Following his party’s pledge before the most recent British general election, Prime Minister David Cameron has now revealed when the UK will hold a referendum to determine whether it will remain a member of the European Union (EU).
The UK has been a core member of the EU for decades. Throughout this time, the subject of British membership has been highly contentious. Some argue that the EU’s ruling bodies in Brussels exert too much influence over British life. Others suggest that leaving the EU (commonly known as a ‘Brexit’) would devastate the island nation economically and socially.
Ever since David Cameron’s Conservative Party won the UK general election in May 2015, we’ve known that a referendum on EU membership will be held in the next few years. The Telegraph’s amalgamation of public opinion polls show that attitudes towards the measure are pretty evenly split. Just over half (54%) of people want to remain in the EU, while 46% are in favour of a Brexit.
Personally, David Cameron and a large majority of Westminster politicians support remaining in the EU. While promising a referendum on British EU membership before the general election, Cameron also pledged to strike a deal to change the nature of this relationship.
The government has been conducting negotiations with key EU officials for months, but recently they announced a deal has been struck. I won’t go over every point, but the agreement has handed a raft of new powers to government’s across the Union, especially in the following three areas.
Sovereignty: Whitehall’s deal protects national sovereignty against EU legislation that 55% of parliaments view as harmful. Also, it shields the UK from ‘ever closer union’ with other EU states.
Migration: The deal sets some limits on the free movement of migrants within the EU e.g. allowing countries to refuse to let migrants they view as a security risk from settling within their borders. It also allows national governments greater control of the financial benefits e.g. child benefit, migrants are allowed to claim in their countries.
Trade: As a result of Cameron’s negotiations, the EU will implement changes that will benefit its member states economically, such as making it’s business environment more competitive and streamlining regulation. Specifically, the deal also provides protections for key British industries such as the UK’s lucrative finance sector as well.
With a deal on EU membership now established, The BBC reports that Cameron finally felt comfortable revealing when Whitehall would hold the referendum; Thursday 23rd June 2016. It looks as though the wording of the referendum will be “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” Voters will either be able to say that the UK should “remain a member of the European Union” or “leave the European Union.”
So which way should you vote? I can’t answer this question for you, but I can summarise both arguments. First, some people think that the EU holds Britain back. They argue that the organisation imposes billions of pounds in membership fees annually and far too many rules on British business, but the UK gets little back in return. Furthermore, people who hold this viewpoint want the UK to have full control of its border and reduce the number of foreigners working in Britain, generally believing they’re too great a drain on the nations resources.
In contrast, those who believe the UK should remain in the EU think that the organisation is a huge asset. They argue that it makes selling British goods to EU countries easier and cheaper and that the free flow of migrants between member states fuels economic growth because they bring core skills the UK needs. These people also suggest that the UK is more secure as a part of a multinational bloc, and that Britain’s role in EU decision-making gives it prestige on the world stage.
In conclusion, the UK’s referendum on whether it should remain a member of the EU is just months away. Whichever decision Britain makes, it could significantly alter the course of our nation’s history. This is why I would strongly urge anyone who’s eligible to take part in the vote to conduct their own research in the run-up to June, so they can make an informed decision on this vital issue when they step into the polling booth.