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EU referendum: Everything you need to know about the Brexit vote

By Claire Cromie

Published 22/02/2016

Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson
Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers is one of the Cabinet members campaigning for a Leave vote
Commons leader Chris Grayling, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and employment minster Priti Patel have all joined the EU exit campaign
Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement to the media outside 10 Downing Street in London on February 20 , 2016 regarding the EU negotiations and to announce the date of the in-out EU referendum after chairing a meeting of the cabinet.

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced the UK's European Union referendum will take place on Thursday June 23, 2016.

The question we will all be asked is: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"

Who will be able to vote?

British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK, along with UK nationals who have lived overseas for less than 15 years. You can register here.

What's the argument for a British exit, or 'Brexit'?

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  • Border controls: We would regain border controls and could prevent people from other EU countries travelling to and living in Britain. The Northern Ireland border would become significant as it is the UK's only land border, but it's unlikely that passport controls would be introduced.
  • Membership fee: We'd stop paying the EU membership fee, which Full Fact estimates is about £24m per day.
  • Trade: Norway does it successfully - it trades with the EU without being in it, controls its own agriculture and keeps its fish, rather than being bound by EU quotas.
  • Legislation: We wouldn't be bound by the European Parliament, which is considered by many to be undemocratic. This is because its Commission which proposes legislation is not directly elected.

The Vote Leave campaign says we have lost control of vital policies, so we should negotiate a new UK-EU deal based on free trade and friendly cooperation.

What are the reasons to stay in the EU?

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  • Jobs: Millions of jobs are linked to the EU and various business leaders have warned against leaving. Senior bankers in particular claim an EU exit would cause companies to cut investment in the UK and move jobs elsewhere.
  • Trade: Over half of our exports go to EU countries, so a Brexit could shut the UK out of its most important market.
  • Free movement: The 1.4 million Brits living abroad in the EU could find movement around the continent more difficult if we leave. For example, UK driving licences are currently valid across Europe.
  • Crime fighting: The European arrest warrant helps us fight against cross-border crime, allowing the police to bring justice without drawn-out extradition procedures.

The Britain Stronger in Europe group says we are stronger, better off and safer in Europe than we would be out on our own.

Who wants us to stay in the EU?

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In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Alliance Party all support the UK staying within the European Union. Martin McGuinness says we've "benefited greatly" from the EU, listing the EU Single Farm Payments, key infrastructure projects and peace and structural funds.

David Cameron: The Prime Minister's future in Number 10 could depend on securing victory, as the pressure from within the Tory party for him to quit if the UK voted for Brexit may prove impossible to resist.

Lord Stuart Rose: The Tory peer and former Marks & Spencer boss is the chairman of the main campaign for a vote to remain in the EU. His business experience is thought to give him a public appeal beyond that of a career politician.

Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland's First Minister has made clear her support for remaining in the EU, but admits a vote for Brexit could help the cause of Scottish independence because her country wants to retain ties with Brussels.

Who wants us to leave the EU?

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The DUP, TUV and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers: Arlene Foster has reiterated the DUP's Euroscepticism, over its "countless unresolved failures and the crises still to come", but says individual DUP members will be free to take opposing sides in the debate The Ulster Unionist Party has yet to officially nail its colours to the mast.

Boris Johnson: A huge boost for the Brexit campaign potentially giving them a popular figurehead able to connect with voters in a way few other Westminster politicians can manage. Mr Johnson says the EU is fuelling political alienation and the rise of extremism.

Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader has spent his political career campaigning for a Brexit, but allies in the Leave camp fear he is too divisive a figure to reach beyond Ukip's core supporters.

George Galloway: The firebrand left-wing former Labour and Respect Party MP was unveiled as a high-profile member of the Brexit campaign on Friday. However his appointment as a leading figure in the "Out" campaign provoked criticism among activists.

How is the UK public likely to vote?

YouGov says that since last September, every poll has shown the race to be neck-and-neck: Remain in the EU 51%, leave 49%.

One of the biggest challenges facing the pro-EU camp will be to enthuse the under 30s, who are mostly pro-membership but traditionally least likely to vote at all, while the ‘leave’ camp needs to maximise turnout among Brexit-inclined working-class voters.

Northern Ireland pollsters LucidTalk say 56.5% of NI voters would support staying in the EU, 28.3% would vote to leave, and 15.2% are still undecided, but are planning to vote.

What is the EU deal David Cameron has agreed?

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Promises on immigration, British sovereignty and the eurozone form part of a reforms agreement the PM hopes will keep Britain in the EU.

:: EUROZONE

Britain can keep the pound while being in Europe and its business trade with the bloc without fear of discrimination. Any British money spent on bailing out eurozone nations will be reimbursed and any state can raise the alarm with the European Council if concerned over eurozone decisions.

:: MIGRANT WELFARE PAYMENTS

Britain can pull an "emergency brake" and halt in-work benefit payments for migrants in the event of "exceptional" levels of migration - recognised by the Commission as happening in the UK right now - which could put pressure on social security systems, labour markets or public services. Migrants would then receive their benefits incrementally. However, after seven years the brake must be released - without exception.

:: CHILD BENEFIT

Host nations can cut migrants' child benefit payments for children living overseas to the rate paid in their home countries - usually far lower than those received by UK parents.

:: FREE MOVEMENT:

Measures to tackle sham marriages for residence by denying free movement rights to nationals of a country outside the EU who marry an EU national, and powers to exclude people believed to be a security risk - even if they have no previous convictions.

:: SOVEREIGNTY

"Ever closer union" meaning a legal commitment to "political integration" remains, however it no longer applies to Britain and Parliament can wave a "red card" that requires the Council to consider legislation - if the UK can muster support equivalent to 55% of the 28-nation bloc.

:: COMPETITIVENESS

The settlement calls on all EU institutions and member states to "make all efforts to fully implement and strengthen the internal market" and to take "concrete steps towards better regulation", including by cutting red tape.

:: TREATIES

Elements of the agreement relating to relations between euro "ins" and "outs" and to the UK's exemption from the requirement for ever-closer union will be incorporated into the EU's treaties "at the time of their next revision".

Why the fuss over the referendum date?

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The Prime Minister said June 23 will be a day on which the country makes one of the biggest decisions "in our lifetimes" - but thousands of Brits may be elsewhere.

Masses of England, Wales and Northern Ireland football fans could still be in France if their teams make it through the group stages of the Euro 2016 football tournament.

Meanwhile, Glastonbury music festival will be into its second day by the date of the referendum, and the prospect of revellers casting their votes on the sprawling campsite has already been ruled out.

Politicians in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales objected to a June referendum, saying it was too soon after the respective devolved elections and likely to confuse voters.

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