You may have heard that David Cameron has announced a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union. The EU Referendum will to be held on Thursday 23 June. To help you understand what the referendum and “Brexit” mean for you and the UK, We Talk Law have put together this handy guide for you. Here we go:
What is a “referendum”?
A referendum is simply a vote. Almost everyone of voting age in the UK can usually take part. Normally, it’s a simple “yes” or “no” answer and the outcome of the vote will directly affect government policy. The last time the UK had a referendum on the EU was in 1975, shortly after joining it. The new EU referendum will be the third UK referendum since then. In June, a “no” vote will mean the UK is removed from the EU, and therefore it holds no power over the UK. A “yes” vote means that the UK remains part of the EU, but with changes to its level of power.
Why is the EU referendum being held?
The EU has changed a lot in the last 40 years, and people are beginning to wonder whether we are better off without it. Since the last election, people in the UK have now made it clear that they want to re-evaluate whether or not to stay in the UK, and this pressure has made the government call for a referendum. They want to have their say over how much power the EU has over the UK.
Why would we want to leave the EU?
The EU Parliament directly affects our laws, benefits system, trade, immigration levels and our currency, the pound. Many believe that EU laws and legislation restrict UK businesses, result in higher immigration levels, and mean that workers in the UK are struggling to find jobs due to migrant workers. Many also believe that it would strengthen the pound. However, on the other side of the argument, others believe that the UK depends heavily on its trade agreements with the EU and free movement, and that leaving would damage the UK financially and commercially.
What are the changes that David Cameron has agreed?
If the UK votes to stay part of the EU, the Prime Minister has recently negotiated a range of changes to the level of power the EU has over the UK. If the vote is a “yes” on the 23rd of June. the following changes will come into effect immediately:
- Migrants who send the child benefits abroad may have their benefits reduced, depending on the cost of living in their home country.
- The UK will be able to decide to limit in-work benefits for EU migrants during their first four years in the UK. This so-called “emergency brake” can be applied in the event of “exceptional” levels of migration, but must be released within seven years – without exception.
- Britain will be able to keep the pound, and be able to continue to trade with the EU, without fear of discrimination.
- Any British money spent on bailing out Eurozone nations will be reimbursed.
- Britain’s large financial services industry in the City of London will be protected to prevent EU regulations affecting it.
- The UK will retain its “sovereignty”, meaning its power to govern itself, and will not be part of an “ever closer union” with other EU member states
- It will now be easier for EU governments to group together to block unwanted legislation. Now, If 55% of national EU parliaments object to EU legislation it will have to be rethought.
- There will also be limits on “free movement” between EU countries, such as denying automatic free movement rights to nationals of a country outside the EU who marry an EU national. This is part of a movement to tackle “sham marriages”.
- There will also be new powers to exclude people believed to be a security risk, even if they have no previous convictions.
How might leaving the EU affect you?
- British jobs may be affected – There is a lot of conflicting information on this subject. Many say that many global companies with presences in the UK may move to lower-cost EU countries, while others say that the reduced levels of immigration upon leaving would result in a UK job boom, and mean small-to medium-sized companies would benefit from reduced EU red tape and regulations. However, large organisations such as the NHS are dependent on many EU citizens, and so restricting their numbers could leave the country short of workers.
- EU citizens living in the UK may be affected – If the UK leaves, EU nationals would face the same restrictions as people outside the EU. If you’re an EU citizen living in the UK who is concerned about the outcome of the forthcoming referendum, then now may be the time to apply for a British passport. By holding British Citizenship, then you will be able to stay if the UK votes to leave the EU. The majority of EU countries will permit their nationals to have dual citizenship, so you wouldn’t have to surrender citizenship to your home country in order to acquire UK citizenship.
- UK citizens living in the EU may be affected – Currently, about 2.2million British citizens live in other EU nations. By leaving the EU, it will make it harder for expats to move to and remain in foreign countries. British nationals may face deportation if they cannot speak the language or integrate with life in the EU country.
Planning for the future
In summary, both leaving and staying in the EU will affect the daily life of almost all UK citizens and EU migrants. With both sides of the argument presenting convincing facts and reasons to stay or leave, we understand it may be confusing deciding how to vote. That’s why we highly recommend that you plan for either outcome of the referendum. So if you need help understanding the consequences of the referendum and planning for the future, such as discussing your immigration status or child benefits, then call We Talk Law today for helpful, simple legal advice.
We charge just £68 per call, and the legal advice given within each call is unlimited. We have a vast wealth of experience in Family, Immigration and Employment Law, and are always ready and willing to help. Call us on 0203 002 4898 for help today, or email us at [email protected].