The EU Referendum for Dummies

Britain’s membership of the European Union has remained a controversial issue in Britain ever since its entry to the (then-named) European Community in 1973. 

Somehow, despite having regularly changed their political opinion, politicians have successfully managed to keep up this intense game of tug of war, much to the confusion and increasing disinterest of the public. Whilst refraining from offering a political viewpoint, this article is meant to provide the basic information surrounding the debate for those who thought that BREXIT was a portmanteau of the newest Brangelina. So, if you are somewhat disillusioned by politics and have absolutely no clue which way you want to vote in the upcoming referendum – fear not, I have done the research for you…

What is this Referendum?

The European Union is basically an economic and political union of 28 European countries that allows free movement of goods, capital, services and people between member states. The referendum, frequently referred to as Brexit, centres around the question should we stay or should we go? The debate towards EU membership has become increasingly heated in recent years, particularly concerning the issue of migration, which has made sentiments towards the EU grow hostile. A referendum has thus been promised by David Cameron since 2013, and, as such, on the 23rd of June this year, the citizens of the UK are finally able to vote on whether or not they wish to stay in this Union, or whether they want Britain to fly solo.

Why should we leave?

There are many reasons that have been presented as to why Britain should leave the EU, but the most important ones that you should be aware of are as follows:

Controlling bordersOne of the primary reasons for wanting to leave the EU (particularly according to Nigel Farage – you may have heard him mention it) is the ever-present issue of immigration. Membership of the EU means 450 million Europeans can freely live and work in the UK, and this is frequently considered to be one of the biggest drains on the UK economy, with accusations that they take advantage of the UK’s welfare system.

National sovereignty  - The public are becoming disillusioned with the amount of power the European Parliament has over UK laws, currently deciding 75% of laws affecting Britain. This has highlighted the unpopular bureaucratic nature of the EU, particularly due to the undemocratic nature of it with its lack of accountability and direct election.

Economic benefitsBrexit supporters highlight the increased opportunities to trade with other countries such as China, Singapore, Brazil, Russia and India. As well, the EU costs Britain £55 million everyday, a lot of which resides in Brussels.

Why should we stay?

But of course, as always, there is a flip side.

Economy– More than half of our trade comes from within the EU, with a staggering £400bn being brought in each year by buying and selling within the common market, which arguably justifies the £12bn we spend on the EU each year. As well, the maintaining of many businesses within the City of London relies heavily on Britain’s continued membership within Europe. Top bankers, including Goldman Sachs and HSBC have threatened to quit if the UK withdraws from the EU.

National influence – A key argument frequently reiterated by those campaigning to remain in the EU is that leaving would significantly quieten our voice and influence on the world stage. It is much better, they say, to be able to influence the EU, than to be constantly subjected to its trade rules.

Work – Not only is it claimed that as many as three million British jobs rely on our continued membership of the EU, but the benefit of being within the EU means that getting jobs and travelling abroad is significantly easier.

To summarise…

Obviously, this is the debate in its most basic form. At the moment, Parliament is essentially an intense game of tug of war, with MPs frequently darting back and forth to hold the other end of the rope. It is increasingly difficult to neatly place parties on one side or the other (apart from UKIP, who are very much against remaining in the EU), with not all Conservatives agreeing with David Cameron’s desire to remain in the EU. Labour as well are naturally divided over the issue – Jeremy Corbyn himself has only recently declared himself in line with Cameron (though frequently voices his dislike over certain elements of the EU).

With Parliament so divided, it’s no wonder people are becoming so disillusioned with the constant shouting-matches and political point scoring. But the basic intention of this article is simply to encourage you to vote and to counteract the frequent political alienation that is common among university students. No matter which way the vote goes, the result will affect many people’s lives and, if we opt to leave, Britain’s status in the world will significantly alter. As such, the importance of the referendum, which will take place on the 23rd of June this year, cannot be understated. So make sure you register to vote and have your say!