countdown to voting day
Find the Facts
After months of build-up, the vote on whether Britain remains in or leaves the EU is nearly here.
We are fed up with the way the debate has been dominated by overblown claims, and fear mongering, and we get the impression that we are not the only ones. So we’ve done our best to get past the petty squabbles and empty rhetoric, and Find the Facts on some key topics which have dominated the campaign. We believe that no-one should feel they can’t vote because they don’t have enough information, that’s a crying shame!
So we have gathered together independent, neutral sources of information to allow you to make up your own mind on the EU Referendum.
Join us as we hit the campaign treasure trail between now and voting on 23 June, to Find the Facts
One of four founding principles of the EU is the free movement of goods. This means that trade among EU countries is free and no tax or tariff is required.
Currently 44% of Britain’s trade is with other EU states. However this figure has been declining over a number of years as trade with countries outside the EU has increased. This decline is mainly due to the economic downturn in the EU.
As a member of the EU, Britain has to negotiate any trade deals with non-EU countries through the EU, meaning Britain can’t negotiate deals on its own.
If we leave the EU then the UK would have the right to negotiate its own trade agreements and join the World Trade Organisation. However by leaving the EU we would have to negotiate new trade deals with countries from the EU, our biggest trading bloc. Norway and Iceland currently have a trade deal with the EU but this can be negotiated at any time by EU states without either Norway or Iceland having a vote on any changes.
Since 2005-2014, £540 billion has been invested in the UK by EU countries. This is partly driven by the free movement of people and goods.
By leaving the EU the UK would no longer have access to the free market (unless this was negotiated in the future) meaning any EU country looking to invest in the UK would now have to pay tariffs and vice versa.
We would be able to trade with any country without negotiating it through the EU including China, Brazil and America. However, with the EU being our biggest trading partner we would now not only have to re-negotiate a deal with the EU but may also have to pay tariffs.
Given the number of unknowns regarding what would happen should we stay or should we leave, no one can be certain of the economic effects of either course.
Currently the EU has free movement of peoples. This means that anyone from an EU country can travel, study or settle in another EU country.
Currently 1 million Brits live in other EU countries. Around 3 million EU residents live in the UK, about 5% of the population. 41% of EU migrants move to the UK for a job, 32% to join/accompany someone and 15% to study.
EU migrants currently contribute an estimate of £5 billion to the British economy, a fact accepted by both sides.
However, a key issue that has arisen is that immigration can take place without sufficient investment in necessary infrastructure: housing, schools, hospitals and roads (and language classes).
By leaving the EU Britain would be able to decide its own immigration policy regarding EU migrants. This could mean that only skilled workers are allowed entry to the UK. However, if we leve the EU and British people were looking to work or live in the EU we don’t yet know what restrictions there would be for them.
Norway and Iceland, as part of their trade deal with the EU, have to accept free movement of EU citizens.
Immigration from non EU countries, over which we do have direct control, already exceeds the level of immigration from EU countries, (ONS Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: May 2016) so it is unlikely that either staying or going would result in dramatic changes in patterns of migration.
Currently 10% of registered doctors for the NHS are from EU countries and 4% of registered nurses are from EU countries.
Non-EU immigration policy has already affected NHS recruitment. Non-EU residents now need to earn £30k or more to stay in the country. The majority of nurses and junior doctors will not make this amount of money.
With a European health card you can receive free healthcare in any EU country. However the same also applies for any country in the European Economic area such as Switzerland. Some EU countries will still also charge a small fee with the card.
EU funding is currently being invested in research to fight cancer, malaria, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. British science gets £3.2 Million in funding each day. It is up to the UK government, not Europe, to set the budget for the NHS.
The EU has no say over school curriculum or education in Britain. This remains completely sovereign to all EU countries.
As it stands EU students can study in the UK and UK residents can study anywhere in the EU. EU and UK students studying in the UK pay the same amount in fees. UK students have the right to register to study for a degree in a EU country many of which do not charge tuition fees. (www.studyineurope.eu)
If we leave the EU then EU students looking to study in a UK university will have to pay the same as non-EU students, which is significantly more than the figures that UK students pay.
As we know, people within the EU have the right to travel anywhere in the EU. This makes life much easier without Visa’s and security checks.
Flights to Europe are substantially cheaper than flights outside Europe. A lot of this is to do with being in the single market, which opened up flights to competition.
If we were to leave Europe, it is hard to say whether prices would change.
The EU will be scrapping roaming charges for calls made from EU countries to other EU countries. However this will also include non-EU countries who are part of the European Economic area so Britain would still have a choice to sign up to this deal.
The European Convention on Human Rights was a response to the horror of the Second World War. It was Winston Churchill who in 1948 advocated a European 'Charter of Human Rights' in direct response to the abject horrors of the Nazi regime and the Second World War. British lawyers primarily drafted what was later to become the European Convention.
It safeguards every human from the sort of genocide and persecution that was experienced by the Nazi regime. It includes rights such as: the right to life, the right to an education, the right to a fair trial, protection from discrimination and freedom of thought, expression and belief.
However, some people feel that human rights have been taken a step too far, such as votes for convicted criminals.
The Convention, was drafted by British MP and lawyer Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe and we have been a signatory since 1951, long before we entered into the EU.
Rulings of the European Court of Human Rights are now incorporated into UK legislation (or ‘brought home’) as a consequence of the Human Rights Act (a piece of UK legislation).
It is unlikely that leaving the EU would have a significant impact on our long standing commitment to respect for Human Rights, even if it did lead to a new alternative ‘Bill of Rights’. There is a very amusing exploration of the European Convention here.
Legislation is a very controversial topic regarding the EU. Many feel we have given too much power to the EU. At the same time no-one really has a real figure of how many of our laws are imposed by people in Brussels (figures range from 10-70%).
- Employment rights
The EU currently protects maternity pay, paid holidays, the maximum hours you can work a week and from discrimination in the workplace. Some of those who want to leave, including small businesses, call a lot of this ‘red-tape’ and think this holds companies back.
At the same time UK law guarantees a minimum/living wage for its workers, not the EU, and this is also sometimes presented as a barrier for some small businesses.
- The Environment
The EU has, controversially some might say, dictated law on where the UK can fish and the quota it can fish, set targets for the UK’s carbon footprint and even how powerful our hoovers can be. The introduction of energy-saving light bulbs was also another law imposed by the EU. On the other side of the coin, here it could be argued that we have fishing quotas to make sure we do not over-fish and allow the fish population to reproduce, while setting a target on Britain’s carbon. Prior to joining the EU, Britain was involved in a series of ‘Cod Wars’ with Iceland (although no lives were lost) some of which saw British fishing trawlers have their nets cut by the Icelandic Coast Guard, and there were several incidents of ramming by Icelandic ships and British trawlers, frigates and tugboats.
- Other areas
The EU does not dictate how the UK handles education, the budget or the NHS. It has little influence over taxation; although The EU states that any EU nation must have a VAT rate of at least 15%. There is no limit on the maximum VAT rate. Hungary currently has the highest with 27%.
Currently European players have the freedom to play for any club in the EU without a visa. This includes players such as Diego Payet, Mezut Ozil and Hugo Lloris.
For players currently outside the EU then a work permit is needed. Currently two thirds of European players in the premiership would not qualify for a work permit. The restrictions on non-EU players depend on international games played, transfer fee and FIFA rankings. This would affect players such as Hector Bellerin, Anthony Martial and even David De Gea.
The other side of the argument is that cheap European players have hurt British talent. As European players are currently cheaper to buy than British players, most clubs sign a European player of similar ability. Being in the EU also means that players from outside the EU are treated unequally as they are currently harder to sign. With the current system players from low ranked foreign nations have to play 75% of international games in a year.
You want MORE?
We’ve done our best to address some key points here, but of course there’s loads more information available if you want to know more. Here are some links to further content on the Referendum. We can’t vouch for the total accuracy of any of the sites listed here, but they are ones that we found useful while we were making our minds up.
Who’s In/Who’s Out?
Famous people voting REMAIN
Stephen Hawking ‘Leaving the EU would be a disaster for science’
Sir Richard Branson
Keira Knightley ‘From the smallest gallery to the biggest blockbuster, many of us have worked on projects that would never have happened without vital EU funding or by collaborating across borders’
Emma Thompson ‘we should be taking down borders, not putting them up’
Helena Bonham Carter ‘I feel European but I also feel we can be British and be part of Europe without it impinging on our sense of identity’
Mike Leigh - film director
Danny Boyle - director of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later
Jeremy Clarkson ‘Britain, on its own, has little influence on the world stage’
Eddie Izzard ‘Brexit is almost synonymous with recession’
Sir Alan Sugar ‘quitting the EU would be a massive mistake’
Karren Brady ‘cutting ourselves off from Europe would have devastating consequences’
Famous people voting LEAVE
Ian Botham ‘we have lost the right to govern ourselves, to make our own laws and choose who comes here’
Michael Caine ‘you’ve now got in Europe a sort of government-by-proxy of everybody who has now got carried away’
Katie Hopkins ‘I won’t be opening my bedroom to refugees. I stand for British people and putting British people first’
Elizabeth Hurley ‘If it means we can go back to using decent lightbulbs ad choose high powered hairdryers and vacuum cleaners if we so wish, I’m joining Brexit for sure’
Sol Campbell ‘If we had proper control of who can come in and out of Britain, we could attract the best wherever they come from’
Bernie Ecclestone ‘I want us to leave Europe’
Julian Fellowes ‘I believe we should be out. It’s about philosophy, democracy’
Duncan Bannatyne ‘We MUST leave the EU ... we MUST’
Sir Richard Dearlove - Former head of MI6
Vicky Pattison - Geordie Shore
How laws are made.
European legislation is made through the interaction of three institutions: The Commission, the Parliament and the Council.
The European Commission is made up of 28 appointed ‘Commissioners’ (one from each country).
It is the ‘executive’ body of the European Union responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU.
In some ways it is like the ‘civil service’ of the EU. It does not have powers to make new laws in itself, but the way it operates can influence decisions.
Each Commissioner swear an oath pledging to respect the EU treaties and to act in the interests of the community rather than the specific interests of the country that proposed them.
It is in the Commission that new ideas are brought forward. There proposals are then passed on to the European Parliament and European Council.
Parliament - elected MEPs.
The European Parliament (EP) is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union (EU). The Parliament is composed of 751 members, who represent the second largest democratic electorate in the world (after the Parliament of India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world (375 million eligible voters in 2009). It has been directly elected every five years by universal suffrage since 1979. However, turnout at European Parliament elections has fallen consecutively at each election since that date, and has been under 50% since 1999.
Although the European Parliament makes laws, it can only do so when invited to do so and all laws must be ratified by the Council.
The Parliament broadly shares equal legislative and budgetary powers with the Council. It also shares control over the EU budget.
The Council also holds the European Commission to account. In particular, Parliament elects the President of the Commission, and approves (or rejects) the appointment of the Commission as a whole. It can force the Commission as a body to resign by adopting a motion of censure.
The Council of the European Union (often still referred to as the Council of Ministers) represents the individual governments of the EU's member states.
Each member state sends one representative to the Council. But they can send different people to different meetings depending on the topic under consideration; for example, when discussing agricultural policy the Council is formed by the 28 national ministers whose portfolio includes agriculture.
Before it becomes law, legislation must be agreed by the Council.
The Commission proposes legislation and for it to become law, it is necessary to be agreed by both the Council (representatives of elected member states) and the Parliament (directly elected every five years).