To Brexit or Not To Brexit
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Hi there. I’m Hilary and welcome to Adept English and to this podcast. I thought I’d do a podcast on the question of the EU Referendum in the UK – ‘To Brexit or Not To Brexit’. This is a subject which is being talked about a great deal in Britain at the moment.
You turn on the television and the news and it is endlessly about this. But of course, it is really important and I thought it might be useful to do a podcast on this. If you’re not in the UK at the moment, it may be that you’re puzzled by it or you don’t know as much about it as you might like to so I thought this was a good subject.
Now Britain is currently one of 27 countries in the European Union or the EU as it’s known. We’re not one of the 17 countries in the Eurozone, however. Now these are the countries that have the Euro as their currency, their money. In Britain currently, we still have the pound or sterling. So on the 23rd June 2016, people in Britain will be asked to vote in a referendum. Now a referendum is where people get to vote directly on a particular question. It’s really unusual to have one of these and the question here is whether or not we would like to remain in the EU or go it alone. Now the word ‘Brexit’ comes from British Exit. This term started when there was a threat last year that Greece might have to exit the EU and this began to be referred to in the UK as ‘Grexit’. I guess if France was looking at exiting the EU, highly unlikely at the moment, I think, but this might be known as ‘Frexit’ or if it was Spain it would be ‘Spexit’ and so on. So Brexit is the word that we’re talking about.
So why are we having a referendum? Well, David Cameron, our prime minister made a promise of an EU Referendum when he was afraid that his party, the Conservative Party, were losing votes, losing support to UKIP. UKIP are the UK Independence Party so their whole remit, their whole point and purpose is that we would be better off independent and outside the EU. So he thought that they were winning support from the Conservative Party. Most people agree that given a choice, David Cameron wouldn’t have wanted this referendum and he’s now really keen for a Remain vote to secure Britain’s place in the EU. Last winter, David Cameron travelled all around the European capitals, discussing Britain’s EU membership. He managed to get some changes to terms, but they weren’t very large changes. And he vowed to try and keep Britain inside a reformed EU. But some other members of his government are supporting the Brexit campaign.
Now, in Britain, we have opinion polls. So whenever there’s an election, there are organisations who try to collect opinions, people’s…what people are thinking and they try to predict the outcome of the election before it happens. Currently the polls suggest that the vote is fairly even – last time I looked, I think it was about 41% to leave and 42% to remain. So there are obviously a fair few undecided voters, people who haven’t yet chosen what they are going to vote. It’s really difficult to know which way it’s going to go. And last year, when we had a General Election in the UK, the opinion polls got it really very wrong indeed. So lots of people think this time, the polls may be wrong again.
So what are the arguments? Well, some people who support exiting, complain about the EU membership fee. So Britain is what we call a ‘Net Contributor’. They pay…Britain pays more in than it receives back. So currently..last year, Britain 13 billion pounds and received 4.5 billion pounds of spending, so the contribution was 8.5 billion (pounds). So lots of people are saying ‘Ooh, that’s a lot of money! We could use that to buy..to build schools and hospitals etc.
Trade is another issue. The EU is what we call a ‘single market’. It means that the countries in the EU can buy and sell their goods and services without paying any costs or tariffs. Now more than half the exports from the UK go to EU countries. And Britain benefits from having any deals that the EU makes with other countries in the world too. So for example, they’re negotiating at the moment with the US, with America on free trade. So Britain risks losing quite a lot, possibly, by leaving the EU, but other people say that it may be in our interests to establish free trade, so that… where we can make the rules about who we trade with. It’s difficult to know.
London is currently one of the worlds biggest financial centres. It’s not clear whether, if we leave the EU, it will cease to be that because companies will pull out and re-establish their centres elsewhere, or whether it would mean that Britain could re-invent itself free of [EU] regulations and become a super-charged economy. Again it’s really hard to tell.
What about European car makers? Would they end production in the UK if the vehicles can’t any longer be exported without paying tax? I imagine that the car makers in Europe would be pretty keen to continue to sell their vehicles in the UK. But again, it’s hard to know what will happen.
There’s a worry also that if the UK decides Brexit is best, this might boost all the anti-EU movements that are already happening across Europe. Some of them are quite far right movements as well. And some are saying that this could lead to the collapse of the European Union. I’m not sure I quite see that happening yet. I think there’s a lot of people who are really keen for it to continue. But you never know.
Another issue for the UK is immigration. Currently under EU law, anyone from another member state can come to live in this country and Britons can benefit…by having the right also to live or work anywhere else in the EU. The result has been a huge increase in immigration into Britain. Now I think that Britain is one of the best places in the world for welcoming people from other countries of the world. But some people are complaining that it stretches our services. There’s not enough housing – there is a shortage of housing, the NHS, our health service can’t cope; there aren’t enough schools for all the people that want to come – and therefore it becomes a problem. So – pros and cons. Pro-Brexit campaigners are saying that it should be up to the British government to set the rules on who is allowed to come and live in the country and who isn’t.
It’s hard to predict the effect on jobs. People in favour of the EU have suggested that jobs could be lost or that there may not be enough people to fill those posts, to fill the jobs. Other people are saying that if there were not so many people coming to the country, then there would be more jobs to go around. Again it’s really difficult to know.
There’s also a lot of discussion about Britain’s place in the world. Britain could re-establish itself as an independent nation with connections to the rest of the world, say some. Or there are others that say that Brexit would result in the UK giving up its power and influence in Europe. I think Britain will remain a member of NATO and a member of the UN regardless, so I don’t think that’s entirely true.
Others are worried about terrorism and security. We’re not part of the Schengen Area, so we do still check passports and log people coming in and out of the country. Some are saying that we are more secure in the EU because it means we can exchange criminal records, passenger records and work together to fight terrorism. Others are saying that surely, even if we brexit, it would be silly not to work together on these things anyway. We wouldn’t put our citizens at risk by refusing to work together.
One of the biggest issues is sovereignty. Sovereignty isn’t a word that you’re likely to come across very often in English, but it’s the word that’s being used here. What that means is that your sovereignty is your power to make your own laws within your country. So we talk about a ‘sovereign state’, a sovereign state means that it’s got its own powers to make its own laws. People are concerned that many more of the laws are being made by the European Parliament and we don’t get to choose. And as more and more people, more and more countries join the EU, then obviously the voice of each individual country, becomes less and less influential. I think that there are other countries within the EU, who are concerned about this and don’t want to belong to a so-called ‘European Super-State’, where there’s one government, one government in Brussels for all the different countries and there are no longer separate countries with their own law-making powers. I think that there are lots of people who wouldn’t want that.
So what will happen? As I keep saying, it’s really difficult to predict. The greatest uncertainty associated with leaving the EU is that of course, no country has ever done it before. There aren’t the mechanisms. We don’t know what will happen and no one can predict the exact result. So it may be that Britain is the first to put it to the test or it may be that Britain votes to stay in. There’s lots of voters in the UK complaining ‘I don’t know what it will mean – please tell us what will happen?’ But nobody can realistically, nobody really knows! So all that can be said with any certainty is that it will make interesting watching – it will be really interesting to see what happens.
Well, I hope that’s given you a bit of an explanation. And I hope that you enjoy watching and hearing on the news, whatever it is that happens in Britain on the 23rd June 2016. OK, enough for now. I look forward to speaking to you again on my next podcast. In the meantime, please check out our website adeptenglish.com. And don’t forget, if you haven’t already done our free course ‘The Seven Rules of Adept English’, please have a look at that as well. OK enough for now – have a lovely day! Good bye.