One of the most controversial points of the Conservative’s 2015 manifesto was a promise to put our membership with the EU to a nationwide vote; given that they won the election, we can safely say it’s full steam ahead.
The Conservative party has argued for more distance between the EU and the UK for 40 years, ever since the 1975 ‘Common Market’ Referendum (Common Market was a former name of the European Union). However, their voice has been ignored until recently; according to a 4th of May poll, around 33% of UK citizens would vote in favour of splitting from the EU, compared to 45% who want to stay.
The EU Referendum, slated to be held between late 2016 and early 2017, will put the question of our EU membership to a vote. Mr Cameron, in his 2013 pledge to hold a referendum, had stated that he would first try to re-negotiate the inner workings of the European Union as a whole. In essence, Cameron would argue for a greater degree of UK independence from certain regulations.
The main detractors of the European Union, led by the UK Independence Party, believe that the UK is held back by the EU, particularly in regard to business restrictions. The core principal of ‘free movement’ (the ability of any EU citizen to immigrate to another member state without a visa) has led some to use the term ‘United States of Europe’ to describe what they see as being the end goal.
The real question for the average man or woman is: Would the UK benefit from leaving the EU? Any argument on the issue inevitably moves to an argument of economics. Big businesses for the most part favour the EU, regarding the ability to more easily move personnel, money and products around the Union as a rare situation. However, business titans such as Lord Bamford, chairmen of JCB, state that a separation from the EU would allow us to negotiate trade deals from a more favourable position.
With the strength of the proposed referendum being heavily scrutinised amidst ardent opposition however, many Euro-sceptics believe that more independent action must be taken. Vote Leave, a cross-party group made up of primarily Conservative, Labour and UKIP MPs and donors is set to compete with the UKIP-backed Leave.EU to be the leaders of the ‘Out’ campaign come 2017. Kate Hoey, Labour MP and one of Vote Leave’s biggest supporters has called for an end to what she calls the ‘supremacy’ of EU legislation over UK laws, arguing further that our membership fees to the Union could be better spent on such institutions as the NHS.
While Mr Cameron has promised to consider separating from the EU only if its leaders do not grant the UK greater autonomy, the question remains as to the consequences of the act. Economic ruin has been on the minds of many for years, and only time would tell if splitting from the EU would be the jolt our economy needs, or the final nail in the economic coffin.