The UK’s EU Referendum: Explained
So What Has Happened?
After weeks of debate, the referendum finally came to a close on Thursday the 23rd of June, as to whether the UK would remain or leave the European Union. Following a countrywide official poll where the turnout was 71.8%, with 30 million plus voting, the decision was made to leave the EU. The final choice was a tight affair but Leave edged it by 52% to the Remain camp’s 48%.
The Voting Breakdown
- England: Voted to Leave by 53.4% to 46.6% for Remain
- Wales: Voted to Leave by 52.5% to 47.5% for Remain
- Scotland: = Voted to Remain by 62% to 38% for Leave
- Northern Ireland: = Voted to Remain by 55.8% to 44.2% for Leave
Why did the referendum happen?
The EU referendum occurred after Prime Minister David Cameron – who this morning has announced he is stepping down from his position following the outcome, as he had previously stated he would – promised to hold it in the event of him winning the general election in 2015, which he ultimately did. Pressure was put on holding a referendum by MPs and parties as it was widely debated that Britain hadn’t had a choice in the matter since 1975, when the UK last voted to stay in. The referendum was promised by Cameron as part of his General Election campaign in light of public opinion demonstrating that some of the British public were becoming frustrated with some measures implemented by the European Parliament in Brussels. Fears were being expressed that Britain was losing sovereignty, and the Prime Minister committed to ‘letting the people decide’ whether or not to carry on with membership.
How long will it take for the departure from the EU to happen?
It will take a minimum period of two years before the decision to leave the EU will take full effect. During those 2 years, the UK will have to continue to follow EU laws and treaty rules, however they will not be allowed to take part in any decisions that may be made, as decided upon in the withdrawal agreement with the 27 nation bloc. Depending on the progress of the negotiations, it could even take longer than two years. In addition to this time, David Cameron this morning expressed that he would “not be the right person” to begin negotiations for the UK’s withdrawal in light of him having championed the ‘remain’ side of the Brexit argument in the lead up to the referendum. With this in mind, a new Conservative leader will be put forward at their party conference in October, until which there will be no move to begin negotiations. In terms of a minimum timeframe, we’re looking at a period of 2 years and 4 months.
Has anyone left before?
The UK will be the first member state to leave the EU. Greenland previously left but this was only after they gained a greater degree of self-government from Denmark in 1982. Since the UK decision to leave was announced this morning, there have already been calls for similar referendums to be held by shadow leaders in other member states, including France and Holland.
What will UK citizens now need in terms of permits in order to work in the EU?
This will largely depend on the deals that get agreed with the EU following the Brexit. In the case that the UK does remain within a single market, it’s probable that free movement rights would be retained allowing UK citizens to work in the EU and vice versa in the same way as they currently are allowed to do. However, if the government decide to instead execute work permit restrictions, other countries would follow suit, ultimately meaning that Brits will have to apply for visas in order to work elsewhere in Europe.
How about EU nationals wanting to working in Britain?
Once again, this will be decided on whether the UK government decides on imposing the work permit system that is currently in place for all non-EU citizens, who are limited entry depending on their skill set in jobs that are on the UK’s talent shortage list. There has been talk of implementation of a points based system, similar to the current one used for non-EU migrants.
Can the UK re-join in the future?
It is possible for the UK to re-join but it would mean the country would have to start from scratch with no rebate, and enter into accession talks with the Union. It would then be down to all of the states to agree to the UK getting back in but following the result and the after effects it is having on other countries and their elections, countries may not jump to allow Britain back in.
It is stated in the terms and conditions that all new members would have to take up the Euro as their currency, once they’d passed all of the set criteria, however this could possibly be negotiated by the UK again if they were to apply to re-enter.
Why did people want to leave?
The consensus was that they felt the country was being held back by being a member of the EU. They felt that too many rules were being forced upon businesses, meaning they’d get stuck will billions of pounds per year of charges in membership fees for what was felt to be not a great deal of return on that investment.
If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you’ll also know that immigration was a huge factor in the debate in the lead up to the referendum vote. Leave campaigners wanted to take back control of the UK’s borders to reduce the amount of people immigrating to the country to live or work here.
One of the main principles of being a part of the EU was it’s ‘free movement’ law, which meant you didn’t need to have a visa to go and live in other EU countries.
Why did people want to stay?
Remain campaigners were adamant to stay due to the benefits of having the EU membership. This refers to easier selling between EU counties and it was also massively argued that immigrants, who wanted to work, was helping to benefit the economy’s growth. Another factor was down to the fact that people believed leaving would hurt the UK’s reputation and remove the security of having 28 countries behind it.
So what will happen to businesses?
The majority of big businesses wanted to stay in the EU as it allows them to easily move people, money and also their products between countries. However, it has been rumoured that despite the large fear of leaving will harm this freedom, it has been mentioned it will allow Britain to negotiate trade deals as our country on its own rather than as part of a whole group of nations.
This news will bring joy to the small to medium sized countries of the country as it will see a removal of several regulations that have restricted their efforts.
Will EHIC cards still be valid?
This is still unsure as of yet… The EHIC card gives travellers the right to state-provided medical help for any injury or condition that needs immediate treatment in any other country within the EU including several non EU countries. This however, is not an EU initiative. The UK’s future of EHIC cover will depend on whether they decide to stay apart of the EEA – the European Economic Area.
What does the UK contribute to the EU and how much do they get back?
The UK is 1 out of 10 membered states who pays more into the EU than they actually get out. It is only France and Germany who in fact contribute more. In 2014/15, Poland benefited the most, who were closely followed by Greece and Hungary.
It was negotiated by Margaret Thatcher that we get an annual rebate and funding back into regional development grants as well as contributions to our farmers. This figure stood at £4.6bn in 2014/15.
The latest Treasury figures show that Britain’s net contribution for 2014/15 was £8.8bn, which is close to double what was back in 2009/10. Alternatively, the National Audit Office – who used a different formula which takes into account EU money paid directly to private sector companies and universities to fund research, and measured over the EU’s financial year – shows the UK’s net contribution for 2014 was £5.7bn.
After months and months of debate the final decision to leave has now been made. There are hundreds of questions that will now be asked in regards to what will happen for the citizens and settlers. As ever, we urge you to get in contact with us if there is anything at all you need help on.
What is sure at the moment is the presence of initial panic that has happened. With so much uncertainty it has undoubtedly caused concern but time will tell the true extent of the decision. During the aftermath of the result we will begin to discover the true implications of the decision so only time will reveal what will actually happen. As always, we will keep you updated with any information and news that takes place.