Q: What is Brexit?
“Brexit” is the term that the media are using to refer to the upcoming vote on whether Britain should leave the European Union. Britain has been a member of the European Union since 1973, and is one of 28 member countries.
The “Brexit” vote is a ‘referendum’. A referendum is when the government refers an issue directly to the public, who then vote on it. Governments normally make the decisions, but in a referendum, the public make it by voting.
Referendums do not happen very often—Britain has only had 12 of them in the last 41 years (the most recent was a couple of years ago and was about whether Scotland should leave Britain). We are having this one because the current government promised (“pledged”) they would have one if they won the General Election last year, which they did.
The European Union is a political union of most (but not all) of the countries in Europe. There are 28 countries (called 'member states') within it, and they combined make up 7.3% of the world's population, or about 510 million people. The idea behind the EU, and the point of having it, is that if all the different nations can agree on using the same rules for certain things (for example, trade rules), then they will all benefit from it, and become stronger as one.
The aim of the EU is to bring peace, stability and prosperity, promoting human rights, and help raise living standards for all its members. The reason the issue of Britain's membership is considered so important (or what is called a "hot button" issue) is because not everyone feels it is working out that way for Britain.
No country has ever left the EU. If the British public vote to leave, they will be the first to do so.
Q: When is it?
The Brexit referendum will be held on Thursday June 23rd (votes in the UK are almost always held on Thursdays). There will be polling stations in every town in the area, so you will not have to travel far to be able to vote.
Q: What should I vote for?
Now that is entirely up to you!
Each person has their own view, and can vote accordingly. Read around the topic, think about it, and decide for yourself.
Even the Government are far from decided. The Prime Minister David Cameron wants to stay in, while some of his cabinet and most of his own party want to leave!
What you should know is that you will never ever have to tell anyone how you voted. You can do so if you want to, but your right to privacy is protected.
Q: What happens if Britain leaves the EU?
No one really knows. No member state has ever left before. There will be a lot to work out. The uncertainty surrounding this is partly why some people want to stay.
Different people have different opinions. Read on below.
Q: What happens if Britain stays in?
Being in the European Union has an impact on every aspect of your life, from the obvious to the less obvious. For the most part, things will stay the same. But some people who want to leave think this is a reason to leave, as they do not like the way the EU (which keeps getting bigger) is heading.
ARGUMENTS FOR LEAVING:
People who are citizens of countries that are in the EU can move freely from one country to the other. Not just for travel and holidays, but also to live and work. While some British citizens use this “Free Movement of People” principle to go and live in other EU countries, many more people come into Britain (“immigration”) than leave it (“emigration”). Some people feel this is a problem.
“Sovereignty” basically means, who has the power to make the laws. Normally, countries have that power by themselves (what is called ‘state sovereignty’). For the most part, Britain still has complete state sovereignty. But by joining the EU, countries give up some of their sovereignty to the EU - for example, in human rights law.
The European Union keeps getting bigger, up to 28 members from the 6 there were to begin with. With each new country that joins, things change—the 28 countries are very different in their beliefs and wealth, which makes finding common ground between all members more complicated.
The European Union was created soon after the Second World War, when much of Europe was still suffering badly. To start with, and to this day, part of the EU’s purpose was to make it easier for European countries to trade goods and services with each other. However, as the world has ‘globalised’ with the internet, and trade relationships with other countries have strengthened, some now feel this is not as important as it was.
Not all of the 28 member states are of equal wealth. Some people feel that the ability to move people, goods and money freely between all 28 is therefore a bit unfair - they do not like to see money taken out of their country’s economy and given to another in this way.
ARGUMENTS FOR STAYING IN:
Some people like the Free Movement of People, Goods and Services principle. It allows British citizens to travel freely through Europe, not just for holidays and for work, but also to live and move.
· Economic benefit
British companies can trade with European countries much more freely and cheaply by being in the European Union then by not being in it. Also, if Britain were not in the EU, Asian and American companies (who want to access this single European market, as they are not members) would stop being factories over here. If Britain left the EU, it is said that people might lose their jobs.
There is an argument that by being in the European Union, Britain is more powerful. Europe is going to be right next to Britain regardless of whether Britain is in the European Union or not, but by being in it, Britain can have more of a say over what goes on within it. The EU is the biggest market in the world, and countries need to import and export goods into markets to make money.
· Benefits to the consumer
By being in the EU and having these shared agreements, British citizens are able to access things like lower mobile phone roaming charges, lower credit card fees, cheaper flights and proper pay rates.
· Human rights and health and safety law
Although being in the EU means the loss of some state sovereignty to EU laws, some feel the EU laws have made major improvements to the human rights and health and safety laws Britain had before, leading to much better treatment for prisoners, minorities etc and far safer workplaces, as well as matters such as equal pay for women.
· Peace and democracy
As said above, the EU (formerly the EEC) was set up after the Second World War to bring peace to its members. And it has done so.
There is loads and loads and LOADS of information out there about Brexit, as well as loads of opinions.
There are also far, far more arguments for staying or leaving than are listed above! Those are just some of the key ones.
There are organisations who are campaigning either for the UK to remain a member or leave the European Union, two of which are the 'official' campaigns - Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe. Their websites contain a lot more information, including their views on what will happen after the referendum outcome.
Check all the news media too, as all the papers are covering this in depth. You can find a selection of newspapers every day in the Learning Centres at both campuses.
Use critical thinking — everything you read will probably be slightly biased, sometimes heavily biased. If two reports or stories give very different versions of the same events, why is that? Is one lying? Can both be true?
HOW TO VOTE
Firstly, you must be 18 or over. 18 is the voting age in Britain, and although there were plans to make special rules for this referendum to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote, they were eventually blocked.
In addition to being 18 or over, you must make sure you are registered to be able to vote in the EU Referendum. If you are not already registered to vote, go to gov.uk/register-to-vote.
There are a few ways you can vote:
• In person
• By post
• By proxy (someone you trust voting on your behalf)
· Go to aboutmyvote.co.uk or call 0800 3 280 280 for more information.
· If you haven’t already registered to vote, you need to do so to vote in the referendum. The deadline to register is Tuesday 7th June.
Not everyone who was eligible to vote at the general elections on 5th May will also be eligible to vote in the EU Referendum. Go to aboutmyvote.co.uk to check if you can vote in the referendum.
Registering to vote is quick and easy. You’ll just need your National Insurance number, date of birth and address to hand.
You can apply to vote by post until 5pm, Wednesday 8th June. If you would like to vote by post you must already be registered, or have submitted your application to register. If you’re not already registered to vote, you must register by Tuesday 7th June.
Even if you are not old enough to vote, we encourage you to take an active interest in this very important topic. This is something that will have a huge impact on your life, even if you cannot control the outcome in any way, and when you are old enough to vote, it will help you make a more informed decision.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
· Brexit - The term being used for Great Britain's referendum on whether or not to leave the European Union.
· Britain/Great Britain/UK - The United Kingdom is a country made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island (but not the Republic of Ireland). People often use "Great Britain" to mean the same thing as the United Kingdom, so often so that it is safe to assume that that is what they meant. However, technically, Great Britain is only England, Scotland and Wales.
· Referendum - The rare instance when the Government turns a decision over to the public, and they vote on a single question.
· Hot Button Topic - Something controversial and relevant right now.
· Immigration - The act of moving into a foreign country to live (e.g. non-British citizens moving to Britain). People who do this are called 'immigrants'.
· Emigration - The out of moving to a foreign country to live (e.g. British citizens moving abroad). People who do this are called 'emigrants'.
· European Union - Not a country, but a political union of many different European countries. Their aim is to create common economic, foreign, security, and justice policies.
· Member State - A country that is a member of the EU. Remember: not all countries that are geographically in Europe are members of the European Union. Some of the ones that aren’t include Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Turkey, although Turkey have been trying to join for 30 years and are said to be very close to doing so.
· Sovereignty - The authority of a state to govern itself (meaning, the power countries have to make their own laws).
· Cabinet - The committee of senior ministers responsible for controlling government policy. At the General Election, we vote for local MPs, who almost all represent a party. The party with the most MPs win the overall election and become the Government. The leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister. And he chooses his Cabinet (basically his senior advisors) from other elected MPs in his party.