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Lawyers In For Britain: The UK and the EU: Benefits, misconceptions and alternatives banner

The benefits of EU membership to the UK economy and people are substantial.

They range from easier and cheaper travel, to a more secure society, a cleaner environment, confidence that the goods and services available in the UK are of the same high standard and quality, and guaranteed access to the single market on which so much of the UK’s jobs and prosperity depends. British citizens take many of the benefits of EU membership for granted. They have become part of the fabric of UK life over the 43 years since the UK became a member of the EU in 1973.

In each section of this summary we make a statement that is further explained and evidenced in the main body of the report under the relevant heading (e.g. Benefits 1, Benefits 2 etc.).

1. The EU benefits UK consumers (see more detail)

  • The Government has noted benefits to UK consumers of up to 6% higher income per capita (in the region of £3,300 a year per household) as a result of being part of the EU single market.
  • The EU provides consumers with more choice of products from a wider range of retailers and online suppliers across the EU. This helps drive down prices.
  • Goods across the UK are cheaper (no customs duties or other charges are imposed on goods traded within the EU) and can move more quickly and freely into and out of the UK.
  • EU law means that British consumers can be confident that products and food are of the same high standards of quality and safety no matter where they are made, grown or sold in the EU.
  • The EU’s air, rail, road, and maritime policies have resulted in easier and cheaper cross border travel; improved EU-wide safety and security standards; and extensive passenger rights across all transport modes.
  • The EU has scrapped mobile roaming charges so that holiday makers will no longer return home to the nightmare of a massive phone bill racked up whilst away.


2. Access to the EU single market benefits UK trade (see more detail)

  • The EU is the world’s largest economy – almost double the size of China and bigger even than the US.
  • The EU has over 500 million consumers and is Britain’s largest trading partner accounting for about 50% of the UK’s trade.
  • Some three to four million jobs in the UK are linked to exports of goods and services to the EU.
  • Administration and compliance procedures for importing and exporting goods and services are much simpler within the EU. This enhances efficiency and lowers costs.
  • UK businesses benefit from the EU’s free trade agreements with third countries. These agreements give the UK preferential access to over 50 countries around the world and the EU is in the process of negotiating additional trade deals with the US, Japan and Canada.
  • UK businesses also benefit from the EU’s trade protection measures which prevent unlawfully subsidised or dumped goods competing unfairly with British goods in the single market.
  • Foreign investment in the UK is important for UK prosperity and creating UK jobs. A substantial majority of foreign investors in the UK say they have done so because Britain is part of the single market.


3. Access to the EU benefits the UK’s services industry (see more detail)

  • The UK also benefits from the single market for services including such diverse activities as finance, insurance, legal, media, hairdressing, building, dentistry and accountancy.
  • The financial services industry alone generates 8% of UK national income and is highly integrated into the European financial system.
  • Losing access to the single market would risk diminishing the position of the UK as a global financial hub. UK financial institutions would no longer benefit from the European passport and may need to establish subsidiaries across the EU.


4. The EU improves the UK’s security (see more detail)

  • UK police forces benefit from the ability to share information and intelligence on cyber-criminals, terrorists, stolen goods and missing persons in real time through Europol.
  • The EU’s European Arrest Warrant has reduced the amount of time it takes to return criminals and terrorists who object to extradition to face justice in Britain from around a year to less than 50 days on average.
  • We believe that EU membership enables the UK to face common challenges together. Whether it’s migration, a more assertive Russia, or terrorism, the UK is better able to meet these concerns together with other EU countries than out on its own.
  • NATO has made clear its view that the UK is more secure as a member of both the EU and NATO.


5. The EU promotes a healthier UK (see more detail)

  • The UK is the largest beneficiary of EU funding for health research. Current areas of focus include antimicrobial resistance, dementia and mental health.
  • The H1N1 bird flu pandemic was safely contained partly thanks to the EU’s early warning health response system.
  • British travellers in the EU can have their healthcare costs covered for free, or at a reduced cost, by way of the European Health Insurance Card.


6. The EU secures more affordable energy in the UK (see more detail)

  • Britain is dependent on energy imports and EU membership has allowed the UK to integrate its energy market with other EU countries. This helps the UK to secure more affordable and clean energy for consumers.
  • The EU improves the UK’s ability to meet its current and future energy needs in a way that is more cost-effective than would otherwise be the case if it acted alone.


7. The EU enhances UK workers’ rights and promotes gender equality (see more detail)

  • EU law has improved UK workers’ rights and protects against discrimination in the workplace.
  • As well as knowing that UK workers are protected wherever they work in the EU, British businesses also know that their EU trading partners are operating to the same standards of workers’ rights.


8. The EU improves the UK’s environment (see more detail)

  • Much of the UK’s environmental and conservation legislation stems from EU laws.
  • Tackling climate change at European level is more effective than the UK acting alone.
  • Pollution and migrating species do not stop at borders. Acting together, the EU has made the UK’s rivers, seas, beaches and air cleaner, and our birds safer.
  • EU environmental legislation is necessary to ensure a level playing field for businesses operating in the EU.


9. The EU gives UK citizens greater opportunities to live, work, study and travel abroad (see more detail)

  • British people are major beneficiaries of the EU’s free movement laws. It is estimated that some 1.4 to 2.2 million British people live in other EU countries.
  • Travel to the rest of Europe has become much easier and cheaper. The reason that low cost airlines and coach companies have flourished and airfares have reduced by 40% is because EU law creates an “open skies, road and rail network” across the EU.
  • These opportunities would not be as freely available to future generations if Britain were to leave the EU.


10. Development of the EU’s single market will benefit the UK’s future (see more detail)

  • The single market will develop further and there is potential for substantial future gains. Britain is at the forefront of re-energising the single market in areas such as energy, telecoms, airspace and the digital economy thereby boosting UK prosperity significantly.