David Cameron’s speech this morning about the EU referendum will succeed in doing one thing: infuriating the hell out of Eurosceptics. The Prime Minister is set to warn that peace and stability could be at risk if Britain walks away from Europe. He’ll also go on to say that the European Union has brought together countries previously ‘at each others’ throats for decades’. In the Project Fear brand, it’s certainly a classic in the genre. But will it work?
One of the interesting aspects of his line of argument is the appeal it is likely to have to younger people. Those under the age of 34 are generally much more in favour of remaining in Europe, with only a third (29 per cent) of those aged 18-34 backing Brexit, according to an Opinium poll. But at the same time, this same group is less likely to head to polling stations on June 23rd (only half said they’d vote). Yet this appeal could reach this age group in a way that other arguments may not. It is also likely to act as a powerful incentive to actually get out and vote. Those under the age of 34 have benefited from a youth of relative peace and freedom to travel through a Europe not too long ago wracked by war. The EU might not solely, or even partly, be responsible for this peace. But the suggestion that such peace might not always exist, and that leaving the European Union could endanger that truce – whether probable or not – is a powerful thought which could strike a chord with younger people. As the PM asks:
‘Can we be so sure that peace and stability on our continent are assured beyond any shadow of doubt? Is that a risk worth taking? I would never be so rash as to make that assumption.’
The Prime Minister’s argument might be relying on hypotheticals, but it’s a bold person who can say wholeheartedly that stability in Europe is guaranteed. Just a brief glance at history shows that such a view could even be foolhardy. Cameron is guaranteed to wind up Vote Leave when he argues these points later today and he’s also borrowing heavily from the Project Fear textbook. But if he can engage younger voters, who will prove decisive in this referendum, it’ll be a price worth paying.