Five things you need to know about Brexit

Exactly one month before the UK's EU referendum here are five things you need to know about Brexit (and get even more info with a new free online course about Brexit).

Ahead of the University of Edinburgh’s free online course Towards Brexit? The UK’s EU Referendum and exactly one month before the referendum, Anthony Salamone, one of the educators from the course, takes a look at five things you need to know about Brexit.


  1. We’ve been here before

In 1975, the UK held its first-ever nationwide referendum on whether to stay in the European Economic Community (the precursor to the EU). The result was a two-thirds majority in favour of remaining in the Common Market. That said, it’s very unusual for a country to hold a vote directly on the question of EU membership. Most past referendums on the EU in member states have been about ratifying new treaties.

  1. The UK’s not so different

Over the years, the difficult relationship between the UK and the EU has become legendary. For instance, it has opt-outs from a number of European policies, like the euro or borderless travel (Schengen). This reputation can sometimes give the impression that the UK is particularly alone or different. However, that’s not really the case. In reality, every member has its own issues with the EU – some are just more obvious than others.

  1. Global interest is high

Although the referendum will be decided by UK voters, many countries, along with companies and organisations around the world, have a substantial interest in the outcome. For this reason, a number have broken with the convention of not engaging in a country’s internal debates and have expressed their views on the UK’s EU membership. However, it’s not clear what impact these interventions actually have on public opinion.

  1. The facts? It’s not as easy as that

The EU can be quite complicated and the referendum debate has featured topics such as the economy, migration, security and democracy. Many people will be looking for information before the vote. However, most of the questions around these issues come down to personal opinion, rather than factual answers. While facts and evidence do naturally exist, they can only inform. In the end, voters will have to make up their own minds on whether EU membership is worthwhile or not.

  1. The referendum won’t end the debate

This June’s vote is just the latest landmark in the UK’s history with the European Union. Whatever the outcome on 23 June, the referendum won’t settle the issue. If the result is to leave, the negotiations that follow will focus on what kind of relationship the UK will have with the EU going forward. If the result is to remain, the debate on EU membership will continue and calls for a second referendum will likely materialise. Either way, the saga will carry on.

Find out more about Brexit, join the free online course 
Towards Brexit? The UK’s EU Referendum

Category Learning

Comments (21)


  • Monica Avidano

    As you’ve written somewhere before, the issue is quite indeciphrable because of its complexity, so that even if you have facts and figures and any kind of information, it is unclear what the best way (if anything like that is ever possible) is. As a teacher of English I’m obviously interested in whatever may happen in the UK. Eager to learn more and to see the results.

  • U Myo Win Swe

    I have heard about EU and Britain.
    If England resigns from EU ,whether EU or Britain will be affcted about it that I have known.Although I do not understand very well,I am interested in this affair.I think this is not only EU and Britain affair but also all the remaining parts of the world’s affair.In comments,They want to be for long term profit and reject the matter of 1975 vote because it is clandestine and has no transparency.I also dislike it because it may be any scandal.
    I agree with the people who are longing for the long term profit.

  • Martin Lusty

    The impact of leaving on the economy of Europe, and perhaps the world, is not being considered. We do know that the world economy is still very fragile so what might be the effect of a major shock like Brexit have? I think we are looking very selfishly at the question and not considering the wider implications.

  • David keeble

    It appears to me that most of the claims about what might or might not be the case, whether we stay in or come out, are assumptions and guesswork and it is unlikely that things like significant increases in Government spending will ever be implemented which ever political party is in power

  • jean Wilson

    The one thing this referendum has done is to prove that there are many people trying to manoeuvre the situation for their own benefit, whether financial or power. It is so sad to realise that there seems to be little thought for the people of this country. The behaviour of some of the senior politicians is quite disgusting.

  • Janice Davies

    I find it very hard to take any organisation seriously that changes location expensively, monthly, and has to decamp to vote on issues. No well planned and organised system would go for this way of locating and relocating. The unnecessary costs are clearly just that – unnecessary and ludicrous. Hardly contributing to the efficient use of time and/or money.
    Hard to take seriously really.

    • Richard Vahrman

      Not sure whether you are referring to UK as the organisation that plans to decamp outside of Europe with unnecessary costs being, er, unnecessary,
      an organisation such as Hitachi which has operations in many parts of Europe. and could easily move out of the UK. This happens anyway e.g. when Kraft took over Cadbury and moved production to Poland. Would it be more likely to happen with UK in or out?
      I think it is a serious question and hopefully one we will debate during the coming weeks.

      • Wendy Booth

        I think Janice is referring to Brussels and Strasbourg

  • Gerald Whiteley

    If, as it appears, voting to leave the EU will not necessarily be the end of the debate, then the decision whether or not to vote for staying in the EU is a no-brainer! If by voting to leave we give ourselves a much better chance to debate the matter more fully and with better information with which to make a decision, then why vote for staying and carry on wearing the proverbial yoke placed around our necks by Brussels?

    • Babs Brown

      well said.

      • Hil

        I agree with your comments. To me Brussels has far too much to say on so many issues.

        • Chris Holt

          I can’t help but agreeing. The EU has rather a quaint ring to it now. It remains a relic of the Cold War. To a forward- thinking Britain, it is no longer a big enough adventure.

    • Lynne Hopkins

      Debate what matter more fully? I assume that if we vote to leave then we will leave. The ongoing debate will be about our relationship with an organisation which we will no longer be a part of. The EU will then have more of a say in what that relationship will be than we will. I’m not feeling the yoke, by the way. The EU is not detrimental to my life.

  • Nick Kenney

    Personally, I find jumping too far forward too quickly makes my head spin. It’s not a good idea to be a Whirling Dervish when one doesn’t live in Whirling Dervish land. Me thinks, have a look and see what information is out there, and this course appeals greatly (at least my head has stopped spinning for a bit.). I posted my voting papers for the referendum back to my electoral office today, I currently live in Australia so I wanted to ensure they arrived back in Blighty before the 23rd June. Making a decision which way I felt inside wasn’t difficult but trying to work out what will happen after the 23rd June whichever way it goes immediately sends one back into Whirling Dervish land again. At least it promises to be interesting, perhaps I should get a script for some anti-whirlies while one still has the opportunity. Anyway, rock-on 13th June, it might prevent one from having to nail ones feet to the floor. Then again, it might just be me that stands still and everything else spins. One just doesn’t know what’s going to happen next!

  • Anna Meda

    I agree that referendum won’t end the debate

  • Jan Brown

    Having been around to vote in 1975, I disagree with your first premise “We’ve been here before”. What we voted on then was very different – the European Economic Community or “Common Market” as it was generally known. We understood that it was a trade agreement with other Western European countries and that was how it was “sold” to the UK public.

    We did not get a vote on the Maastricht Treaty, effective from 1993, which changed everything, despite the UK opting out of the euro and Schengen, and sent us down the route of beginning to lose our controls of migration, security and democracy in the UK, in my opinion.

    I do agree that the referendum won’t end the debate though!

    • Pete Trimmer

      I completely agree, Jan. This is a very different situation to the 1975 decision. Whatever decision is reached this month will surely hold beyond the foreseeable future (more than a decade), so we need to reach the decision that is right for us in the long-term, rather than being distracted by short-term effects, or regarding it casually as one-of-many such choices.

      • John Mills

        I with you Jan and Pete,with the new treaties including Lisbon, we have moved so far away from the 1975 goals. I think we are fortunate to get this opportunity to decide on just how many levels of bureaucracy we might possibly remove ( Why an EU diplomatic service?) An MP cost us about £700,000, an MEP £1,7000,000.

        • Sascha Strobel

          Hi John,
          Where do these figures come from? Any sources?

        • Babs Brown

          I agree with you Jan – I wasn’t around to vote in 1975 but TV programmes etc recently have shown our entry was rather clandestine and misleading and one has to wonder whether we should be putting things right and going for the long term view.

    • Hil

      Jan I fully agree. I too was one who voted to join the Common Market. All countries had to prove that they were weathly enough. Now they are letting others join who in my opinion do not have much to offer, trade or money wise.