Should we stay or should we go?

Thursday 31 March 2016, 02:03 PM

Sam Barratt
Financial Journalist , Freelance

  • Brexit Main

Brexit might feel like a personality contest between Boris and Dave, but with the referendum set for 23rd June, you need to know what the implications could be.

First, it's important to understand exactly what the EU does. As well as drawing up rules on how bendy your banana can be, the EU was set up after World War Two in an attempt to create more harmony between its member states. It's since evolved into a single market to facilitate trade, with its own parliament, currency and, yes, those bonkers rules.

Those who want us to stay in the EU argue that it's good for business. It makes it easier to trade with other countries in the EU and, by allowing people to work wherever they like within the region, boosts our taxes and economic growth.

In addition they argue that the UK would be in a weaker position on the world stage if it jumped ship - an argument supported by US President Obama's calls for us not to quit.

On the leave side, the arguments focus on the cost of membership, the amount of red tape imposed on businesses and immigration. The UK is one of 10 member states that pays in more than it gets out, with the latest figures from the Treasury showing that after annual rebates, grants and so on, it contributed £8.8bn net in 2014/15 - roughly £24m a day.

They also want to reduce the number of EU citizens that come to the UK for work, arguing that this puts a strain on UK public services and takes jobs away from the Brits.   

What it means to you?
With so much uncertainty on each side, especially as one of the key arguments is simply an interpretation of how immigration affects the UK, it's worth exploring what it would mean on a day-to-day basis.

Depending on what the UK is able to negotiate if it leaves the EU, it could become harder to work, live or retire to other European countries. It might also be more difficult to access free medical treatment while you're abroad as currently there are arrangements in place for the NHS to pick up these costs.

Even going on holiday within Europe will be a bit different. Those fast-track EU citizen passport control lanes at airports? Sorry, if we're no longer a member you'll have to join the long queue with the rest of the world.

Some of the bonkers EU rules would definitely go, although it will take at least two years before the UK could bin them altogether. However, not all the rules are that bonkers. Thanks to the EU, there are strict rules on the environment as well as consumer and workers' rights and it's also responsible for getting rid of those hefty mobile phone charges when we're in other member states.

Although many large businesses are in favour of remaining in the EU, smaller ones could benefit from a reduction in red tape. In addition, those that don't sell their goods or services beyond our borders could also be better off.  

There's also the matter of sport and culture. Although we'd still be able to take part in European competitions - including the Eurovision song contest - concerns have been raised that it won't be so easy to sign football players from other EU states.

After the referendum
If we do vote to leave on 23rd June, don't expect anything to change immediately. Although the UK won't be able to take part in any decision making, it will have to continue to follow the EU rules for at least two years, possibly longer.   

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