Thursday, 7 April 2016

Let's talk // EU referendum

You hear the word 'politics' and you immediately switch off because it's boring and for old people, right?

Wrong.

Whilst it might be difficult at times, to see how a bunch of (predominantly) middle aged men talking on the news about taxes and long term economic plans is relevant to you and your life, it is and in a  couple of months time, you have the chance to make your voice heard.

If you're thinking, 'wait a minute, I swear the general election was only last year?', you're absolutely 100% right but this year, you have been given the opportunity to voice your opinions on whether the UK should remain in, or leave, the European Union.

It's a really, really important issue and will perhaps be one of the most significant decisions the UK will make in your lifetime (unless something happens with like, aliens or black holes or free installations of a prosecco running tap in all homes, everywhere), but yep, it's big.

Source
You know what else is important? That you vote.

Currently, only 52% of under 35s will vote, compared to 81% of over 55s. That's a huge difference and one that we can't let happen. We can't let other people decide our futures, we just can't.

What I have realised though, is that, like most things surrounding politics and politicians, it's hard to know who to trust, what to believe and where to look, for accurate information that you can actually understand. There is a lot of propaganda flying around, with supposed facts about what the actual benefits are for staying or leaving the EU and so, I decided to put together a simple (hopefully) guide to the EU Referendum.

I hope you find it useful, I hope you find it helpful in making your decision and I hope you maybe find it interesting (maybe, I mean it's not exactly a jam packed episode of the Kardashians is it)...

What is the EU Referendum?
The EU Referendum is a vote which will ask the people of Britain whether they believe we should REMAIN or LEAVE the European Union. Everyone who is of voting age and who has registered to vote in the UK will be able to take part.

You must be registered to vote by June 7. If you are not registered, click here.

What is the European Union?
The European Union is a single market which allows free movement of goods, capital, services and people between member states.

Why is the EU Referendum being held?
The EU has changed considerably over the past 40 years, with many more countries joining and increasingly, there have been calls by both the public and politicians, for Britain to rethink their part within the Union.

Last year, the Conservative party won the general election and as part of his manifesto, David Cameron promised to an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union by the end of 2017.

Do I have to pick a political party when I'm making my decision?
No, there are significant splits within the political parties regarding whether Britain is better off in or out of the EU. Around half of Conservative MPs, several Labour MPs, UKIP and the DUP, are in favour of leaving the EU.

David Cameron wants to remain in the EU, as do 16 of the cabinet ministers. Whilst the Conservative Party will remain neutral, due to large splits occurring, the Labour Party, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats are all in favour of staying in the EU.

Pros and cons of leaving the EU

No more membership fee
Leaving would mean the UK no longer contribute to the EU budget and would therefore save money. In 2015, Britain paid in £13bn to the EU budget and received £4.5bn worth of spending therefore basically contributed £8.5bn. This cost would be eradicated.

However, many believe that the financial advantages from free trade and the financial investment from foreign businesses outweigh these costs.

Trading 
As a member of the EU, there are no tariff costs on any imports and exports with fellow members. Over 50% of our exports go to other EU countries and those that favour staying believe that we will lose a significant amount of this trade if we are to vote out, with France stating that there will be 'consequences for Britain if they leave'.

However, the Leavers have stated that Britain will be able to form its own trading agreements under its own rules. It will no longer be bound by EU regulations, however no one has left before, so this would be the first time a country will have done this.

Work, work, work work, work
From 2000, it has been claimed that 3 million jobs rely directly on the EU. Whilst it can't be confirmed that these will definitely be affected if we are to leave, the Stayers believe they will, in particular Brit jobs in our large, foreign-owned car industry. They also believe that our global status as one of the world's largest financial centres will be diminished if the UK is no longer a member of the EU.

The Leavers suggest that rid of EU rules, Britain will experience a job boom, with little evidence for trade and jobs to be negatively impacted on by the change of relationship with the EU. They believe small and medium UK businesses, who don't trade with the EU will be positively influenced by leaving.

Controlling who's coming in and out
Pro EU campaigners believe that whilst access to the free market means allowing free movement of EU migrants which has posed some problems to the country, there are many benefits for Britain. Around 3 million living in the UK in 2014 were citizens of another EU country with campaigners  (this is around 5% of the population) stating that the economy relies on migrant labour and immigrants paid tax to fund public services. Brits are also allowed free movement across borders, with around 1.2 million people from the UK living abroad within the EU.

However, leaving the EU would mean Britain regain full control of its borders, with EU nationals facing the same visa restrictions as those from outside the EU. Whilst there are more foreign workers from China and India in the UK, leaving the EU is projected to significantly reduce immigrations levels.

Britain's place in the world
The EU is the world's biggest market and the UK plays a key role within it. Stayers believe that with no influence within the EU, it would begin to be sidelined and possibly ignored from big international issues such as the environment and trade. The USA want Britain to remain in the EU.

Leavers think this is rubbish, and believe the UK will continue to be a powerful global voice, will still remain a part of NATO and UN Security Council and should make self reliance one of its main principles.

Putting safety first
Stayers believe we are safer in the EU. The UK work together with other EU members on counter-terrorism and these relationships may be harmed if Britain was to leave. Stayers have believe that, as an island, which is not a member of the Schengen Area (where 26 European countries allow people to enter without a passport), we are not at great threat from terrorism by being a member of the EU and that EU co-operation makes it easier to keep criminals and terrorists out of the UK.

However, Leavers believe that free movement across the borders means we are at a greater threat tot terrorism, with EU passports unlikely to be subjected to detailed checks when they arrive. It has also been claimed that co-operation with other EU countries regarding terrorism is unlikely to be altered if Britain leave. Leaving the EU would mean greater control of borders which many believe would increase our levels of security against terrorism.

When do I cast my vote?
The date for the referendum has been set for 23 June 2016.

How do I vote?
You can vote at your local polling station which will be open from 7am-10pm on 23 June 2016.

You can vote by post however all postal vote applications must be submitted by 5pm on 8 June and those in Northern Ireland must have submitted by 5pm on 3 June.

You can vote by proxy, where you trust somebody else to vote on your behalf. You need to apply for a proxy vote, and it must be submitted by 5pm on 15 June.

I want more information!
You mean,  I didn't bore you to tears? Bravo you, bravo me - what a team we make. There is a lot of information out there so...be careful. I wouldn't particularly recommend the tabloids but hey, you do you. Full Fact is a charity fact checking website dedicated to bringing you the correct information without a political agenda.

Have opinions, thoughts or questions? Leave a comment down below or send me a tweet - I'd love to hear your views!

If you found this helpful, share it with friends and family and I'll be forever grateful.

More importantly... I hope this helps you decide to vote, and of course, what to vote for. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, so don't feel you shouldn't make your voice heard even if those around you are of a differing viewpoint.

Want to chat? Let's get social...

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