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The European Union debate for people who haven’t been paying attention

20:00 29 February 2016

David Cameron has announced the date of the referendum which will decide whether the EU flag will still fly over the UK.
 Picture: Andrew Parsons/PA Wire

David Cameron has announced the date of the referendum which will decide whether the EU flag will still fly over the UK. Picture: Andrew Parsons/PA Wire

We’re just days into what will be months of campaigning and I can’t be alone in feeling that the European Union referendum has already breached my boredom threshold. So I realised what might actually be useful would be a guide to the issue for people like me who don’t know much about Europe other than that Disneyland Paris is there and people who live there like red rucksacks. Bear with me, then, as we travel through Europe and discover the sights.

The European Union debate for people who haven’t been paying attention:

1. In a nutshell, our beloved leader David Cameron has announced there will be a referendum on whether or not Britain should remain in the European Union which will be held on June 23, which is a Thursday and comes in the middle of Drowning Prevention Week (this is incidental, I think).


2. Unlike a Student Union, which is the place where you go to get drunk when you are at university*, the European Union is an economic and political partnership which involves 28 participating countries including the UK. It began after the Second World War in an attempt to stop Europe from turning on each other again and causing all manner of continued unpleasantness. Since it began, the concept of a ‘single market’ has now extended to allow not only goods but also people to move around the member states freely. *To be fair, Europe is also a place where students can go to get drunk when they are at university, especially if they are rich and can persuade mummy and daddy to pay for them to “go travelling” during their gap year.


3. The EU has its own currency – the euro – which Britain has shunned like a pestilence. When the euro was first proposed as a single currency system for the EU, the prime minister at the time, Tony Blair, declared that there were ‘five economic tests’ that must be met for the UK to accept the euro and ditch the pound. It was then Gordon Brown’s job to make sure that the euro failed all the tests, therefore safeguarding the future of the penny sweet.


4. Voters will be asked: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” and the options will be ‘remain a member of the EU’ or ‘leave the EU’. This is the kind of multiple choice question that you’d have killed for in a history exam because THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER. And no one will ask to see you workings out or expect you to write a bibliography crediting your sources.


5. There is a word which now stands as shorthand for ‘the UK leaving the EU’ which merges the words Britain and exit to get Brexit, a blatant copy of when the Greeks wanted to exit the EU and we called it ‘Grexit’. Brexit is a portmanteau word, two words blended into one to make a new word, but it’s not as good as affluenza (affluence/influenza), anticipointment (anticipation/disappointment), frenemy (friend/enemy), interrobang (interrogative/bang), screenager (screen/teenager), sharknado (shark/tornado) and chork (chopsticks/fork). It also sounds like a brand of incontinence pad.


6. British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over the age of 18 who live in the UK, UK nations who have lived overseas for less than 15 years, members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar – all can vote with their x in a box. You cannot vote with your ex in a box because the voting process is secret and the boxes are often quite small and it would be hard to fit both of you in at the same time.


7. David Cameron has agreed some new terms to the UK’s membership of the EU: I’d go into them in detail, but it would take quite a lot of time and then I’d have to explain how they differed to what he wanted and frankly we’d be here until June 23 and I’ve got things to do. Suffice it to say, a lot of it is about migrant welfare payments, migrant workers, limits on free movement and us keeping the pound because we think the euro is rubbish.


8. According to the latest polls, the British public are fairly split over the issue of staying in or leaving the EU. Like The Clash’s song, Should I Stay or Should I Go, the country is unsure as to whether we should cool it or blow, whether if we go there will be trouble or if we stay it will be doubled. But to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I’m not sure I want to be a member of a society that Nigel Farage belongs to, and he wants to leave the EU. The EU probably feels the same way about Nigel Farage. In a recent poll, 58pc of British people said they did not consider themselves to be European – the other 42pc remembered their geography lessons and realised that whether or not we consider ourselves to be European is by the by: we are.


9. People who want to leave the EU claim that it imposes too many rules and regulations on UK businesses and charges vast amounts of cash in membership fees for very little in return, a bit like joining a gym if you know that you’re never going to be bothered to actually go. Brexit supporters also want the UK to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here from EU countries taking our jobs and our women and single-handedly propping up the NHS and doing all the jobs that British nationals think are too good for them.


10. Crucially, if we leave the EU, we would not be barred from the Eurovision Song Contest because the UK remains a member of the European Broadcasting Union which is why Israel gets away with having an entrant.

15 comments

  • We do vote for the people who make our laws. Proposals for European laws are made by the Commission (which includes a UK Commissioner, appointed by our elected Government) . Those proposals are then debated by the European Parliament (we elect our MEPs on proportional representation, so they represent the views of the whole population) and the European Council (the heads of Government of the member states, who we elect). No European law is made unless the Parliament and the Council agree. In the UK, laws are also made by an elected Parliament, but on "first past the post", which means in our case that a Government elected by 24% of the electorate can decide. I think the first is more democratic!

    Report this comment

    SimonM

    Friday, March 4, 2016

  • 4th position on google news trending topic European Union......well done Stacia.....put it on your cv.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Wednesday, March 2, 2016

  • koenig, you already showed your dislike of this country all the time you were here so now youve gone it doesnt matter to you. You think the UK cant survive outside the EU ? the UK imports more than it exports, Europe needs our business, all we need is to vote leave then have a smart government to negotiate the trade deals. unfortunately this is where the UK is lacking.

    Report this comment

    Jimhow

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • Steady on, Wymspen, many a true word spoken in jest and all that. To have a sense of humour is mostly to have a sense of proportion. If it wasn't for all the little ironies in this world life would be dull. With regard to the impending referendum, ''The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.'' Churchill is supposed to have said. Oh, yes, Churchill, that man held up to be the very epitome of Britishness was half American.

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    Green Ink from Tunbridge Wells

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • I spent many years living in the UK and now have returned to my homeland which is not a member state of the UK. The UK simply can not now survive outside of the EU. The realities of the Global Market make this glaringly obvious. As for pressures from immigration and asylum applications, these can be alleviated by reducing the social payments to deliver the essential needs of the needy, not the wants of the scroungers most of whom are workshy.

    Report this comment

    koenig

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • Yes, Wymspen. How dare they have a sense of humour and not follow the lead of the hundreds of other articles written in the media and on TV that treat this subject with suitable gravitas. Why should a local paper buck the trend and not just report the facts and information? They're really getting above their station, having a moment of levity. I trust you'll be writing to the producers of "Have I Got News For You" to complain, along with all the other newspapers in the UK to tell them never to treat a story lightly? Or did you miss that this was in the "Opinion" section - an area of personal views and light humour - rather than the "Politics" section of the news?

    Report this comment

    So_Many_Haters!

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • This is the most important decision the people of this country have had to make in half a century. What we need is a balanced and sensible presentation of the issues, and the arguments on both sides. What a great shame that the EDP has decided to treat it as a joke, and use it to make a few cynical comments about politicians.

    Report this comment

    Wymspen

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • ...."It all boils down to whether you want to be able to vote for the people who make the laws you have to live by".....Thanks for that @gazcon, but you haven't made it clear which way I should vote?.....I need more wisdom from you....thanks Rhombus.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • Unthank Rd road type comments sadly.

    Report this comment

    PaulH

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • @billy smith - Your comments are spot on .And the tide of people will get larger with warmer weather approaching .Another million on the way apparently .It's not just a German problem .Once these people have their papers many will head in our direction. Then we have the thought of Turkey joining the Union .Unfortunately I feel the horse has already bolted.People should have voted UKIP two elections ago.Of course we do need immigration but it's all about being SELECTIVE !

    Report this comment

    spark

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • Some people aren't remotely interested, and shan't be voting on June 23rd.

    Report this comment

    GoodRockinDaddy

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • A bit patronising Stacia! I've been paying full attention and still haven't a clue! Mind you neither have the Conservative party! How can so many 'highly educated' people come to such totally different conclusions?

    Report this comment

    Jonno65

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • @gazcon - laws in the uk can only be made by the British Parliament, we do therefore vote for the people who make and pass our laws. This is an absolute fact. But, unfortunately, people will believe anything, even complete lies, if it reinforces their ill founded prejudices.

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    Rushallchap3

    Monday, February 29, 2016

  • It all boils down to whether you want to be able to vote for the people who make the laws you have to live by. All the rest is just symptoms.

    Report this comment

    Gazcon

    Monday, February 29, 2016

  • mr c tried and failed, he just did not bring anything worth while back with him, did he?

    Report this comment

    ted

    Monday, February 29, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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