Does the European Union benefit the UK?

With the Conservative party being voted back into power with a majority government, there are a few changes that shall be going on within the next 5 years. One is a possible referendum with the EU, but how does the EU benefit the UK? and what harm would it do if we left it. Tory leader David Cameron had promised to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU by 2017 if his party was elected.

So what are the Pros and Cons of the Uk being independent of the EU?



Business challenge isolated on white – Flickr


There are 28 countries within the EU. All of which teach children English within their schools, Britain on the other hand does not teach children 27 languages in their schools. Britain therefore is an obvious choice for people from the EU to come to work, where there is lack of it in their countries or low wages.  Free movement of people across the EU opens up job opportunities for UK workers willing to travel and makes it relatively easy for UK companies to employ workers from other EU countries. UKIP says this prevents the UK “managing its own borders”. But, writing for the LSE, Professor Adrian Favell says limiting this freedom would deter the “brightest and the best” of the continent from coming to Britain, create complex new immigration controls and reduce the pool of candidates employers can choose from.


Container ship leaving bay area – Flickr


One of the biggest advantages of the EU is free trade between member nations, making it easier and cheaper for British companies to export their goods to Europe.  Some business leaders think these savings outweigh the billions of pounds in membership fees Britain would save if it left the EU.

It is said that the EU is the major trading partner of the UK and so the UK would “lose out” if it left the EU.  The truth is that the EU is indeed the major trading partner of the UK and this result in huge losses, the UK would gain billions if it left the EU. However, the UK also risks losing some of its negotiation power internationally by leaving the trading bloc, but it would be free to establish trade agreements with non-EU countries.

If the UK leaves the EU it will re-form a trade association with Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, perhaps India or Russia and others that will bring the EU to the negotiating table on equal terms.  This will ensure that our car manufacturers and other industry have the same access to European markets as they do today if desired. Furthermore, the UK would increase the negotiating power of EFTA, or a similar trade organisation, to such a degree that it would be able to negotiate beneficial terms of trade with the EU.


Britain is the third biggest net contributor to the EU budget, after Germany and France. In 2012, we paid in more than £12bn to the EU’s coffers, of which around £4bn came back in EU spending on Britain. That makes a net contribution of £8bn, or around £127 per person.

Putting this into perspective, as a share of our total public expenditure, that £8bn is only around one per cent, or roughly a penny in the pound. It’s less than the £11.3bn pledged to last year’s overseas aid budget as part of David Cameron’s pledge to allocate 0.7 per cent of British income to fighting global poverty. In other words, we give more money to the world’s poor than we give to the EU.

Furthermore, some people within Britain benefit far more from the EU spending than others. For instance, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy does not just help French farmers: their British counterparts also receive £2.7bn from it every year. Moreover, it helps finance thousands of projects in Britain too, from doing up old town centres to building roads and nature reserves, as well as grants for university research departments and small businesses.

In less well-off regions of Britain, the EU funding logo is a common sight. For example, the EU grants totalling nearly £am have helped kick-start the continuing regeneration of Birmingham’s unloved city centre, as well as the city’s New Street station, a 1960s scheme dubbed one of Britain’s worst eyesores. Similarly, bus passengers in Swansea have a rather more pleasant experience thanks to the EU funding half the city’s new £10m central bus station. In addition, in Newcastle and Glasgow, the EU has helped pay for elegant pedestrian walkways across the rivers Tyne and Clyde.


The European Union has a legal system based on Romano-Dutch Civil Law, whilst the English use a Common Law system.  English law says that whatever is not illegal is permitted.  European Law says that if something is not specifically permitted under some codified rule, then it is illegal.  This difference in legal systems is so profound that the UK should never have joined the EU.

British politicians have been trying to amend English law so it aligns with European Law. They have been attempting to abolish trial by jury, as almost all countries use trial by judges, and by accepting that EU Statutes override Common Law, which is not a very easy thing for the British Parliament to accept, as these things are fundamental to Britain culture and constitutions and the British idea of freedom. Britain has the paradox of its highest court, the European Court of Justice, being based on Civil Law when its ordinary courts are based on Common Law.  This means that appeals to the European Court can override English court decisions purely based on a mismatch between the two systems.

The EU implements law directly as Regulations rather than using the UK system of Acts that must be interpreted and if necessary, judged in Court.   About 53% of new UK laws are due to EU Regulations, a further 10-14% of UK Laws are implementations of EU Laws and 9-14% of UK Regulations are EU regulations that required further statutory approval in the UK.  Given that some EU regulations do not apply to the UK the fair figure for the proportion of government due to EU Laws is probably about 50%.

There are pros and cons to Britain staying within the EU, with many factors to consider. It is now up to the people to decide in 2017 what they may feel is best for their country.


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