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A Beginner's Guide to the EU and Brexit

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You’re probably aware by now that come June, there will be a referendum on the EU and whether or not we want to stay in it. You’ve also probably heard the term ‘Brexit’ floating around, but if this is about the sum total of your knowledge, then never fear: you have come to the right place. We’ve condensed all the basic information you need to know about this year’s EU referendum right here.

What is a referendum?

Simply enough, a referendum is a public vote held on a single question. In this case, the question is whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union. Referendums aren’t legally binding: MPs still have to pass the laws following the vote.

What is the EU?

The European Union is an economic and political union that involves 28 countries. It was set up after World War II with the aim to create economic cooperation between its member states— the thinking was that countries that trade with each other are less likely to go to war. It has since developed into a single market that allows for the free movement of goods, services and people within its member states.

Who else is in it?

Find the full list of all 28 countries here.

Define Brexit?

Brexit is basically shorthand for Britain’s possible exit from the EU. Combine Britain and exit and you get Brexit. Clever, no?

What’s in it for us?

Those who are pro-EU argue that Britain is stronger in. Thanks to the single market, membership makes it easier to trade with other EU countries (and an estimated 50% of our exports go to EU countries) and the influx of immigrants helps economic growth. They believe our position as part of the EU gives more security and that if we left, our status would be damaged.

So why leave?

Pro-Brexit campaigners point to the money that would be saved if Britain was no longer contributing to the EU budget (£13b was contributed last year, against the £4.5b spent on the UK by the EU). They also oppose the flow of immigrants allowed to live and work in Britain and argue membership impinges on Britain’s sovereignty, saying that most UK laws are made in Brussels and member states can make decisions that go against the UK’s wishes.

Who’s for it and who’s against?

UKIP as a party is for exiting the EU, alongside the DUP. The Conservative Party is remaining neutral, though roughly half of Conservative MPs are also for Brexit, as are some Labour MPs.

David Cameron, on the other hand, has come out saying we’re stronger in. He stands alongside members of his cabinet, the Labour Party, Lib Dems, SNP and Plaid Cymru on this issue. Barack Obama has also come out in favour of Britain staying in the EU, as has Stephen Hawking, numerous celebrities and some EU member states.