This site contains government information on the EU referendum. No material was published on this website between 27 May and 23 June 2016, in line with the restrictions set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

Our EU membership

The EU referendum takes place on the 23rd June. On this page you'll find some frequently asked questions about the UK's EU membership and the Government's answers to these questions.

Does the UK’s membership of the EU really cost us £350 million a week?

No, in fact we contribute less than half this amount. Our net contribution to the EU is on average £136 million a week. This takes into account our rebate, which means the UK is reimbursed on a share of our contributions each year, and receipts we get from EU funded programmes. To put this in context, of every £1 paid in tax in the UK, a little over 1p goes to the EU. The Government judges that what the UK gets back in opportunities, job creation and economic security from EU membership far outweighs the cost.

If we vote to leave, wouldn’t the EU give us a better deal so that we can remain in the EU on better terms?

No, the result of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union will be final. Should there be a vote to leave, the Government would start the process of exiting the EU immediately. Other EU Member States have also made it clear that, should the UK vote to leave, a second deal will not be on the table.

If we stay in the EU, will we have to join the euro?

No, the Government has made it clear that the UK will not be joining the Euro. The UK has a permanent and legally-binding opt-out from joining the Euro that is set out in the EU Treaties. Under the EU Act 2011, should any future UK Government want to join the Euro, they would have to obtain approval from the public through a referendum.

What is the UK’s ‘special status’ in the EU?

The agreement reached at the European Council meeting on 18-19 February 2016 created a new settlement for the UK in the EU. It built on a number of protections and opt-outs that the UK had already secured. This gives the UK a special status in the EU unmatched by any other EU Member State. This special status has allowed the UK to opt-out of certain aspects of the EU that are not in our interest, while keeping those that strengthen the UK.

It means that:

  • we will not join the euro
  • we will keep our own border controls
  • we will not be part of further EU political integration
  • there will be new tougher restrictions on access to the UK’s welfare system for new EU migrants

Is the UK’s new deal legally-binding, or can the EU go back on it?

The deal agreed at the February European Council is binding in international law for all EU Member States. The deal is irreversible, because it can only be amended or revoked if all Member States, including the UK, agree. This position has been expressly recognised by all of the Member States and has been confirmed by the EU Council Legal Service.

Is it true that Turkey will be joining the EU in 2020?

No, Turkey’s accession is not on the cards for many years to come. In order to join the EU, Turkey must reach agreements with the EU on 35 “chapters” to ensure that its laws are in line with EU standards.  The opening and closing of each of these chapters requires the unanimous support of all 28 EU Member States. Out of 35 chapters, just one has been completed and negotiations on 20 out of the 35 have not yet started. Turkey first applied for associate membership of the EU’s predecessor, the European Economic Community, in 1959 and there remains a very significant amount of detailed work to do before Turkey is ready to join the EU.

Every Member State including the UK has a veto at every stage. The EU Act 2011 also requires any Accession Treaty admitting a candidate country to membership of the EU to be ratified by an Act of Parliament in the UK.

What impact would leaving the EU have on the NHS?

Spending on public services such as the NHS requires a strong economy. The International Monetary Fund, Bank of England and Institute for Fiscal Studies have all said that leaving the EU would damage the economy. Analysis by the Treasury shows that leaving could reduce tax receipts by £36 billion a year after fifteen years and relative to what might otherwise happen.  This represents more than a third of the current NHS England budget. So if the UK left the EU, the Government would have less money to spend on the NHS, not more.

How often does the UK get outvoted in Europe?

In the vast majority of cases, the UK gets its way in the course of negotiations, and we secure the changes we want before a proposal comes to a vote. Voting is only necessary when consensus cannot be reached. And in 90 per cent of these votes, the UK is on the winning side.

Do Commonwealth countries benefit from our membership of the EU?

Our membership of the EU makes us a valuable partner for countries in the Commonwealth. It means we can argue for trade deals that help their economies too. The EU has, or is negotiating, trade deals with over 80 per cent of the Commonwealth. Britain is helping to push these deals forward, helping Commonwealth countries to get better access to the EU’s market of 500 million people. Britain’s leading role in the EU has helped win preferential trading rights for countries such as Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka. There is no head of Government of a Commonwealth country that has called for Britain to leave the EU.

Will our taxes be used for a bailout if there is another Eurozone crisis?

No. In February 2016, we secured a new settlement to give the UK a special status in the EU. This settlement guarantees legally that UK taxpayers will never be required to bailout the Eurozone.

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