Liz Bilney is CEO of Leave.EU. The campaign was founded by businessmen Arron Banks and Richard Tice. We are a passionate group of non-political individuals united by our belief that Britain can do so much better if we leave the EU.
The Conservative government has now set a date for a referendum on whether or not the UK should stay in, or leave, the European Union. The date is Thursday 23 June 2016.
A referendum is an election where the vote of the general public will decide the outcome of a decision which is being considered by the government. In most cases, voters choose between two answers on the ballot paper such as, 'Yes' or 'No'. The government is expected to then follow through with the most popular response – the one which gets more than 50% of votes.
In the upcoming EU referendum, the question will be:
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
Remain a member of the European Union
Leave the European Union
The Electorate is composed of British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK or any other UK territories within the EU, namely Gibraltar. UK nationals who have lived overseas for less than 15 years are also eligible.
The ‘European Union’ (EU) is a political union of 28 European countries. Confusingly, the name of the geographical region, ‘Europe’ is often used to refer to the EU even though 22 European countries are not part of the EU.
The EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), which the UK joined in 1973, started life as a group of 6 nations. The purpose of the EEC was to preserve peace by promoting greater economic cooperation in Europe. By making each member's goods, services, capital, and labour – known as the 'four freedoms' – accessible to the other member states, they would become increasingly integrated economically, and would therefore have too much to lose from going to war with one another.
The EEC then became the EU, which has seen political and economic integration accelerate, considerably expanding it in scope and size. The EU now presides over monetary union for the majority of member states, while the long list of EU legislative acts, which all members are bound to follow, has extended well beyond the market to include Home Affairs and Foreign Policy.
In order to establish common rules, the founding nations created 'supranational' institutions; public bodies which are answerable to no national authority. The European Commission and the European Parliament are two such institutions. They formulate and approve all EU legislation, with the help of input from the Member States. As the EU's scope has broadened the amount of legislation pumped out and sent to Europe's capitals has increased. Today, more than half of UK bills and acts stem from Brussels’ legislation.
In 1999, the EU evolved further through the introduction of a single currency for a large proportion of the EU Member States – the Euro. In 2009 a European constitution was introduced, which gave more powers to the European Parliament. The 'Lisbon Treaty' also extended the EU's reach over Foreign Policy and Home Affairs, thereby extending the EU's scope well beyond economic integration.
Now David Cameron has completed his renegotiation, and the referendum bill has passed through Parliament, the referendum date has been set: Thursday 23 June 2016.
Since Britain joined the EU (or EEC as it was then) over 40 years ago, it has undergone a huge amount of change (see what is the EU). Increasing numbers have become aware the EU is not working at all well for Britain, and is holding it back. The Conservative party responded to public pressure for a referendum, making it one of its key 2015 election pledges.
Reforms are changes to the UK’s relationship with the European Union, and the powers it has over the United Kingdom.
The prime minister has now completed his renegotiation with the EU over Britain’s membership of the European Union. However the reforms secured with 27 other heads of government in Brussels amount to little real change in the UK’s power to influence or block unwanted EU legislation or control over its borders.
Amongst the very few concessions, David Cameron won back a four year ban on in-work benefits for migrants over a seven-year period. However, the ‘emergency-break’ can only be applied and lifted gradually and only during ‘exceptional’ levels of migration.
He also received a promise that Britain would not be included in any future plans for ‘ever-closer Union’, a statement in the EU treaties with no legal character.
The renegotiation is modest compared to Cameron's 'Bloomberg' speech made in early 2013. Leave.EU has labelled it a fudge as it offers no meaningful change in the UK's relationship with the EU. For a more thorough analysis of the renegotiation visit Leave.EU's sister site fudgeoff.eu.
In its current state, the EU does not serve Britain's best interests. Only by achieving the following would we have deemed the government's renegotiation to be a success:
In the event of a vote to 'Leave' at the upcoming referendum on EU membership, our government would be obliged to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union (as amended by the Lisbon Treaty). This consists of two elements: the first is a two year notice period after which the UK ceases to be an EU Member State. The second puts in place the framework for negotiations towards an alternative trading agreement (for which there is no set time limit) with the EU after we leave.
Leaving the EU would allow Britain to trade more freely with the rest of the world. It is also important to remember Britain does not need to be a member of the EU in order to trade with it. Given that the EU sells far more to the UK than is sold in the other direction, the remaining EU member states will seek a trade agreement assuring the same level of free exchange of goods, services and capital as is the case today. First and foremost, Britain's prosperity (and therefore jobs) depend on free trade across the globe. A replacement trade deal with the EU covering at least 90% of trade is a certainty.
If the UK became independent again, it could also capitalise on its Commonwealth ties to have free trade deals with the likes of India, Australia and Malaysia – all Commonwealth countries with which the EU has made no headway.
As a country which traditionally embraces trade, the UK could add a range of other emerging markets such as China, Indonesia and the UAE – again ones which the EU is yet to agree terms with – and offer the UK businesses a real competitive advantage over their rivals in mainland Europe and beyond.
The EU is not well set-up to arrange these types of deals because they require the approval of all 28 EU member states. Any country can scupper a deal if it does not see the benefits, which is unfortunate for a traditional free-trader like the UK.
There are two pillars to consider which forecast a positive impact on the economy:
As an EU member, the UK has to have open borders and cannot restrict access to EU citizens. Only on leaving the EU can the UK impose restrictions on the length of stay and right to work of all persons entering the country. Britain has always had a long tradition of welcoming the right quality and quantity of immigration, but the EU's open border policy means the UK has no control over numbers. Thus we cannot properly plan the infrastructure such as housing, schools and hospitals nor can we welcome talent from other countries such as our Commonwealth friends.
The UK pays £15.3bn per year in membership fees to the EU. Britain is a 'net contributor' to the EU budget – it gets back less than it puts in for two reasons:
The EU would be obliged to grant permanent settlement rights to Britons living in Ireland and mainland Europe, and the UK would do the same.
Because all mainland EU members are part of the Schengen passport union, UK citizens would continue to enjoy unfettered access across the continent, once they had cleared passport control in the first country in which they arrive. We would have similar easy access arrangements to those of Switzerland – it is not an EU member either. Given how dependent the rest of Europe is on British business travel and tourism, a question of visas should not arise.
According to a recent study, staying in the European Union would cost the UK £9,625 per household. Inevitably, UK households will benefit from lower consumer bills due to more appropriate and effective regulations across the whole range of products and services (food, clothing, energy, banking etc.)
Open Europe estimates UK businesses will save at least £33.3bn from no longer having to follow EU regulations. If you consider an EU exit will also provide the country with a £15.3bn windfall, one can imagine how this will help to reduce taxes, and push up employment. This is even before we consider the opportunities from increased trade.
They could, and probably should. Under EU law, the UK is not permitted to apply a standard VAT rate below 15%, and a reduced VAT rate below 5%. These limits could be repealed once the UK secured independence.
With the UK treasury liberated of a £15.7bn bill each year, the government may seek to lower some taxes.
Most importantly, our directly elected government will have increased decision-making powers on what and whom it taxes, and to what extent.
The predominant change would be that Brussels would no longer have direct say over UK law. The UK may continue to adopt international product standards to help UK exporters reach foreign markets, but the volume of these rules would be miniscule compared to the thousands of EU rules the UK is required to adopt. Furthermore, the European Court of Justice would cease to have absolute authority over the UK government.
No. we would have more. Currently on many of the most important global bodies, such as the World Trade Organisation, it is the EU that represents the UK. Leaving will give Britain its own seat back at this and many other important global organisations.