once-in-a-generation vote.

    Keystone / Getty Images

    For most voters it will be the most consequential ballot they will cast in their lifetime. (Or, if you're Scottish, it's at least as consequential as the independence referendum.)

    We know this sounds hysterical, but it actually is that important, for a number of reasons.

    Here's the thing. Maybe you don't like the current government.

    BuzzFeed News / Facebook

    Perhaps you hate everything about it, and everyone involved, and the sight of their fucking faces.

    Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

    And that's fine! It's your right to think that! This is a democracy, and you can hate any politician's fucking face that you want.

    But that's just not the point of this referendum.

    If you don’t like a government, you can kick it out after a few years. Party leaders and ministers come and go, like the neighbourhood cats that visit your garden.

    The last time the British public got to vote on its involvement in the EU was 1975.

    Keystone / Getty Images

    It was two years after the UK joined what was then called the Common Market, when the government was like, "Maybe we should check the public are cool with this." It was the UK's first-ever referendum.

    Can you name who was in Harold Wilson's cabinet in 1975? No, you can't, because you weren't alive, and you're not a fucking nerd.

    Evening Standard / Getty Images

    This referendum is not a general election or a leadership contest. You won’t get to redo it all again in a few years.

    But even if you're so #YOLO that you don't care what happens in the future, it's worth knowing the ways this referendum will affect the economy right away.

    Wpa Pool / Getty Images

    If Britain exits the EU, nobody really knows what will happen to the economy in the long term. Any forecast that looks decades into the future is built on assumptions, premised on how a forecaster (or one of the economists trapped in George Osborne's basement) believes the world will be in future.

    Depending on the assumptions you pick, reasonable economic arguments could be made to support both Leave and Remain.

    Daniel Leal-olivas / AFP / Getty Images

    In the short term, though, there is broad agreement that uncertainty would cause an economic hit – a hit you could call a "hockey stick" if you're Boris Johnson, a “bump in the road” if you're Michael Gove, or "the apocalypse" if you support Remain.

    According to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, Brexit would mean £20 billion to £40 billion less in the public finances by 2020. That means a smaller economy.

    Niklas Halle'n / AFP / Getty Images

    Pretty much every expert agrees.

    But maybe you don't know what "a smaller economy" actually means. That's OK! Again, it's because you're not a fucking nerd.


    Whether or not you believe Osborne's claims about specific policies he would enact in the case of Brexit, a smaller economy means that the government would have less money to spend and would eventually need to hike taxes, cut public spending, or borrow more.

    It would also mean businesses investing less, which means less hiring, which means fewer jobs. (So don't quit your job until Friday – you might not find another.)

    Also, any economic crisis and uncertainty within the EU would still affect the UK whether it's in or out.

    Ben Stansall / AFP / Getty Images

    Roughly half of Britain’s exports and inward investment, and 3 million jobs, are linked to trading with the EU. Brits just really love prosecco. And chorizo. And getting bladdered on Greek islands.

    All of this economic uncertainty would last until Britain reaches a new arrangement with the EU’s remaining members. This would take, give or take, a decade.

    Jack Taylor / Getty Images

    Maybe you think that's a price worth paying for whatever future Brexit could bring, but in any case you should at least have a little think about it, because a decade is a long time. You could be married to your crush by the time we get a new trade agreement with Europe. (Probably not though.)

    Right. So it's a once-in-a-generation vote that may shake the economy to its core. But maybe you're still not convinced you're gonna vote. Maybe you have plans on Thursday.


    OK, let's talk about the single market, then. It's either a wondrous thing or a suffocating nightmare, depending who you ask.

    The single market includes 500 million consumers and 21 million small and medium-sized businesses across the EU. It's built on the freedom of movement of goods, services, people, and capital, a common area between countries, and a shared set of rules.

    The Remain side say that Britain is stronger in this single market, while Leave argue that being a member of the EU holds the UK back from trading with the rest of the word. Either way you see it, right now the EU is deeply woven into Britain’s economy. For Leave, this means the EU is too controlling. For Remain, it means Britain’s prosperity is correlated to accessing the single market.

    Just under half of all UK exports go to the EU and nearly 50% of investment into the UK comes from the EU.

    "Britain should trade with the rest of the world". Why does Germany, in the EU, trade so much more with China?

    By comparison, about 1% of UK investments comes from China, and trade with individual non-EU nations is far smaller. Exiting the EU may well change that balance, but it would take a long time, and may not materialise at all.

    Germany, for example, a member of the EU and the eurozone, already trades significantly more with China than Britain does. What aren't you telling us, Germany?

    Or hey, maybe you're hoping for the downfall of global capitalism and don't give a damn about the single market. But also, you'd quite like to go live in Berlin, because your crush moved there.

    Well, too bad. Because if we left the EU, Britain would not be able have full access to the single market while at the same time restricting freedom of movement – it's one or the other.

    So make up your mind. Honestly, your crush just isn't that into you and it would be creepy if you moved closer to them.

    Speaking of freedom of movement: You've probably heard a lot about migration in the Brexit debate. Whichever side you're on, this debate has probably made you angry and sad.

    Jack Taylor / Getty Images

    The migration debate has stirred fears about jobs, identity, and excessive pressure on public services. It has been fuelled by relentless anti-immigration headlines, Nigel Farage's massive inflammatory billboard on wheels, and an argument over whether Turkey is joining the EU (it isn’t anytime soon).

    Who are all these migrants anyway? EU nationals comprise about 5% of Britain’s population. But freedom of movement works both ways.

    Medioimages / Getty Images

    There are 3 million EU expats in Britain, and some 1.2 million UK migrants living elsewhere in the EU. In some countries, such as Spain, there are more Brits there than, vice versa, Spaniards in the UK.

    Also, shout-out to EU migrants: The vast majority of EU nationals in the UK are in work.

    20th Century Fox

    Migrants are net contributors to the economy; they substantially pay more in tax than they take out in benefits. Also, 600,000 EU migrants work in the UK’s public services. Across the UK, EU immigrants make up 10% of registered doctors and 4% of registered nurses.

    Britain’s population is projected to increase to 74.3 million by mid-2039. Half of the expected increase is due to trends in net migration, and the other half will be because people live longer.

    Without the current levels of migration, Britain’s working-age population would be proportionately smaller, and so would its economy. Because of all the old people knocking about.

    OK, one last thing: What does the EU have to do with your sweet, sweet human rights? Well, it's mattered a lot to the development of equality legislation – for example, by requiring that its member states ensure "that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work".

    Stan Meagher / Getty Images

    EU law also protects against discrimination based on sex, race, religion, age, disability, and sexual orientation. It also guarantees basic rights for part-time workers and those on fixed-term contracts.

    Although leaving would not necessarily mean these rights would be lost, they could, in principle at least, be revoked. However, in some cases, Britain has gone even further than EU rules. The 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave in the UK is, for example, longer than the 14 weeks set out by EU law.

    So. That's a lot of things to consider, yes. But the one thing to take away, even if you don't believe anything that anybody is saying, is that this vote matters a great deal – especially if you're young.

    Wesley / Getty Images

    See these ballot boxes from 1975? Just think how many of the people whose votes are in those boxes are dead now.

    Loads of them, probably. (RIP)

    Every young person who can vote in this referendum should vote in it, because we are the ones who will suffer or benefit from the decision.

    Universal Pictures

    We should have a say in what kind of Britain we want to live in. Because all the olds will be dead soon enough, and then it won't matter much what they think. (RIP, olds.)

    If the past is of any guidance, it will be decades – nay, GENERATIONS – before Britons get another say on this issue.

    Keystone / Getty Images

    The consequences of Thursday's referendum will likely be irreversible, and will affect the young more than anybody else. The outcome of this vote will shape the country we live in, and work in, and get happily married in, and get horrendously divorced in, and grapple over the custody of our children in.

    It'll be the country where many years from now we will lie on our deathbeds, point a gnarled finger at one of our children, and groan, "You were always a shit."

    That'll be a long time from now, hopefully. But to have a say in what kind of country the UK will be, you have to vote on Thursday. That's it. Don't fuck it up.