How Europe has changed since the last EU referendum in 1975
Then it was the European Economic Community, with 9 member states and a total population of 256
million. Now it is the European Union (EU), with 28 countries, 508 million
people anda combined economy almost as large as
The cost of EU membership
In 2015 the UK government paid £13 billion
to the EU budget. EU spending in the UK was £4.5 billion. That implies that the
UK’s net contribution was around £8.5
areas does the EU control?
The EU does not control policy on foreign affairs, defence or most direct
taxation. But it does now set the rules in a wide range of areas, including the
environment, transport and consumer rights.
What proportion of UK laws are influenced by the EU?
possible to justify any measure between 15% and 50% or thereabouts”, according
to the House of Commons library. The figures depend on which UK laws are
included, and how you define 'EU influence'.
The UK’s trade with the EU
The EU is by far the UK’s biggest trading partner, accounting for 44% of
UK exports of goods and services in 2014. In 2008 it was 50%.
2. Euro-speak and what it means
The Euro, introduced
between 1999 and 2002, is the single currency used by 17 of the member states
of the EU. The economic region consisting of all these countries is known as
the Eurozone. Britain chose not to join and to retain sterling as its currency.
European Arrest Warrant (EAW)
When one EU country issues an EAW, all
other EU members are requiredto arrest
a criminal suspect or sentenced person named on the warrant and transfer them
to the state which issued the EAW.
The European Court of Human Rights
left the EU it would still have to deal with the European Court of Human Rights
at Strasbourg. The court was set up by the Council of Europe, which is entirely
separate from the EU.
The European Economic Area (EEA)
The EEA includes EU countries and
also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It allows them to be part of the EU’s
single market. Switzerland is neither an EU nor EEA member but is part of the
Qualified Majority Voting
Council of Ministers has two ways of taking decisions:
when everyone has to agree
majority voting (QMV). This is used for most issues, but it is more complicated
than unanimity. It has two stages:
1.Each member state is given a
certain number of votes, weighted according to its size and population. For
example, Germany, the EU's largest state, has 10 votes, while Portugal has five
and Finland three. QMV is used in all but the most sensitive issues.
2.About three quarters of the votes
have to be in favour to pass a proposal.
This is the area comprising 26 European
countries that have abolished passport and any other type of border control at
their common borders. The UK and Ireland have opt-outs and so are not part of
the Schengen Area.
As a result of the migration crisis and the
terrorist attacks in Paris, some countries have temporarily reintroduced
controls on some or all of their borders with other Schengen states. These
countries are currently (February 2016) Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, and Sweden.
The 28 member states of the EU form the
Single Market, based on the free movement of capital, goods, services and
labour.The aim is to make it as easy
for these to move between states as
it is within states.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
This is a
proposed trade agreement between the EU and the US aimed at creating the
world’s biggest free trade zone.
The Working Time Directive,
This requires EU countries
to guarantee the following rights for all workers:
- weekly working hours, includingovertime, must not exceed 48 hours on
- a minimum daily rest period of
11 consecutive hours in every 24.
Understanding the EU
For a straightforward guide to the institutions of the EU, try http://simplepolitics.co.uk/issues/comic-book-guide-to-eu-institutions And for another way of presenting the arguments for and against Britain's membership, try http://simplepolitics.co.uk/issues/should-we-leave-the-eu