The UK referendum on our membership in the European Union is becoming a hot topic and might come as early as June 2016. As part of the Conservative Manifesto for the last election, David Cameron promised us a say in whether the UK stays part of the EU or not. Although he’s still seeking certain changes to EU policy concerning the UK, it looks to be going ahead.
British people are fairly evenly split on this issue and it’s a vote that, in many ways, is more important to Britain’s future than a General Election.
In very broad terms the main issues for and against are:
Our membership in the EU costs billions of GBP per annum. Many people believe Britain is being held back by restrictive rules. The ‘free movement’ of EU citizens between countries has seen an influx of people from other EU countries coming to Britain to live and work without requiring a visa. With the recent proposals for a closer union between member states, there are fears that our national sovereignty is being undermined.
On the other hand, our membership promotes economic stability. It makes selling to other European countries easier, and the flow of immigrants who are young and keen to work fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services. As part of the EU, Britain’s world status is stronger and more secure.
As a farming county, Somerset receives many benefits from EU membership. By far the biggest payouts made by the EU annually are farming subsidies, which include agricultural, meat and dairy producers. Special payments are made to farms which follow environmental and animal welfare practices – a boost for smaller farms which produce and sell locally. Exports to the EU are easier without the red tape otherwise involved in exporting to overseas markets.