Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Five Questions on Britons' Vote of a Lifetime on EU Membership

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Five Questions on Britons' Vote of a Lifetime on EU Membership

Article excerpt

On June 23, Britons will head to the polls to vote on whether or not to stay in the European Union. By holding this referendum, Prime Minster David Cameron is fulfilling a pledge to the public he made before his Conservative Party was reelected last year. He says it may be "the most important" vote that Britons will exercise in their lifetimes. Here's a look at why:

What's at stake in the referendum?Britain's political and economic relationship with the rest of Europe. Skeptics argue that withdrawal would reverse immigration from EU countries, save taxpayers billions of pounds, and free Britain from burdensome regulations. Pro-Europeans counter that it would lead to economic uncertainty, cost thousands of jobs, and leave Britain more isolated internationally.

A related question is the implications for Scottish independence. Scottish voters decided against secession by a 10-point margin in 2014, but the pro-independence movement remains strong and is bound to demand another referendum on independence if English voters lead the country out of the EU.

What would a British exit (Brexit) look like?Should Britain opt out of the EU, it would have to establish a set of trading and institutional relationships with it. Yet what these arrangements would be - and how long they might take to negotiate - remains uncertain.

One option is to emulate Switzerland, which has established more than 120 bilateral agreements with the EU, reports The Economist. Britain could also follow Turkey's approach and establish a customs union, or simply rely on standard World Trade Organization rules for access to European markets. Another option would be a special arrangement that ensures free trade with the EU.

What about Britain's "special status" in the EU?After two days of intense debate in Brussels last week, Mr. Cameron struck a deal with the EU's 27 other leaders to grant Britain "special status in Europe." The agreement gives the UK the power to limit some EU migrants' benefits, exempts it from "ever closer" political integration, and protects the rights of Britain's currency, the pound, against the euro. …

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