The European Union (EU) has certainly had an eventful year in 2015 dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis; the growing threat of the Islamic State; the disastrous condition of the world economy and the Greek debt crisis among other things. Having avoided a “Grexit” last year, the EU now faces the possibility of a “Brexit” after British Prime Minister David Cameron announced in late February that Britain would be holding a referendum on the country’s membership to the EU on the 23rd of June 2016.
So why exactly would the UK want to exit? The people in favour of leaving, which includes about half of Conservative MPs and (according to online polls) nearly half of the population, believe that Britain is being held back by the EU and that a Brexit would give them the chance to negotiate a new EU relationship. The primary reasons they cite involve trade and immigration. From an economic standpoint, Britain believes that exiting the EU will result in them being able to secure better deals with China, India and America and that Britain’s contribution to the EU budget can be put to better use in scientific research and development. It also believes that it can free itself from EU regulation returning control to the government over fields such as health, employment laws, etc. With the Syrian refugee crisis turning out to be a problem without an immediate solution, Britain also wishes to further strengthen its immigration laws and reduce the number of people coming there to work.
The Prime Minister however doesn’t want a Brexit, but simply wants a re-negotiation of the terms of Britain’s membership. Mr. Cameron has said that if he is able to get the reforms he wants, he will campaign for Britain to remain in the EU in the buildup to the referendum. So what does he want? Broadly speaking, he wants two things. From an economic point of view- to secure an explicit recognition that Euro isn’t the only currency of the EU and that Britain should not have to contribute to Eurozone bailouts. From an immigration point of view- to restrict those coming to the UK from claiming certain benefits until they have been a resident for at least four years. Other than these broad objectives, the UK is essentially lobbying for more sovereignty; to free business from excessive interference; remove trade barriers in the services and digital sector. He has also reiterated his standpoint that Britain would resist any move to join an “EU Army” or adopt the Euro.
So this brings us to the golden question, should Britain leave the EU or not? Well there really isn’t a right answer to it, most big businesses want Britain to stay as do a large number of Britain’s scientists and researchers (Professor Stephen Hawking has said that a Brexit will be “disastrous” for science). On the other hand some business houses and ministers recognise some of the obvious benefits a Brexit would bring and feel that it is the right course of action indeed. Whereas polls at the time show that 55% of Britain’s citizens want to stay in the EU, one can’t really predict how the numbers will change by June.