With EU referendum is heating up in Britain, the big question arises whether leaving EU will be a loss or gain?
The UK Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to hold a Cabinet meeting on Friday where the euroskeptic ministers will finally have chance to voice their opinion in the Cabinet with regards to EU referendum.
During the British public election in 2013, the Conservatives promised in their election manifesto that, if they remain in power, they will hold a Nationwide referendum by the end of 2017 to determine on whether or not the UK should stay in or leave the European Union.
And they have won the elections and now are under pressure to fulfill their promise. Hence, Cameron has agreed to hold a cabinet meeting to discuss the referendum.
Divide over Referendum
When comes to being in the EU and withdrawing from the EU, there is a complex divide among the parties and also within the parties.
The majority of the United Kingdom Independence party (UKIP) wants Britain’s exit (otherwise known as ‘Brexit’), whereas just 15 percent of the British Conservative Party members are in favour of Britex.
The Liberal-Democrates, , The Labour party, Scottish National Party (SNP), Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales), the Green party and notably majority of the conservatives including David Cameron, George Osborne and most Cabinet secretaries wants UK to stay in the EU.
To understand the issue, a peep into the history is essential.
Formation of EEC
Before the Formation of the EU, it was known as the European Economic Community (EEC). After the World War II the economies started collapsing and the EEC was formed to recover Europe from the economic crisis.
The UK joined the EEC in 1972. At that time the EEC was an organisation that worked to facilitate economic cooperation and free trade among the member nations with the idea that countries which trade together are more likely to avoid going to war with each other.
Not everyone in the UK wanted to stay with EEC.
In 1975 a referendum was held in the United Kingdom, asking whether the electorate wished to remain part of what was then the Common Market.
Just like the present Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservative Party, then Prime Minister Harold Wilson of the Labour Party too campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU.
(Image Courtesy : Financial Times)
Eventually the 1975 referendum echoed a resounding “YES”, as the result was that 67.5 percent of votes were in favour of staying in.
Journey towards the Second Referendum
Today’s situation is very different from back then when the first referendum was put forth.
The EEC has become EU since 1993, with more countries joining in.
Today, Europe is still an important economic zone, but the things aren’t the same anymore.
Not only the economic situation changed, also the EU today is very different from the EEC that Britain joined.
While the EEC was about economy, the current EU is more of a political union. The EU evolved from a purely economic cooperation between independent countries, into an institution that is starting to look like a country in its own right.
EU has all of the institutions an independent country is supposed to have. It has a parliament of its own, its own courts not only to discuss trade disputes, but also on human rights, it has the European commission that acts like a government and even has delegations in nearly 117 countries.
Because of the Euro Crisis, most EU members feel that the EU should broaden its scope even more.
Brexit campaigners raise concerns over the EU is evolving towards becoming a federal state and they believe its affecting the sovereignty of the UK.
They also feel its undemocratic to be controlled by ‘unelected’ members from Brussels, the Head Quarter of the EU.
Greek crisis is one example of how controlling and demanding EU can be.
— Shadz (@shadz6ty6) February 11, 2016
Cameron’s efforts to negotiate with EU:
With these prospects in consideration, Prime Minister Cameron put forth his demands as a draft before the EU and had a considerable number of gains in areas like sovereignty, immigration, security and some economic gains as well.
But the Brexit campaigners are unconvinced. Even some of his own party aren’t convinced with his deal with the EU.
Leaving EU: A loss or gain?
Notably the Conservative MP’s Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are disappointed that he failed to stress more on immigration issues whilst making a deal with the EU.
They feel Brexit would restore the sovereignty of the UK, and also will let UK to handle the immigration issues better.
— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) February 17, 2016
The Pro-EU campaigners argue that the Britain’s economy had fallen far behind Germany and France in 1975, when it last voted on membership.
Being in EU, Britain has emerged one of the fastest growing major economies over recent years, overtaking France as the EU’s second largest economy in 2014.
Meanwhile the British Chambers of Commerce says 55% of members back staying in a reformed EU.
They say, being in EU helps the UK in selling things easier. Also they believe that the flow of immigrants with majority being young and keen to work, it fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services.
Apart from economic and political factors, writers like George Monbiot also don’t want to support EU for the sake of environment and wildlife.
In his article in The Guardian he says, “Would I stop supporting the EU? If it bows to industry pressure to sink nature directives, crucial to protecting wildlife and habitats, there will be little left to vote for in a referendum.”
Whereas the past heads of RSPB and National Trust believe the otherwise. They believe that the EU membership has positive effect on Britain’s natural habitat. and they say leaving EU would be disastrous for the UK’s environment.
The UK did get benefited from the environmental policies of the EU to some extent.
Even in case of Brexit, the gains from the EU policies can be sustained if the UK embrace the same or similar policies.
But if Brexit happens, it will be a big loss for the EU as Britain is its second largest economy and one of its top two military powers.
Brexit would affect the livelihood of the EU immigrants in the UK, as well as the UK immigrants in the EU.
So the EU is less likely to let Britain go.
And interestingly, USA is urging UK to stay in the EU.
— World Economic Forum (@wef) February 16, 2016
Also the pro-EU campaigners in Britain believe that, leaving the EU would hurt Britain’s economy and could trigger the break-up of the United Kingdom by prompting another Scottish referendum.
And The Scottish National Party (SNP) has stated that it will push for another Scottish referendum, if the UK leaves the EU.
— RT UK (@RTUKnews) February 17, 2016
Controversy over the date for Referendum
While the pro’s and con’s of the referendum been debated, now a controversy has stirred up over the possible date for referendum proposed by the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister David Cameron earlier said that the referendum will happen by the end of 2017. The most likely times of the year for referendums are generally May or September. There had been suggestions that it could be held in May 2016, to coincide with elections in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London, rather than waiting for 2017. But the government has ruled that out after objections from Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh politicians as it clashed with the elections in their respective countries. With recent developments, the referendum is likely to be held by 23rd June 2016.
The leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – Nicola Sturgeon, Carwyn Jones and Arlene Foster – urged Cameron not to hold the EU referendum in June as they feel it would cause confusion and would lack clarity.
SNP has stated that it would be disrespectful to Scotland, if the referendum he held in June.
But Cameron ruled out the possibility of any further change in the date.
— Digital Look (@DigitalLookNews) February 12, 2016
Regardless of what the politicians say or fight over, by the end of the day, it’s the people who will decide the fate as the referendum that holds the key to determine future of both the UK as well as the EU.
Who can vote?
When the referendum is held, British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK, along with UK nationals who have lived overseas for not more than 15 years can vote.
The members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar will also be eligible to vote, unlike the general elections.
Citizens from EU countries- Ireland, Malta and Cyprus-who were under British Empire in the past will also take part in the voting.