UK and the EU: Better off out or in?


Britain goes to the polls on Thursday 23 June to decide whether the UK should stay a member of the European Union. Use this guide to find out the arguments from the Leave and Remain sides on a range of key topics.

Consumer affairs

The debate

  • The EU legislates on consumer protection issues and regulates on trading standards
  • The stated aims of the single market are to stimulate competition and trade, improve efficiency, raise quality, and cut prices
  • Campaigners disagree about the overall effect on household costs

Leave

  • EU red tape makes goods and services more expensive
  • The recent row over the “tampon tax” shows the EU has too much power, Britain should be able to set VAT rates itself
  • Consumer protection laws existed before the EU and would remain after Britain left

Remain

  • People in Britain save an average of £450 a year because prices are lower as a result of EU membership
  • Flights and mobile phone charges are among the goods and services that are cheaper
  • The EU ensures that imported goods meet European quality standards


Cost of membership

The debate

  • The UK is a net contributor to the EU budget
  • The gross contribution in 2015 was £17.8bn but the UK rebate was worth £4.9bn
  • £4.4bn was also paid back to the UK government for farm subsidies and other programmes

Leave

  • The gross cost works out at £350m a week
  • If the UK left, billions of pounds would become available for other priorities
  • The UK would also be able to decide how to spend the money that the EU transfers back to it

Remain

  • Economic benefits of EU membership easily outweigh the cost
  • Other countries contribute more per person than the UK does
  • After Brexit, the UK would still have to contribute to the EU budget to retain access to the single market


Education and research

The debate

  • National governments are responsible for education but the EU promotes co-operation between member states
  • The EU plans to spend €80bn on research between 2014 and 2020 under the Horizon 2020 programme

Leave

  • Only 3% of total R&D spending in Britain is funded by the EU
  • The UK will be able to increase funding to science out of savings from not paying for EU membership
  • Britain could set its own immigration policy which could fast track scientists and graduates

Remain

  • UK universities receive millions in research funding from the EU
  • Many of the UK’s top scientists come from elsewhere in Europe with the help of EU grants
  • The Erasmus programme allows British students to study abroad


Energy and environment

The debate

  • The EU is in the process of developing an integrated energy market
  • There are several EU-wide policies to tackle climate change including the Emissions Trading Scheme
  • It also legislates on issues such as water quality and air pollution

Leave

  • EU environmental regulation can be an unnecessary burden on business and push up energy prices
  • Other European countries would still want to sell their electricity to the UK after Brexit
  • Most of the UK’s gas imports come from Norway – Britain is not dependent on Russia

Remain

  • Leaving the EU would see energy bills rise by £500m
  • Britain’s energy security is stronger as part of the EU because it negotiates as a large bloc
  • The UK has cleaner water and air, and lower greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to EU action


Farming and fishing

The debate

  • The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) remains the EU’s biggest area of spending although its share of the budget is falling
  • EU subsidies account for 50% of British farm incomes
  • The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy sets rules for the amount of fish each country’s boats can catch

Leave

  • Britain pays more for the CAP than it gets back so leaving the EU would make more money available for UK farmers
  • The CAP also wastes lots of money on bureaucracy
  • The Common Fisheries Policy has devastated the British fishing industry

Remain

  • Many British farmers would go out of business without the support of the CAP
  • 73% of UK farming exports go to the EU
  • It was the EU that forced France and Germany to lift bans on British beef
  • Fisheries have to be managed to prevent over-fishing


Global role and defence

The debate

  • The EU’s role in foreign affairs has grown in recent years
  • Its foreign policy is led by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs who is assisted by the European External Action Service
  • Individual member states retain a veto on foreign policy proposals

Leave

  • Membership of Nato and the UN Security Council are more important to Britain’s defence than the EU
  • The EU interferes with defence procurement and wants to set up its own army
  • Britain would have more influence on the world stage as an independent country

Remain

  • UK needs to be in the EU helping to take big decisions, not sitting on the sidelines
  • Leaving the EU would diminish Britain’s influence on the world stage
  • Working with EU neighbours to tackle shared threats has helped keep Britain safer


Immigration

The debate

  • Total net migration to the UK is running at over 300,000 a year despite the government’s target of cutting it to under 100,000
  • The most recent official figures put net migration from EU countries at 184,000 a year and non-EU at 188,000
  • EU citizens have the right to live and work in any member state

Leave

  • It is impossible to control immigration as a member of the EU
  • Public services are under strain because of the number of migrants
  • High immigration has driven down wages for British workers
  • Points-based system for migrants to the UK should be extended to include those from the EU

Remain

  • Immigrants, especially those from the EU, pay more in taxes than they take out
  • Cameron’s EU deal means in-work benefits for new EU migrant workers will be limited for the first four years
  • Outside the EU the UK would still have to accept free movement to gain full access to the single market
  • Immigration is good for the economy


Policing and security

The debate

  • Terror attacks in Paris and Brussels have brought security to the centre of the debate
  • The UK is not part of the Schengen borderless travel area but EU citizens have the right to free movement
  • Entry to Britain can be blocked if public security is at stake

Leave

  • Being in the EU makes it easier for terrorists to come to the UK
  • Supremacy of EU courts makes it harder to deport violent criminals
  • Britain would still co-operate with other European countries to fight terrorism after Brexit, as currently happens with the US

Remain

  • Britain does not have open borders because it is not in the Schengen area
  • Europol membership allows the UK to share intelligence and fight cross-border crime
  • The European Arrest Warrant has returned over 1,000 criminals to face justice in the UK


Sovereignty and laws

The debate

  • The UK has to apply EU directives. EU regulations are binding across all member states
  • EU laws are proposed by the European Commission and most of them must be agreed by at least 16 national governments representing 65% of the EU population as well as the European Parliament
  • EU laws are enforced by the European Court of Justice (ECJ)

Leave

  • Most UK laws are made in Brussels
  • Other member states can force through decisions against the UK’s wishes
  • The British government has repeatedly been defeated in cases brought to the ECJ
  • Leaving the EU is the only way to regain full sovereignty

Remain

  • Only a minority of UK laws derive from the EU
  • Britain retains a veto in many important areas
  • Cameron’s EU deal allows national parliaments to block legislation
  • Some sharing of sovereignty is crucial to enable fair trade across Europe


Trade and economy

The debate

  • About half of UK overseas trade is conducted with the EU
  • The EU single market allows the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers
  • Trade negotiations with other parts of the world are conducted by the EU, not individual member states

Leave

  • UK companies would be freed from the burden of EU regulation
  • Trade with EU countries would continue because we import more from them than we export to them
  • Britain would be able to negotiate its own trade deals with other countries

Remain

  • Brexit would cause an economic shock and growth would be slower
  • As a share of exports Britain is more dependent on the rest of the EU than they are on us
  • The UK would still have to apply EU rules to retain access to the single market


Travel and living abroad

The debate

  • Over a million Britons live in other EU countries and millions more visit each year
  • Membership of the EU allows citizens to live and work where they like
  • The EU also makes rules which affect tourists travelling around Europe

Leave

  • There is no reason that leaving the EU would make it harder to go on holiday in Europe
  • International law means current expats could not be forced to return to the UK
  • The UK has deals with lots of other countries to help Britons living abroad

Remain

  • Flights to Europe and using mobile phones on holiday are cheaper thanks to the EU
  • British tourists enjoy free or cheaper healthcare in other EU countries
  • There is no guarantee that expats in the EU would be able to stay after Brexit


Work and pay

The debate

  • Unemployment is over 10% in the EU, almost double the rate in the UK
  • Some workers’ rights are guaranteed by EU laws but tax rates, benefits and the minimum wage are down to UK government decisions

Leave

  • Less regulation in the workplace would create more jobs
  • Maternity leave and holiday pay would only change if Britain decided to change them
  • The UK could get more investment from countries outside the EU
  • Lower migration would push wages up

Remain

  • Three million jobs in the UK are linked to trade with the EU
  • The EU has delivered guaranteed holiday pay, paid maternity leave, and increased protection in the workplace
  • The UK gets £66m investment every day from the EU


EU referendum issues guide: Explore the arguments
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36027205
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