Pros and Cons of leaving the EU ahead of the European Union Referendum


EU referendum: Should we stay or should we go?

Which camp are you in? (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

We only have 120 days until the EU referendum on June 23, and the mixed messages are already coming in thick and fast.

ICYMI, David Cameron secured a deal on Friday night that would change some of the particulars of our membership with the EU. You can read more about that here.

Since then, pro-Brexiter Michael Gove has said the deal wouldn’t be legally binding – although this claim was swiftly shut down by both 10 Downing Street and the Attorney General Jeremy Wright.

So, the political ping pong is well underway. But who should we believe?

Obviously this is a personal decision – and one that should be based on facts. So, just to make things a bit more straightforward, here’s our brief guide to the pros and cons of a Brexit.

Why would we leave the EU?

Economic costs

Brexiters say the EU is expensive (Picture: Getty Images)

Brexiters say the EU is expensive (Picture: Getty Images)

Some estimates suggest the total economic cost of EU membership is around 11 per cent of our annual GDP – which makes it something like £200billion.

Brexiters say this money would be better spent on new British industries and scientific research.


Without the EU, Britain can independently pursue international trade deals with China, India and the US.

A particular issue for Brexiters is the Central Agricultural Policy (CAP), which they see as wasteful and expensive.

Nigel Farage believes Britain could strike an agreement with the EU that is similar to Norway’s – where they have access to the EU’s single market, but are not bound by EU agriculture, justice, or home affairs laws.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX/Shutterstock (5588867t)nGeorge Galloway and Nigel FaragenGrassroots Out anti-EU membership campaign event, London, Britain - 19 Feb 2016n Grassroots Out (GO) is made up of politicians and supporters from across the political spectrum who share the single aim: to get the United Kingdom out of the European Union (EU).n

Unlikely bedfellows Nigel Farage and George Galloway team up for the Grassroots Out campaign (Picture: REX/Shutterstock)


Most Brexiters see the EU as an over-regulated, bureaucratic burden.

Leaving, they say, would allow the UK’s government and financial authorities to design a regulatory framework that is more suited to our needs.


Immigration is a contentious issue (Picture: Getty Images)

Immigration is a contentious issue (Picture: Getty Images)

This is arguably the most charged issue in the referendum debate.

One of the EU’s founding principles is the free movement of people (along with the free movement of goods, services and money).

Because of this, the UK has no control over immigration from other EU member states.

Brexiters often cite health and benefits tourism from other EU citizens – where people visit or migrate to the UK because of what they perceive as a more generous welfare system, or the NHS.

The issue of how to regulate welfare for EU migrants was one of the main sticking points in David Cameron’s recent negotiations with EU leaders.

Recently, some pro-Brexit ministers have claimed the UK is at greater risk of a terror attack while part of the EU.

Why would we stay in the EU?

Economic benefits

Money money money (Picture: Getty Images)

Money money money (Picture: Getty Images)

The EU is one of the world’s larget markets, accounting for 25 per cent of global GDP.

It is also our biggest trading partner. Currently, 45 per cent of the UK’s exports are to the EU, while 50 per cent of imports are from the EU.

And our membership of the EU makes us a more attractive destination for foreign investment. In 2012, for example, we received around £937billion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), while 50 per cent of UK FDI is EU-related.

The pro-EU camp say this access to the EU market balances out the £200billion cost of membership.

Although Brexiters suggest we would still have access to the market if we joined the EEA and the European Free Trade Area, this is far from certain – and would come with its own problems (but we’ll come back to this).

Workers’ rights

Anti-discrimination laws mean pregnant women are protected (Picture: Getty Images)

Anti-discrimination laws mean pregnant women are protected (Picture: Getty Images)

The EU has introduced many directives which undoubtedly help British workers and protect our rights.

These include:

  • Regulated working hours and break times, so people cannot be forced to work more than 48 hours a week
  • At least four weeks of guaranteed annual leave
  • Four months paid parental leave and extra protections for pregnant workers
  • Anti-discrimination laws, so people cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion or belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation.
  • Protection for workers when companies change ownership

We get a seat at the table

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - FEBRUARY 18: Flags of the European Union member states hang inside the Council of the European Union

As a member state, we get to have a say (Picture: Getty Images)

The problem with basing our relationship with the EU on Norway, as explained in detail in this blog post from In Facts, is that Norway is still subject to EU laws and regulations – with the exception of CAP. This is the price it pays for access to the EU single market.

However, even though it follows EU rules it still doesn’t have the power to influence EU decisions.

If we stay in the EU, we will continue to be able to have our say on regulations and decisions.

MORE: All you need to know about David Cameron’s EU reform deal

Food, health and animal rights

Most of the UK’s food standards laws originate in the EU, meaning many potentially harmful additives are banned from food.

This is why the ingredients lists for some of our food is a lot shorter than their equivalents in the US, for example.

As well as this, the EU banned animal testing across the union, and EU-wide animal welfare standards have been imposed since 2012.

MORE: EU Referendum: Who’s staying in and who wants out?


It’s estimated that around three million UK jobs are reliant on the EU – although it’s not known exactly how many would be in jeopardy if we left.


It’s easier than ever for us to get away, with visa-less travel across the EU.

Our driving licenses are also valid in all EU countries, and we can work anywhere we want without having to apply for a work visa.


The EU has open borders (Picture: Alamy)

The EU has open borders (Picture: Alamy)

The one point to appear in both the pros and cons lists – which explains why it’s so contentious.

From an employer’s point of view, immigrants from the EU tend to be better educated than UK nationals – around 32 per cent have a degree, compared with 21 per cent of UK citizens. From an economic perspective, people moving over from the EU since 2000 have contributed 34 per cent more financially to the UK than they have cost us.

In his new deal, Cameron has secured a ‘brake’ period of seven years on EU migrants claiming benefits, which would reduce the number of people potentially abusing the system.

People in favour of the EU also argue that immigration also creates a more diverse national culture.

Plus, staying would mean the 1.4million Brits currently settled in other EU member states wouldn’t need to move back or get visas.