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UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union to be held on Thursday 23 June. In this new article, to help you understand what the EU Referendum and “Brexit” are, and discuss what leaving the EU could mean  for UK citizens and migrants.

What is a referendum?

A referendum is simply a vote in which almost everyone of voting age can take part in. It’s usually a simple “yes” or “no” answer and the outcome of the vote will directly affect government policy. The last time the UK had a referendum on the EU was in 1975, shortly after joining.

Why is the EU Referendum being held?

There is increasing pressure from people in the UK to take a vote because the EU has changed a lot in the last 40 years. The EU Parliament directly affects our laws, benefits system, trade, immigration levels and the pound, and so people want to have their say over how much power the EU has over the UK. A “no” vote will mean the UK is removed from the EU, and therefore holds no power over us. A “yes” vote means that the UK remains part of the EU, but with changes to the level of power.

What are the changes that David Cameron has agreed?

The Prime Minister has recently negotiated a range of changes should the UK vote “yes” on the EU Referendum and stay part of the EU. If the UK votes to stay part of the EU, the following changes will come into effect:

  • Migrants who send the child benefits abroad may have their benefits reduced, depending on the cost of living in their home country.
  • The UK will be able to decide to limit in-work benefits for EU migrants during their first four years in the UK. This so-called “emergency brake” can be applied in the event of “exceptional” levels of migration, but must be released within seven years – without exception.
  • Britain will be able to keep the pound, and be able to continue to trade with the EU, without fear of discrimination.
  • Any British money spent on bailing out Eurozone nations will be reimbursed.
  • Britain’s large financial services industry in the City of London will be protected to prevent EU regulations affecting it.
  • The UK will retain its “sovereignty”, meaning its power to govern itself, and will not be part of an “ever closer union” with other EU member states
  • It will now be easier for EU governments to group together to block unwanted legislation. Now, If 55% of national EU parliaments object to EU legislation it will have to be rethought.
  • There will also be limits on “free movement” between EU countries, such as denying automatic free movement rights to nationals of a country outside the EU who marry an EU national. This is part of a movement to tackle “sham marriages”.
  • There will also be new powers to exclude people believed to be a security risk, even if they have no previous convictions.

How might leaving the EU affect you?

  • British jobs may be affected – There is a lot of conflicting information on this subject. Many say that many global companies with presences in the UK may move to lower-cost EU countries, while others say that the reduced levels of immigration upon leaving would result in a UK job boom, and mean small-to medium-sized companies would benefit from reduced EU red tape and regulations. However, large organisations such as the NHS are dependent on many EU citizens, and so restricting their numbers could leave the country short of workers.
  • EU citizens living in the UK may be affected – If the UK votes “no” on the EU Referendum, EU nationals would face the same restrictions as people outside the EU. If you’re an EU citizen living in the UK who is  concerned about the outcome of the forthcoming referendum, then now may be the time to apply for a British passport. By holding British Citizenship, then you will be able to stay if the UK votes to leave the EU. The majority of EU countries will permit their nationals to have dual citizenship, so you wouldn’t have to surrender citizenship to your home country in order to acquire UK citizenship. Just talk to us for more advice.
  • UK citizens living in the EU may be affected – Currently, about 2.2million British citizens live in other EU nations. By leaving the EU, it will make it harder for expats to move to and remain in foreign countries. British nationals may face deportation if they cannot speak the language or integrate with life in the EU country.

Planning for the future

In summary, both leaving and staying in the EU will affect the daily life of almost all UK citizens and EU migrants. With both sides of the argument presenting convincing facts and reasons to stay or leave, we understand it may be confusing deciding how to vote. That’s why we highly recommend planning for either consequence and understanding how the EU Referendum could affect you and your family.

If you need help understanding the consequences of the referendum and planning for the future, such as discussing your immigration status or child benefits, then call Arlingsworth Solicitors today for a consultation. We have a vast wealth of experience in Family, Immigration and Employment Law, and are always ready and willing to help. Call us today in Brighton on 01273 696962, or in London on 0203 358 0058. Or, you can email us here.