Europe: your questions answered

26 May 2016

The referendum on June 23 will affect all our lives and those of generations to come: do we stay part of the European Union or vote to leave?



The over-50s will be key to the outcome of the 23 June vote. 

A new Saga Populus Poll of 8,650 over-50s, shows that more are making up their mind about which way to cast their ballot with the number of undecided falling from 14% to 12%.  

Overall 42% say they will vote for the UK to remain a member of the European Union in June’s Referendum – up from 41% in April. Support for Brexit also nudged up by a point to 46%.

Click here to see a simple breakdown of how the over-50s are planning to vote

Your questions answered

To help you decide, we have put Saga customers’ questions to the big guns in the debate. 

The Prime Minister David Cameron answers on behalf of the  ‘Remain’ campaign and Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of ‘Vote Leave’ and founder of Business for Britain, answers for the ‘out’ campaign.

Lance Batchelor, Saga’s Chief Executive, commented:“It is real testament to the importance of the over-50s that two of the most influential figures in the EU referendum debate have chosen to talk to Saga Magazine. As the Saga Generations are significantly more likely to vote in the upcoming election, our EU destiny really is in their hands.”

But before we get to your questions, each side of the debate will set out their stalls...


Prime Minister David Cameron

Reasons to Remain

David Cameron, Prime Minister

As a country, and as individuals, we are approaching a big decision. Do we choose to stay in a reformed European Union or do we opt to walk away for good?

With June 23 approaching quickly, I know this is a topic that will be on the minds of many Saga Magazine readers. Over the past few weeks, you’ll no doubt have heard all sorts of arguments and debate – not just from politicians, but among your friends and family too.

For me, the decision boils down to one fundamental question: will we, our children and grandchildren, be better off staying part of a reformed EU or out on our own?

As your Prime Minister, I believe firmly that we will be stronger, safer and better off as a country by staying in – and here’s why.

Strength in numbers

We will be better off because British businesses will have full access to the European single market. That’s a market of around 500 million people in which our businesses can trade freely, creating new jobs for our children and grandchildren as they leave school or university, and delivering lower prices to us all. It’s a deal we simply couldn’t get outside the EU.

We will be safer because being part of the EU enables us to work closely with other countries to fight cross-border crime and terrorism, giving us strength in numbers in a dangerous and unpredictable world.

And we will be stronger as a country because a seat at the EU table means we can play a leading role in one of the world’s largest organisations, helping make the big decisions that affect our future.

I have always been Eurosceptic and I remain so: the EU is not a perfect institution and its reform needs to continue. But my position is clear: it is in Britain’s best interests to spearhead that reform from within – not stand on the sidelines, constantly affected by the actions of a massive market on our doorstep, but powerless to influence it.

In a strong position

The special status we now have in Europe gives us the best of both worlds. It means families across the UK get all the benefits of being in the EU, including more jobs, lower prices and greater security. 

Yet, at the same time, we are out of the parts of Europe that don’t work for us. That means we will never join the euro, never be part of eurozone bailouts, the Schengen no-borders agreement, a European army nor an EU super-state.

The alternative to this special-status membership is to walk away altogether. This would be a leap in the dark at a time of uncertainty. It would mean Britain’s families lose out – their wages would be lower and prices would be higher. In the long term, it means households would be worse off by an average £4,300 every year. 

We know a vote to leave the EU would damage trade, put jobs at risk and diminish Britain’s place in the world.

These are risks to our country and to our children’s futures that I don’t think we are right to accept. But let me be clear, the decision on whether to stay or leave the EU is the sovereign choice of the British people – no one else’s. That’s why I would urge you to go out and vote on one of the most important matters that will affect you and generations to come.


Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the Vote Leave campaign and Founder of Business for Britain

Reasons to Leave

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive, ‘Vote Leave’

I am passionate about Britain leaving the EU because I know we are strong enough to stand tall in the world as a free, independent and sovereign nation.

As the Prime Minister told us earlier this year: ‘You are never going to hear me say that Britain couldn’t succeed outside the European Union... Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world. We’ve got a huge amount of talent and resources and brilliant people.’

I agree wholeheartedly with the optimistic view David Cameron expressed then about this country, the British people and our ability to succeed if we vote to leave the EU.

Stronger alone

Britain is the fastest-growing economy in Europe and we are outstripping all the major Western countries except America thanks to the achievements of this Government in restoring our economic security. We are mending the public finances, and pro-enterprise policies have enabled businesses to raise employment to record levels.

Those achievements owe precious little to Brussels. They have come despite our EU membership, not because of it.

I am impatient for the opportunities that lie ahead once we have removed the ring-fence that the EU has built round our ambitions thanks to its control over so many of our laws and its stifling bureaucracy. 

Being inside the EU can feel like being marooned as the rest of the world motors forward. There are few signs of long-term revival in the eurozone’s fortunes and the EU’s share of the world economy is sliding inexorably, from 39% to 24% in a decade.

The EU will not keep the status quo

Staying inside would be risky. A vote to Remain would be a vote not for the status quo, but for membership of the EU in 2025 or 2035. 

EU leaders have already told us what they intend to do in that time. They have set out plans for far deeper integration, including full political union in the eurozone, which almost no one in Britain now wants to be part of. 

Our influence would inevitably decline as the key decisions were taken elsewhere, but we would still be subject to all the rules and restrictions of EU membership.

Leaving the EU would be the secure option. There would be no sudden rupture, but a gradual, carefully worked out change in the relationship as even Stuart Rose, the former chairman of Marks & Spencer and head of the Remain campaign, has admitted. 

No one would be thrown out of other European countries, nor would we suddenly start ordering EU citizens out of Britain.

Taking control

We would continue to trade as friendly neighbours, but would regain control. That means control over our £350 million a week membership fee, which we could spend on priorities like the NHS. 

We would control our borders with a fair but secure immigration policy that would introduce sensible controls on people wanting to move here in the future. We would control our democracy and the laws that we make.

With greater control over our international relations we would grow our global trade, which has always been the motor of our economy when we have been at our most successful.

We would no longer be tied to the fortunes of a declining corner of the world, but instead we would have the opportunity to increase jobs and prosperity for families across Britain.

I want an independent, outward-looking Britain at ease with itself and its place in the world. That is why I will vote Leave.

Subscribe to Saga Magazine here...

Your questions 

Isn’t it ridiculous that being in the EU costs this country so much money – I have heard £350 million a week?

David Cameron: This number isn’t true. It completely ignores the money we get back: the rebate we’ve safeguarded; the money we receive in investment and the payments our farmers and universities receive.

Just over 1p in every £1 of tax paid goes to the EU. Treasury analysis shows just how dramatically the benefits outweigh this cost. After 15 years, it estimates Britain outside of Europe would be £36 billion short in terms of tax receipts, putting public services at risk.

In any case, if we wanted to continue accessing the single market – something that is so crucial to jobs and growth in this country – we’d probably have to do what Norway and Switzerland do, and pay into Europe anyway.

Matthew Elliott: You are right, that is the figure and it is crazy that we pay so much to the EU and get such a raw deal. 

Around half that money comes back to Britain in grants, but we have no say in how it is spent. The other half pays for the bureaucratic machine in Brussels and for often wasteful and corrupt schemes elsewhere in Europe. The EU’s own accountants have not given its budget a clean bill of health for 20 years.

What effect would Brexit have on my pensions and investments?

David Cameron: A vote to leave would put your pension and investments at risk. Everyone – even those who want to leave – accepts there would be an economic shock in the short term. 

The Treasury estimates our economy would be 6% smaller in the long term, compared with staying in the EU. What does that mean? It means less money to pay people’s pensions. It means less confidence and stability in our economy. For our pensioners, that means less security. That’s why a vote to leave is a vote for risk.

Matthew Elliott: British pensioners do not have to be resident in the UK or indeed in the EU to draw their retirement income and this would not change. 

British people retired to Europe before we joined the Common Market and they will continue to do so after we leave, just as they retire to non-EU places, such as Florida.

The value of pensions and investments depends above all on the fundamentals of the British economy, which will become even stronger once we leave.

If there is economic turmoil, could it mean I have to postpone retiring?

David Cameron: The first thing people want when they approach retirement is the certainty of knowing they’ll have enough money to live comfortably. 

A strong economy is also vital to pensioners – it keeps the cost of living down and makes sure they get returns on their investments. A Leave vote puts all that in jeopardy. 

We owe it to all the people who have worked hard and saved all their lives to find dignity in retirement. A vote to remain is a vote for the certainty they need.

Matthew Elliott: We cannot expect to be immune from new shocks to the international economy and we cannot predict when they will happen. If only we could, we would all be a lot richer! 

But by leaving the EU and increasing our trade with the rest of the world we would become far less vulnerable to being dragged down by the eurozone crisis.

Britain is in much better shape than the rest of the EU, which is in decline and holding us back. By putting our eggs in more than one basket, we will become much more resilient to economic turmoil.

I like the idea of spending the money we’d save by not paying into Europe on the NHS instead. Is that workable?

David Cameron: The savings argument is a myth. The truth is if we left the EU, we would have less money to spend on our public services. Why? Because there would be an economic shock. 

Our economy would take a hit. There’d be fewer businesses, less investment and even pressure on the pound. We all know what that means: lower tax receipts – the money that pays for our public services. 

The Treasury estimates that Brexit would leave a £36 billion black hole in our public finances after 15 years. That’s equivalent to a third of the NHS budget. 

Far from freeing up cash to plough into our public services, leaving the EU would leave Britain short, hitting hospitals, schools, transport and so many more services that rely on economic growth.

Matthew Elliott: Because the NHS is such a top priority for voters and for all political parties, it is bound to be one of the big winners if we leave.

The £350 million a week we pay Brussels is enough to build a fully staffed NHS hospital every seven days. Negotiating a new trade deal could take around two years and that is when we would get our money back. The democratically elected government of the day will then be free to decide how to spend it.

Will I still be eligible for reciprocal healthcare if we leave?

David Cameron: Being able to use health services, either on holiday or living overseas, is one of the benefits of EU membership. Hundreds of thousands of Brits have made use of it over many years.

If we weren’t in the EU, these arrangements wouldn’t automatically be available. We’d have to start from scratch – and there are no guarantees we’d get as good a deal as we have now. 

Again, it’s a leap in the dark that could make you think again about your place in the sun or well-earned holiday.

Matthew Elliott: Again, nothing would change until we actually leave the EU. European countries will want to make sure their people are looked after when here as much as we will protect the rights of our citizens in Europe.

There are as many as 3 million people from EU countries living in this country compared with about 1.3 million Britons living in the EU, so it is even more in their interests than ours to make sure there are secure arrangements in place.

For more news and useful information, browse our money articles.

What would our grandparents/parents who fought in the World Wars say about us being in the EU? Angela Merkel and her political allies are making us jump through hoops now.

David Cameron: I think our parents and grandparents would look at more than 70 years of peace on the European continent – something they didn’t see in their lifetime – and be glad that by putting aside what divides us and, instead, building relationships based on trade and trust, we’ve made Europe a stronger and safer place.

Our relationship with the EU gives us the best of both worlds. We’re not committed to ever-closer union or some kind of European super-state, but we do have unfettered access to this massive market right on our doorstep and relationships that keep us safer at home and abroad. 

Matthew Elliott: The extraordinary sacrifices of those generations won the peace and freedom we enjoy today. The founders of what has become the EU had noble ambitions to prevent war in Europe and we should not dismiss their ideals, but we should also recognise the role of Nato and nuclear deterrence.

We do not need the EU to prevent World War Three. Many people from that generation who I have spoken to are as worried as I am that it has strayed far from its ideals and become an anti-democratic organisation that we are better off out of. 

Democracy is more important for peace than a giant bureaucracy.

What EU grants would we lose and what impact would that have on my life?

David Cameron: The EU contributes funding to all sorts of projects, from investing in new roads and infrastructure to funding arts projects and wildlife conservation. 

But the benefits of EU membership are so much broader than just the grants that we receive. By being in the EU our businesses and our citizens have access to the largest single market in the world – a continent of 500 million customers. 

Indirectly, that creates the growth, jobs, investment and stability Britain needs to invest in things like free museums and the upkeep of our countryside.

Matthew Elliott: Only about half our £19 billion annual EU membership fee comes back here. It mainly goes on grants to things like farming, the environment, science and support for low-income regions. Not much goes directly to the arts, but a lot does go to farmers to preserve the beauty of the countryside where you go for a walk. 

The good news is we would not have to cut a penny from the amount spent on these causes, but we could spend it more effectively and would also have billions of pounds left over for other priorities.

How successful do you think the UK would be outside the EU?

David Cameron: I know that the UK will always be a strong, successful nation. So the question isn’t whether we could succeed outside Europe, the question is where will we best succeed. And I believe the facts show that we’d be stronger, safer, better off – in other words, more successful – in a reformed Europe than out on our own.

There are those who paint a picture of a successful Britain outside Europe. But they don’t tell us why it would be successful. What trade agreement would we have with the Continent? How long would it take to secure? What would happen to jobs and investment in the meantime? All these questions are unanswered. All we are being offered is risk at a time of uncertainty.

Matthew Elliott: We would be far more successful outside. The world is changing, but the EU is stuck in a rut. 

It is sliding economically. It is forever centralising, and taking away our power over our laws, our borders, our money and our destiny. It is holding us back. 

Only by voting to leave can we take back control of all of those things and succeed. We will continue to co-operate and trade with our friends in Europe, but we will also re-engage and trade more with the rest of the world.

What will happen to my food bill? Which items might be more expensive?

David Cameron: Over a quarter of the food we buy comes from the EU. That gives us more choice in the shops. There are no tariffs on that food, so that means it is cheaper, too.

If we leave, we would no longer automatically have those tariff-free imports. And we know that when there are tariffs, these can be passed on to customers in higher prices. 

If our farmers were left operating under World Trade Organisation rules, the costs to them – and to consumers – would be considerable. Tariffs can be 40, 50 or even 70%, so if we leave, the costs to the beef industry could be £240 million, and to lamb £90 million. That would be catastrophic for farmers – and it would be costly for consumers, too.

Matthew Elliott: It would be a priority for Britain to strike a deal with Europe to continue the free trade we currently enjoy so that imported food does not become more expensive. 

We sold food worth £8 billion to other EU countries last year, but they sold £23 billion to us, so it is even more important to European food producers than to ours that Brussels does not try to put up trade barriers. They would be sabotaging their own economies.

Could an EU farmers’ union, say, effectively ban British produce if we leave?

David Cameron: Whether we remain or leave, the EU will continue to be our biggest market, where nearly half of our goods and services are sold. 

At the moment we have a say over the rules of that market, but if we leave we no longer would, and would be subject to whatever rules or barriers the remaining members wanted to impose. For example, when France tried to stop British beef being sold in its shops we were able to use EU rules to overturn the ban. If we leave, we would no longer have that clout.

Matthew Elliott: There are strict global rules against countries unilaterally trying to restrict imports with no justification. They apply whether a country is in the EU or outside. 

It is true that in some countries, like France, farmers can be pretty militant. But they would not want to start a trade war, as we are much bigger customers for them than they are for us.

My house was supposed to be my pension, so what effect might leaving have on prices?  

David Cameron: Even those people who want us to leave the EU admit that there will be a shock to our economy that will hit us all. And as the Governor of the Bank of England has said, this uncertainty could include increases in mortgage rates. While those who want to leave may think that fewer jobs and lower growth is a price worth paying, I don’t. 

I want the UK to be as economically secure and as prosperous as it possibly can be. That’s why I think voting to remain is the right decision whether you’re worried about your job, your pension, or house prices.

Matthew Elliott: The value of your home will be far more affected by the strength of the economy and by British decisions on housing policy than by whether or not we are in the EU.

Will Britain feel more like it did in the Fifties and Sixties after leaving?

David Cameron: The same challenges that we face as a country would exist: a difficult global financial climate, security challenges at home and overseas, and the need to compete on the world stage with emerging economies. 

The difference is that we would be weaker, less safe and worse off if facing these challenges on our own. I think that by being in the EU we are far better placed to face those problems together, than we would be if we were out on our own.

Matthew Elliott: Leaving the EU will be a step forwards rather than a step back. Europe’s share of the world economy is sliding and it is now home to only 7% of the world’s people. It is at risk of becoming a bit of a backwater. 

By leaving we will become in many ways a more modern, outward-looking country. It is true our ties with old Commonwealth friends like New Zealand and India suffered when we joined the Common Market and we will have a welcome chance to rebuild those links.

But that will be as part of a much more open, connected-up world than we had 50 years ago.

How can we control immigration if we remain members of the EU? 

David Cameron: The special status we now have in Europe gives us the best of both worlds. So we are out of the parts of Europe that don’t work for us, like the Schengen no-borders agreement. This means that we have a hard border that we control.

I also fought hard to secure a breakthrough agreement for Britain to reduce the unnatural draw that our benefits system has across Europe by making new EU migrants wait for four years before they can have full access to our benefits.

And we have already made sure that EU migrants cannot claim the reformed unemployment benefit, universal credit, while looking for work. And if they haven’t found work within six months they can now be required to leave.

Matthew Elliott: We can’t. Freedom of movement is sacrosanct according to Brussels, so the 440 million citizens of other EU countries can come and go as they wish. 

Because of its economic success, Britain is a magnet for immigration, particularly for people from poorer East European member states. The result is that one of the few ways government can control immigration is to tighten restrictions on people from outside Europe.

That means if someone is, let’s say, a talented computer programmer from India or an engineer from Australia, it is increasingly hard for them to win the right to work here. It is time we had an immigration policy that welcomed people according to what they can contribute, not the colour of their passport.

What is the single most important thing you think Britain has gained from being in the EU, apart from economic co-operation and peace?

David Cameron: As well as opening up the world’s widest and deepest single market to our businesses, and helping ensure over half a century of peace across Europe, our membership of the EU has allowed us to be an even bigger player on the world stage than we would be otherwise. 

For example, when we wanted to halt Iran’s nuclear programme it was EU sanctions, driven by the UK, that brought it to the negotiating table. By working together the EU had much more influence than had we acted alone.  

Matthew Elliott: Clearly, being able to trade freely with other European countries has been a good thing for Britain. It’s why the British people voted to stay in the European Economic Community in 1975. Sadly, the EU is no longer just about free trade – it is about an ever-closer political union that the British people never agreed to join.

We would be at peace with other EU countries whether or not we had joined – let us not forget we are also partners in Nato. They are our friends and neighbours and will continue to be whatever happens after June 23.

How do you think Europeans will view us if we leave the EU? 

David Cameron: It’s pretty clear that the majority of the people of Europe want us to remain.

It is for those in the Leave camp to explain what arrangements they would like to see if we leave. But it is possible you might find it more difficult, and you will likely find it more expensive, to travel around Europe than you do now. 

Let’s remember, it was EU reforms in the Nineties that led to fares for lower-cost flights dropping by more than 40% within Europe. Thanks to the EU, we also have far more routes across the Continent.

Leaving will also raise uncertainty over some of the benefits Brits get when travelling to EU countries, such as access to healthcare or reduced phone charges. 

The Leave campaign has also said that visas for travel to Europe would have to be considered – if you want to go on holiday to Spain or to Greece, you would have to pay for a visa.

Matthew Elliott: Scepticism about the EU is far more widespread among people in Europe than you might guess just from listening to what their political leaders say on the news. 

The British love going on holiday to the Continent and I am sure we will continue to get a friendly welcome. The only change you may detect will be a sneaking admiration that our country had the self-confidence to make a democratic choice for its future.

Britain is known for its scientific innovation. Would Brexit affect this and investment in scientific research?

David Cameron: Whether it’s working together on new cancer drugs, or developing new clean energy, our scientists are world leading. But our leading scientists have said that the co-operation they have with scientists from across Europe through our membership of the EU has been vital to their success.

Our research institutions also receive millions in funding through EU programmes, getting far more out of the funds than we put in.

Matthew Elliott: The EU bureaucracy is a block on science, technology and innovation. For example, the European Commission recently raided around £2 billion from its Horizon science budget to pay for problems caused by the euro crisis.

Sir Andre Geim, Britain’s 2010 Nobel Prize-winning physicist, has blamed the EU science system for ‘discrediting the whole idea of an effectively working Europe’. A particularly awful Brussels law called the Clinical Trials Directive has been called a ‘catastrophe’ for medicines’ development.

We have an astonishing number of talented people like Sir Andre working in Britain. With a less bureaucratic system, we can lead the world in technology, science and innovation as we have done so often in our history.

How will our security and military capability be affected if we leave?

David Cameron: Security experts, from former police chiefs to senior military commanders, are agreed that we are safer as part of a reformed EU. The ability to share intelligence with other countries supports our work to keep people out of the country that we do not want here, including thousands of EU citizens.

We have also been able to remove EU criminals using the European arrest warrant, as well as bring British suspects back to the country to face justice. All of this co-operation could be lost.

And while Nato will always be the cornerstone of our national defence, through the EU we are able to take action that Nato cannot, such as imposing sanctions on Russia when it invaded Ukraine. That’s why even the head of Nato thinks we should stay in the EU.

Matthew Elliott: Our spending is determined by our Government and we are currently among only a handful of EU countries that meets the Nato target of spending 2% of national income on defence and security.

We would co-operate as closely as ever with our European allies in the fight against terrorism. By leaving the EU, we would be able to improve security at our borders and protect ourselves far more efficiently against suspected terrorists and criminals.

We would keep our UN Security Council seat and remain fully committed to Nato and the other international alliances that have always kept us secure. Britain and France are the two leading military powers in Europe and will continue to mount operations together.

How will higher education be affected – from student numbers to funding?

David Cameron: No one is suggesting that our fantastic universities couldn’t do well outside the EU, but the question for me is how they can do their best in a highly competitive field.

Universities themselves say that inside the EU they are better able to collaborate with partners across Europe to carry out cutting-edge research, and that they are a more attractive destination for global talent, ensuring that students are taught by the best minds, not just from Europe, but from across the world.

Matthew Elliott: Our universities are magnificent international assets for Britain and we need to make sure they go on to even greater things. Four of the top ten in the world are British – there are none from any other EU country.

We will continue to welcome European students who are qualified to study here. But currently we subsidise them to the tune of nearly £2 billion a year because under EU laws we have to treat them as if they were British, charging them the same fees as UK students rather than the full cost of their tuition. That is an unnecessary cost for the British taxpayer and unfair to students from outside Europe and it needs reform.

Will there be enough people to work in the care industry if we leave the EU?

David Cameron: There are 100,000 skilled EU workers in our health and social care system. If we leave there will be uncertainties around visas and residency permits that could cause some to return home, and that would have an unpredictable impact on hard-pressed frontline services.

And with the Treasury estimating a £36 billion hole in our public finances if we leave the EU, I’m concerned about being able to continue the investment that our public services need.

Matthew Elliott: Many people from EU countries do a fantastic job in the care industry and we would not want to lose their skills and dedication. There is no question of throwing out Europeans who are already living here. 

In the future though, once we are outside the EU, we will be able to choose who we decide to welcome based on their skills, no matter where in the world they come from.

How will our relationship with the USA change if we exit?

David Cameron: We are stronger on the world stage because we are part of the EU. That’s why no world leaders, other than, perhaps, Russian President Vladimir Putin, think we should leave.

President Barack Obama, when he came to London recently, said that our membership of the EU magnifies Britain’s influence, enhances our leadership and ensures that the EU takes a strong stance in the world. He also made clear that our economy benefits from being part of Europe’s single market of 500 million people that is worth half our trade.

Matthew Elliott: The North Atlantic Alliance will continue to be at the heart of our national security. America will remain our most important friend and ally. Our growing military and intelligence strength is vital to that relationship. 

Britain’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council and membership of Nato, where we are the strongest power after America, will see us co-operating closely to address the world’s problems.

By being in control of our own destiny we will be able to establish even closer trade relations with America, which is our biggest export market. Because we will be linked more closely with countries outside the EU as well as with our European friends, our global standing will be enhanced.

If Turkey joined the EU could we expect an influx of Turks?

David Cameron: Turkey’s membership of the EU is not on the cards for many years to come. It first applied for associate membership of the European Economic Community back in 1959, and there remains a very significant amount of work to do before it would be ready to join.

Every country – including the UK – has a veto at every stage of the process to admit a country to the EU. For example, France has said that they will hold a referendum on Turkish membership, and 75% of the French public do not want Turkey to join.

So we are able to influence the pace of the negotiations through our veto, which we can use at any stage of the process. And I’ve said that we could impose conditions on its membership, such as putting tough controls on free movement in place. The final decision would also have to be ratified by the UK parliament. 

Matthew Elliott: The Home Secretary, Theresa May, was right to warn that allowing counties such as Albania, Serbia and Turkey into the EU could undermine our security. Letting them into Europe's open border policy will make it harder for us to stop criminals and terrorists from these countries coming to the UK. 

The NHS and our public services are already under pressure from high levels of migration, something that will only be exacerbated when Turkey joins the EU.

Will I still be able to invest in property abroad if there is Brexit?

David Cameron: Not necessarily. Property rights for citizens outside the EU vary between member states, and if the UK left the EU then the details would depend on what we could negotiate.

Matthew Elliott: The property rights we have as British citizens are guaranteed by international law and would be unaffected if we left the EU. Many countries outside the EU invest in property across Europe and many British people buy homes outside Europe. That will continue.

If we left, would we still be part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? 

David Cameron: TTIP is a deal being negotiated between the EU and the United States that could add £10 billion to our economy.

 If we were outside the EU, however, we wouldn’t be part of that deal, or of any the other deals with more than 50 markets that we have through our EU membership. These would all have to be renegotiated, along with our relationship with the EU.

Matthew Elliott: No, TTIP is being negotiated between the EU and the USA. The key difference after leaving the EU is that we would be able to do our own trade deals by regaining our own seat on the World Trade Organization. Our voice is currently controlled by Brussels, which has to try to find a common position among 28 countries. It is no wonder the EU takes so long to achieve anything.

Countries like Australia and Canada have long-standing free trade agreements with the USA and given that we are the world’s fifth-largest economy it would be in the interest of the Americans as well as ourselves to reach a good bilateral deal.

Stepping out of the TTIP negotiations would also mean we could protect the NHS against what legal experts have warned is a “real and serious threat to future UK decision-making” in healthcare.

How will British culture change if we leave?

David Cameron: Our culture and our values will always be strong no matter what – from the success of British business, our vibrant cities and beautiful countryside to our belief in freedom and tolerance. But, by staying in a reformed EU we are stronger as a country because we can play a leading role from within one of the world’s largest organisations, and our biggest market, helping make the big decisions that affect our future.

Matthew Elliott: That will be fascinating to see, but I suspect any change will be very gradual. Britain’s historic identity as a tolerant, outward-looking and proud nation would not change as a result of leaving the EU.

In time, perhaps, the country will feel a bit more global and a bit less European – and perhaps a bit more confident in itself. But it will be just as British.

This article appeared in the June 2016 issue of Saga Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Saga European Union Infographic

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.