All you need to know about the UK’s EU referendum. (BBC)
What is the EU? Use our resources to find out.
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- What is the Brexit?
- “Brexit” is a portmanteau (mashup) of the words “British” and “exit.” Brexit refers to the possible departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
- The Brexit referendum is a single question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”
- What is the European Union? Here’s a good intro.
- The European Union (EU) is an economic and political association of 28 European nations promoting free trade, ease of transportation, and cultural and political links.
- The capital of the EU is Brussels, Belgium. The president of the European Commission is Jean-Claude Juncker (from Luxembourg). The president of the European Council is Donald Tusk (from Poland).
- The EU has its own elected parliament that establishes rules and regulations on such issues as the environment, transportation, consumer rights and even things like mobile phone charges. The current president of the European Parliament is Martin Schulz (from Germany).
- The EU has its own unit of currency, the euro. The 19 EU members that use the euro are called the eurozone. The United Kingdom is not a part of the eurozone.
- Here’s a nice explainer on how the EU budget works.
- Who supports the Brexit, or the “divorce” from the EU?
- The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the right-wing political party led by Nigel Farage, supports the Brexit.
- Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, led by Arlene Foster, supports the Brexit.
- The Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, has pledged neutrality on the issue. Cameron does not support the exit, although many Conservative members of parliament (MPs) and figures such as London Mayor Boris Johnson do.
- A few MPs from the opposition Labour Party support the Brexit.
- The latest public opinion polls show the public as fairly evenly split.
- Interestingly, some critics think that “It’s not the British who want to leave the EU—it’s the historically successful and newly nationalistic English.”
- Why do some people support the Brexit? Take a look at this nice breakdown of the issues for some help.
- Economy: The best-case scenario is that the UK would be better off by 1.6% of GDP a year by 2030.
- Sovereignty: “It would be a major shot in the arm for British democracy as the Westminster parliament regained its sovereignty and reconnected with voters. The country would be free from the European Arrest Warrant and other law and order measures.”
- Society: Britain has always been ambivalent about the EU. It voted to join what was called the “Common Market” in 1975, but ties to the EU have always been politically tenuous. It is not a member of the eurozone, for instance, choosing to retain its own unit of currency (the pound).
- Cost: The UK is a “net contributor” to the EU budget. Last year, the country paid £8.5 billion ($12 billion) more than it received.
- Financial regulations: Many contested regulations involve financial support for resident non-citizens and recent immigrants, although more traditional financial regulations are also in play. For example, the EU has proposed taxes of 0.1% on financial transactions and 0.01% on derivatives in the aftermath of the financial crisis—what many bankers have interpreted as a strain on lucrative trading activities in London. Opponents also cite strict regulations on agriculture and fisheries.
- Jobs: The UK would experience “a jobs boom as firms are freed from EU regulations and red tape, say those arguing for an exit, with small- and medium-sized companies who don’t trade with the EU benefiting the most.”
- Immigration: Many supporters of the Brexit “want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here to work. One of the main principles of EU membership is ‘free movement,’ which means you don’t need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country.” UKIP, for instance, “wants to see a work permit system introduced, so that EU nationals would face the same visa restrictions as those from outside the EU, which it says would reduce population growth from current levels of 298,000 a year to about 50,000. This would create job opportunities for British workers and boost wages, as well as easing pressure on schools, hospitals and other public services.”
- Trade: “The UK would be free to establish bilateral trade agreements with fast-growing export markets such as China, Singapore, Brazil, Russia, and India through the World Trade Organization.”
- Foreign Relations: “The UK would remain a key part of NATO and the UN Security Council and a nuclear power, with a powerful global voice in its own right.”
- Who supports staying a part of the EU?
- The UK’s leading opposition party, the Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, opposes exiting the EU.
- Other political parties, including the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru (the Welsh independence party), and the Liberal Democrats, also oppose an exit.
- Big business generally oppose an exit, saying the EU “makes it easier for them to move money, people and products around the world.”
- The Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, has pledged neutrality on the issue. Cameron himself opposes an exit.
- The latest public opinion polls show the public as fairly evenly split.
- Why do some people support staying a part of the EU?
- Economy: The worst-case scenario is a 6.3% to 9.5% reduction in GDP.
- Sovereignty: “Britons benefit from EU employment laws and social protections, which would be stripped away. Withdrawal from the European Arrest Warrant could mean delays for the UK in extraditing suspects from other European countries.”
- Jobs: “Millions of jobs would be lost as global manufacturers moved to lower-cost EU countries.”
- Immigration: Immigrants contribute to the economy of the UK by providing a relatively young, inexpensive pool of labor.
- Trade: Trade rules makes selling things to other EU member countries much more economical and efficient. “The EU is the UK’s main trading partner, worth more than . . . 52% of the total trade in goods and services. Complete withdrawal from the EU would see trade barriers erected” and the costs of goods and services skyrocketing.
- Foreign Relations: Most countries in the world, including the US, would prefer the UK stay in the EU. “Stripped of influence in Brussels, Berlin and Paris, Britain would find itself increasingly ignored by Washington and sidelined on big transnational issues such as the environment, security and trade.”
- Why is the Brexit an important issue?
- The UK is a vital part of the European Union. It is the group’s second-largest economy (second only to the German powerhouse) and third-most-populous (behind Germany and France).
- According to USA Today, “It creates vast uncertainty for the EU at time when it is beset by a number of major problems including a so-far insurmountable migration crisis, an unpredictable and increasingly interventionist Russia on its eastern flank and the prospect of more organized Paris-inspired militant attacks, often by its own nationals.”
- EU policies extend far beyond Europe. Overseas territories of both the UK and EU dot the globe, and are lucrative sites for tourism and business.
- What are the alternatives to Britain simply leaving the EU or staying in it? The first question here might help.
- The Norwegian model: Britain leaves the EU and joins the European Economic Area, giving it access to the single market, with the exception of some financial services, but freeing it from EU rules on agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs.
- The Swiss model: Britain emulates Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU but negotiates trade treaties on a sector-by-sector basis.
- The Turkish model: The UK could enter into a customs union with the EU, allowing access to the free market in manufactured goods but not financial services.
- The Canadian model: The UK could seek to negotiate a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU, which would eliminate trade barriers in most areas but does not require free movement or budgetary contributions.
- Has this ever happened before?
- No. No country has ever left the EU, and in fact there is a waiting list to get in: Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey are all current candidates.
- At the height of Greece’s financial crisis, it debated leaving both the eurozone and EU. (And yes, the situation was called the “Grexit.”) It is still a member of both.
- Who will be eligible to vote?
- All British, Irish, and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the United Kingdom will be allowed to vote in the referendum. All UK nationals who have lived overseas for less than 15 years will also be allowed to vote.
- When will the referendum be?
- Thursday, June 23.
BBC: The UK’s EU referendum: All you need to know
BBC: UK and the EU: Better off out or in?
USA Today: Explainer: The what, when and why of ‘Brexit’
The Week: EU referendum: pros and cons of Britain leaving Europe
CNN Money: UK election: The pros and cons of a ‘Brexit’
CNN Money: Brexit: The big numbers you need to know
3 thoughts on “What is the Brexit?”
So today is the referendum… Hope for good for UK… So let’s see UK would be member of EU or not?