Explained: UK referendum on EU membership on June 23

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A referendum will be held on June 23, 2016, to decide whether Britain would remain or leave the European Union. Let's take a look at issues that are related with this important episode in the history of Europe:

What is a referendum?

A referendum is a polling in which everyone or almost everyone having the age to vote give an answer to the question in "Yes" or "No". Whichever side gets the simple majority of more than half becomes the winner. [Will India benefit from Brexit? Pros and cons]


Why a referendum is being held on UK's remaining in EU?

Prime Minister David Cameron had promised that if he had won the national election of 2015, he would hold the referendum in reponse to the growing call from Mps of his own Conservative Party and the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

The parliamentarians argued that Britain did not have any say since 1975 when it had decided to stay in the EU in a referendum. They feel the EU has undergone a big change in the last four decades and is controlling the country's daily lives more. Cameron took the initiative to "settle this European question in British politics".

What will be the referendum question?

"Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"

What is Brexit?

Brexit is a short term to define the episode of the UK leaving the EU. It has been formed by merging the words 'Britain' and 'exit'. It is on the lines of Greece's exit from the EU which was termed 'Grexit'.

Who can vote in the referendum?

All British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens aged over 18 who reside in the UK, along with UK nationals living abroad and have been on the electoral register in the UK over the past 15 years. Members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar are also eligible for the referendum, unlike in the general elections. Citizens from EU countries other than Ireland, Malta and Cyprus will not get a vote.

About the voting procedure

The procedure will be similar to that which is followed during other elections. A registered voter will be sent a card informing him/her about the timing and venue of the voting on June 23. Upon arriving at the polling station, the voter will be given a piece of paper with the referendum question mentioned in it. The voter will have to mention a 'X' in the box which reflects his/her opinion with a pencil. There is also the option of voting by post.

Who wants UK to exit EU?

The British people are quite divided on the question, as latest opinion polls have shown. The UKIP, which did well in the 2015 general election, campaigns for the UK's exit. Also about half of the Conservative Mps, including five cabinet ministers and several Labour Mps and the Democratic Unionist Party are also in favour of their country's exit.

Why do they want to leave the EU?

They are of the opinion that the EU is imposing too many rules on business and charges too much money as membership fees giving little in return. They want Britain to take full control of its borders and check the number of people setting foot in its territory to live or work. One of the main principles of the EU membership is free movement which means one doesn't want to have a visa to go and live in another member country of the EU. They are against this and do not favour the idea of a "United States of Europe" evolving.

Who wants UK to stay in EU?

PM Cameron himself is in the favour of the UK staying in the EU. He, in fact, has also succeeded in getting some power back from it. Sixteen mambers of his cabinet also want the same. While the Conservative Party has chosen to be neutral in the campaign, the Labour Party, Scottish National Party, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru don't want the UK to leave the EU. Other powers like the US, France and Germany also want the UK to stay in the EU.

Why do the aye-sayers don't want to leave EU?

They say Britain gets a big boost from the EU membership---it makes transactions with other EU nations easier and that the country's economy gets a boost through the arrivals of the immigrants and it helps pay for the public services. They also believe that Britain has a better security as a member of the EU and should not be alone.

What is EU?

The EU is an economic and political cooperative venture and includes 28 European countries. The idea surfaced after World War II and the EU evolved over the years to boost besides economic cooperation, mutual security. The EU has grown as a "single market" allowing goods and people to move, establishing the idea of a single unit. It has its currency---Euro, its own parliament and also rules covering several areas like environment, transport, consumer rights and even mobile phone charging.

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