EU Referendum – What You Need To Know

Profile photo of Siobhan Bowater
14 April 2016

Stop what you’re doing. I’m not going to pester or preach to you, but if you’re going to be blatantly ignorant about it all, I may as well just scream in your face about the EU Referendum. Because if you’re under 30, this is one of the biggest decisions you could make, and it is going to affect you and your life, whether you choose to accept it or  not.

The UK is going to have a referendum on the 23rd June (PUT IT IN YOUR CALENDAR, LIKE, RIGHT NOW) deciding on whether or not the UK is going to remain in the European Union. You need to have registered to vote firstly, which the deadline is the 7th June. (AGAIN, PUT THAT IN YOUR CALENDAR, DIARY, PHONE, WHATEVER, JUST NOTE THE DATES.)

So, what is a referendum?

A referendum is a vote in which basically EVERYONE – everyone who is of voting age and is REGISTERED to vote, will vote YES or NO to a question set out by the Government. Whichever side has more than HALF of all votes will have won.

What’s the big deal with the EU?

So the European Union is an economic and politically established partnership between 28 European countries. It formed in 1948, not long after the Second World War finally ended, with the idea that countries could trade with each other, and to foster a consistent economic co-operation, with hopes of not going to war with each other anytime soon. WE’RE DOING A PRETTY GOOD JOB SO FAR. The EU has naturally grown over time, it is now a ‘single market’ or a ‘common market’ which basically allows goods AND people to move around, almost as though all countries that are in the EU are ONE country. The EU also has its own parliament, and it now can set rules that affect different areas; from the environment, consumer rights, civil rights, mobile phone charges, transport, basically looking out for the interests of the European Union, not individual countries. The single/common market means that goods, services, money and currency, but MORE IMPORTANTLY PEOPLE can move freely between the countries of the EU. The idea of free movement of goods and services means that it’s usually good news for business and that everyone can profit. Also, 19 of these countries use the Euro!

What were those dates again?

SAVE THE DATE, it’s the 23rd June 2016, it’s going to be on a Thursday. You need to have registered to vote by 7th June. If you turn up at the polling station without being registered, you will not be able to vote. You will be turned away because SHAME ON YOU.

Wait, that’s when Glastonbury’s on! What’s up with that?

Yep, whether it was strategically done this way, or whether it was pure coincidence we’ll never know. However, the people behind Glastonbury are encouraging attendees to register by postal vote, so their vote counts without having to miss getting muddy and wavey.

K. What’s the question going to be like?

The question will be pretty simple for everyone; something along the lines of:

“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

But why are we even having a referendum? How have we got to this point?

Going back to the General Election in May last year, where the Covservatives won, a manifesto pledge was created to hold an in/out referendum by the end of 2017. We are halfway through 2016 by the time the referendum does actually come around. Our Prime Minister David Cameron made the promise of a referendum at a time where the pressure was put on him by backbenchers within his own party and a lot of MPs from Ukip.

What’s Dave saying now?

Cameron negotiated a set of changes to the UK’s membership. The Prime Minister wishes to remain in the UK, however, wants to implement some changes:

  • Protect the single market for non-Euro countries like the UK – The UK is one of the 9 countries who do not use the Euro; the PM wants to ensure that the Euro-using countries cannot gang up on us and force through measures on non-Euro countries; and hopefully ensuring that there is no discrimination or no disadvantage for non-Euro countries.
  • Change immigration rules! – this is the big point that is backed by Ukip as to why we are having a referendum. Current EU immigration rules mean that people from EU countries can make their way to the UK, without needing visas or work permits. It also means they can claim state benefits. Cameron wants to reduce the number of ECONOMIC MIGRANTS coming into the UK; to do this, he plans to restrict migrants from claiming benefits, until they have worked in the UK for at least 4 YEARS. However, critics seem to think that this is unlikely to happen…
  • Make Europe business friendly. – The EU Parliament set certain regulations for businesses in Europe, such as the standards new products have to meet when tested; however, Cameron opposes this and wants to cut the ‘red tape’ which he believes is holding businesses back.
  • Get Britain out of the ‘ever closer union’ – One of the founding EU principles which the UK signed up to was the ever closer union; meaning European citizens driving to integrate more closely. Skeptics of the EU dislike the idea of eroding our national identity and fears the idea of an EU superstate. Cameron basically wants a LEGALLY BINDING ‘get out of jail for free’ card for the UK; he also wants national parliaments to have more power, such power as able to block resolutions that are suggested from the EU parliament.
  • Keeping the pound. £££££££ – David Cameron has said that Britain will NEVER join the Euro.
  • Protection for the City of London – By safeguarding Britain’s large financial services industry to prevent any eurozone regulations that could be imposed on it.

So Dave wants to stay in, what’s the masses saying?

It really, really, really is unclear what is going to happen on the 23rd of June. According to the latest opinion polls say that the UK public is fairly evenly split on whether to remain or leave. Which is kinda scary right? It’s the fear of the unknown, everybody is quite on edge regarding this matter.

What are other ministers saying? What about Corbyn?

Jeremy Corbyn wants to stay in. However, Ukip won the last European elections, receiving almost nearly 4million votes, with 13% of those cast in the General Election, campaigning for Britain’s exit from the EU – #Brexit. About half of Conservative MPs, including 5 cabinet ministers (top dogs), and several Labour MPs. Even Barack Obama has said that he wants Britain to remain in the EU, France and Germany also agree.

But whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy do people want to leave? Surely, it’s not that bad?

Those campaigning for #Brexit believe that the UK is being held back by the big bad EU, saying its too bossy with its many rules on business, and that the UK is charged BILLIONS of £ a year in membership fees, for nothing in return. They also want to ‘TAKE BACK OUR BORDERS’ and thus so, decrease the number of people coming here to work.

So there’s campaigns?

Yep, so we have 2 opposing sides to this referendum. We have the ‘IN’ campaign; Britain Stronger in Europe (BSIE) is a HUGE campaign to stay within the EU, led by former Marks and Spencer’s boss Lord Rose, with backing of Labour ex-Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, as well, Caroline Lucas from the Green Party, business woman Karen Brady, EasyJet’s CEO, many students who wish to go on Erasmus placements, Richard Branson. 

Basically, from decoding this video; it pretty much concentrates on the business side of the argument. The EU is our main trading partner, if we left it, we would have to start paying import and export taxes which could hurt business. BSIE is NOT the OFFICIAL ‘IN’ campaign yet, but is most likely to be chosen by the Electoral Commission.

On the other hand, you have the Vote Leave group wants to be the official ‘out’ campaign, but needs the Electoral Commision to give it the offical stamp, over their rival Leave.Eu. Ukip leader Nigel Farage supports both groups, and suggests that the two should join together.

This is the campaign video from Vote Leave.

After decoding this particular video, the campaign focuses on the millions of £ we send to Brussels in Belgium as membership fees. As we are one of the richest countries within the EU (behind Germany and France), we do pay more for our membership fees, estimating at a huge £118billion a year.

Both parties consist of support from MPs from various different political parties.

What are the pros and cons of leaving let’s say?

There is no exact certainty of this, as no country has EVER done it before, the results are pretty unpredictable. But there are some points to throw out:

  • Membership fee – would result in an immediate cost saving, as the UK would no longer have to contribute to the EU budget. We paid £13billion last year, but we also reveived £4.5billion worth of spending, so technically the UK’s net contribution was £8.5billion. This equates to about 7% of what the Government actually spends on the NHS each year.
  • Trade – The UK would have to start paying import and export tariffs; currently more than half of our exports do go to other EU countries. The UK also does benefit from trade deals between EU and other world powers; like how the EU is currently negotiating with the US to create the planet’s biggest free trade area; something that will benefit UK business.
  • Investment – pro-Europeans think that the UK’s status as one of the top dogs of the business and financial centers will fade away, as it will no longer be seen as a gateway to the EU, from the likes of US banks. Whereas on the other hand, #Brexit campaigners suggest that being free from the EU rules and heavy regulations, Britain could reinvent itself, into a supercharged economy like Singapore.
  • Immigration – At the moment, there stands 924,000 Eastern Europeans, Romanians and Bulgarians, 791,000 western Europeans AND 2.93million workers from outside the EU working in the UK. Statistically China and India are the biggest source of foreign workers in the UK. However, do remember, that whether we stay or leave in the referendum, changes are going to be made regarding immigration and borders.
  • Jobs – Pro-EU people are saying that over 3 million jobs could be lost if we leave the EU. However, figures have shown that since the millenium around 3 million jobs are linked to trade within the European Union – if we left the EU and trade and investment dropped, then some of these jobs would be lost – but new jobs could be created too. Free movement of people across the EU also opens up many, many job opportunities for British workers who seek to work in Europe, in places like Stockholm, Berlin, Barcelona and Lisbon.
  • Security – Since the bombings in Paris and Brussels, everyone is on edge regarding the ‘terror’ coming from the Middle East. Again, it is unsure as what will actually happen whether we leave the EU or not.

But is it really that important? I mean, seriously?

SUPER DUPER SERIOUS. I mean, how do you seriously ask that question? The Prime Minister is launching countless attempts to persuade young people to vote. And rightly doing so, he is at least trying to tell everyone that this is important. For young people, this referendum is going to affect your opportunities to work, study and travel freely throughout the EU. We are the ones that are going to be affected the most by the outcome – it is our FUTURE we’re talking about. The doors could shut on so many opportunities we cannot even fathom what they could be. AND if we leave, there is without doubt there will be an economic shock, and who is it going to hit hardest? YOUNG PEOPLE. LIKE ALWAYS. BECAUSE WE DON’T VOTE.

Just get out there, register to vote, it’s so quick and easy. Talk amongst your friends and family, and TELL THEM THAT THIS IS A BIG DEAL. This is a vote that is really going to determine whether our generation is going to be stronger, safer and better off. This future is OURS. And it is in OUR hands.

It’s simply time, to stop ignoring that this huge vote thing is coming, and we cant avoid it any longer. All you need to do is register to vote by June 7th and if you really cannot be bothered to move from your couch to get your butt to the polling station, you can register and vote by post. It’s that simple. The Government are trying to make it simpler for us, and there is people like me who will not stop talking about these matters to try and make you at least give it some thought other than what’s going on with Kylie and Chyna or Beyonce’s Lemonade, or what footballer has turned out to be a bit of a creep. This is YOUR future I’m trying to engage you with.

You can watch the first 10 minutes of the Scratch News clip below, and see me discuss the EU Referendum on Scratch TV’s 12 Hour Broadcast. Or if you want to hear me ramble once again, please listen to my half an hour podcast regarding the EU with Alex Thompson. 

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