The opening blows have been landed by the for & against campaigns in the run up to the Referendum on UK membership of the European Union.
Yesterday David Cameron claimed that the UK would be at risk of having Calais style migrant camps in the south of England should the UK decide to withdraw from the EU. His claim that the UK would be at risk of no longer being able to conduct border checks at French ports was hotly disputed by those seeking to leave the EU.
Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the argument, it is clear that a long battle between the two sides will take place before we get to the vote. But what is at stake and when will this question be resolved?
The publication by Donald Tusk of the draft settlement between the UK and the European Union laid out the proposed response by the EU to David Cameron’s attempt to renegotiate the UK’s concerns with regards to four areas; economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty, and social benefits and free movement.
In order for the process to move forward all 28 member states of the EU must agree upon the settlement. The earliest opportunity for this to take place will be at the next EU summit on 18th & 19th of this month.
However the proposals are far from resolved; in particular the proposals with regards to applying an “emergency brake” to in-work benefits and those concerning economic governance for non- Eurozone countries are the most contentious to some EU members. If an agreement is not reached this month the next summit is not until March, with a further summit scheduled in June. Alternatively an emergency summit could be called to resolve the issue.
Whenever an agreement is reached, it will then take at least 16 weeks for the EU referendum to take place. This means that the earliest likely date for the referendum is 23rd June; however if agreement is not reached next week then it will be postponed until the autumn or even next year.
The referendum will ask “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union”. In the event of a “Leave” vote, the UK’s exit from the European Union will be governed by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This means that the UK must negotiate its future relationship with the European Union before exiting, which can take up to two years. It is possible for the negotiation period to be further extended – in any event it is not likely to be a quick getaway!
If the “Remain” vote is successful it is far from clear as to when the changes to benefits and free movement will come into play. Legislation will need to be drafted and agreed to facilitate the changes, a slow process which will start until after the EU referendum vote takes place.
So in either event, the practical implications of the EU Referendum will not be felt for some time after the vote. You can rest assured that HJT Training will be keeping a close eye on developments and our EU update courses and conferences will help to keep you up to date! For further details click here.