Referendum; a vote on a single political decision which has been put to the public.
Example; Scotland had a referendum in 2014 to decide if they wanted to stay in the United Kingdom. (They did. Just.)
Right now; it’s about whether the UK wants to leave the European Union.
The EU is a political and economic partnership of 28 European countries.
It is run by the European Parliament. Members of European Parliament (MEPs) are voted in every five years by the public. MEPs set laws which cover transport and business rules in Europe among many other things.
The European Commission proposes laws to the Parliament and enforces EU law. It upholds treaties and looks out for the interests of the European Union – not individual countries.
The EU operates a Common Market.
Sometimes called a single market this means goods, services, money and currency; but most importantly people can move freely between EU states. The idea is free movement of goods and services, which means good news for business and everyone profits. No, it doesn’t mean you get stuff for free.
In 1973 the UK signed up to the common market (called the European Economic Community or EEC) to trade with other countries and develop international relationships. Jump to 1993; the EEC became the European Union and the European Parliament arrived. Some say 75% of UK laws are influenced by the EU parliament; others say as little as 7%.
That’s the million dollar question. We’ll be wrapping up the main arguments for and against the EU in a way even an 11-year-old can get their head around. Stay tuned for the full video coming soon.
The EU referendum will take place on Thursday 23rd June 2016.
Cameron has negotiated a set of changes to the UK’s EU membership. He wants to:
– Protect the single market for non-Euro countries like Britain
The UK is one of nine EU countries which doesn’t use the Euro as it’s currency. Cameron wants to ensure that the Euro-using countries can’t gang up and force through measures on non-Euro countries. He also wants to ensure there is no discrimination or no disadvantage for non-Euro countries.
– Change immigration rules
Current EU immigration rules mean that people from EU countries can travel to Britain to work without needing a visa or a work permit.
This also means that they can claim state benefits. Cameron wants to reduce the number of economic migrants coming into Britain. To do this he plans to restrict migrants from claiming benefits until they’ve worked in the UK for four years. Everyone seems to think this is unlikely to happen.
– Get Britain out of the “ever closer union”
One of the founding EU principles which the UK signed up to was the ever closer union. This means European citizens driving to integrate more closely.
EU skeptics dislike this idea as it erodes our national identity and could lead to an EU superstate. Cameron wants a legally binding “get out of jail free” card for Britain. He also wants national parliaments to have more power to block resolutions from the EU parliament.
– Make Europe business friendly
The EU parliament sets certain regulations for businesses in Europe. E.g. the standards new products have to meet when tested. Cameron wants to cut the “red tape” which he believes is holding businesses back.
Not everyone is satisfied with these demands. One Tory MP asked “is that it? Is that the sum total of the government’s position in the renegotiation?”
Another asked “how is he going to be able to sell this pig in a poke?” This is a reference to the allegations that David Cameron did something very naughty with a pig’s head whilst at university.
The latest reports suggest that the prime minister wants to push on with the EU referendum sooner rather than later, perhaps even before the end of 2016. We’ll be updating when we know more.
The question which will be put to the UK is ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ The choice of answers will be ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ or ‘Leave the European Union’.
You’ll have to be 18+ to vote in the EU referendum – this is different to the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, where 16 and 17 year olds got to vote.
Britain Stronger in Europe (BSIE) is a major campaign to stay in the EU. Headed up by former Marks and Spencer boss Lord Rose the campaign has the backing of former Labour Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair as well as Caroline Lucas from the Green Party and Conservative Damian Green.
In Campaign Decoded: The campaign video concentrates on the business argument for staying “in”. The EU is our main trading partner – if we leave the free market we start paying import and export taxes which would hurt business. Without the EU the UK risks being isolated in the international community.
Though there are other pro-EU campaigns, it’s likely BSIE will be chosen as the official “in” campaign by the Electoral Commission.
The Vote Leave group is the official “out” campaign. The two main faces of Vote Leave are soon to be ex Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Conservative MP Michael Gove. .
Out Campaign Decoded: The campaign video focuses on the cost of EU membership. As the UK is one of the richest EU countries it (along with Germany and France) pays more for our membership. Some estimates put the total cost as high as £118 billion a year. Ouch.
Both Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave are cross-party campaigns – made up of MPs from various political parties.
Are you “in” or “out”? Let us know in the comments below.
Voters decided today that it will be Conservative Zac Goldsmith facing Labour’s Sadiq Khan in the election for Mayor of London in 2016.
As of this morning, we knew only two things about Zac Goldsmith.
Put those two things together and you have a pretty awkward work situation on your hands. Moving on.
This wasn’t really good enough – seeing as our job is to break it all down simply so no one else has to. We’ve spent the day enlightening ourselves on why we have a mayor in the first place, what they’ve done for us in the past and what these two fresh mayoral candidates are offering.
Why do we have mayors?
City mayors didn’t exist in the UK, at least not the kind we actually vote for, until the year 2000. We have had Lord Mayors for hundreds of years, and that’s a whole different heap of old-timey crazy.
Since the year 2000, local authorities have been able to ask their residents whether or not they would like to have an elected mayor.
This was part of a decision to devolve powers to local government.
Devolution is a fancy word meaning the transfer of powers and responsibilities from central government in London to local authorities all over the UK – like if your mum put you in charge of some rabbits, and you had to make sure they all had fairly nice hutches but you also had to make sure the rabbits didn’t build any more hutches without your permission, make sure they can all get around to their rabbit-jobs efficiently and don’t commit too many rabbit-crimes.
Basically, a mayor is the head of a local authority who take over government responsibilities like housing and planning, waste and environment management, transport, policing, and economic growth. Did the rabbit thing make that any easier to understand?
If town residents vote in favour of having an elected mayor – which is what happened in London, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Lewisham, North Tyneside, Salford, Torbay and a bunch of other places – then the next step is to actually elect one.
In London, Labour’s Ken Livingstone was elected mayor for the first eight years, followed by Conservative and love-hateable maniac Boris Johnson for the next eight years.
Changes are a-coming, though. Come 2016 the London Mayor won’t be Ken or Boris but will either be Zak or Sadiq. It sounds like the lads from One Direction are taking over City Hall. There are other candidates from other parties, but TBH nobody expects them to get a look in.
Whoever is elected London Mayor in 2016 can expect a salary similar to a cabinet minister – currently just over £140,000.
What have mayors ever done for us?
The stuff brought in by the last two London mayors is actually stuff Londoners use every day.
Trying to cut down on London’s carbon emissions, Ken Livingstone introduced the congestion charge requiring road users in Central London on week days.
He also introduced the Oyster card and made it possible for same-sex couples to register their partnership. This last initiative paved the way towards UK-wide civil partnerships. Woop.
Boris Johnson banned alcohol on London transport – and there was a big party the night before this law came into effect.
He also completed Ken’s plan of introducing a public cycle hire scheme of 5,000 bikes across London – known as Boris bikes.
Bo-Jo also set up the Outer London Fund, offering a pot of money up to £50m to help create better local high streets.
Who will be our next mayor?
One of these two gents.
Sadiq Khan is Labour MP for Tooting, and won 59% of the vote which took place in tandem with the Labour leader selection. The ballot included full members of the Labour party, registered supporters and affiliated sections (trade unions and the like). Khan managed to win a decisive majority across all three of these sections.
Zac Goldsmith is Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, and won 70.6% of the vote in a ballot which any Londoner over 18 could vote in for £1.
What issues are they pushing forward?
They’re both ploughing right in with housing and green policies as top of their agenda.
Both are bothered about swollen house prices pushing regular Londoners out of their own city – with this creating a divided and unequal situation like Paris or New York where the rich live in the centre and the poor live at the fringes.
Zac says we need to build more houses and change the way we build them.
Sadiq says we need to make sure Londoners get ‘dibs’ on new houses and backs a ‘London Living Rent’ which would see a certain number of properties in any new build charging rent equal to a third of the average wage in the area.
They’re both serious environmentalists. Both completely oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport and put improving green spaces and the air Londoners breathe at the top of their if-elected to-do lists.
One thing they disagree on is the building of the Garden Bridge Boris Johnson has planned, which Sadiq Khan reckons is too hefty a cost on the public wallet. Zak reckons it’s OK. Woah guys this is way too much drama.
It’s mega early days, but right now the two candidates don’t seem all that different. At least in the sense that they’re focusing on exactly the same problems.
To be fair, though, seeing as nearly 10,000 die each year in London because of air pollution and mental London house prices being twice the national average, neither candidate could really ignore these things.
The difference will probably be in how they tackle these issues. Again, though, early days.
Spot the difference
There are for sure lots of differences between these two guys. The BIGGEST difference is their backgrounds.
Sadiq Khan, was the son of a bus driver and seamstress, grew up on a south London council estate and slept in a bunk bed at his parents’ house while he trained to be a lawyer.
Zac Goldsmith is son of aristocracy, inherited £200 million from his father and was expelled from Eton for possessing cannabis.
So. Yeah. Different. Let’s see how this plays out.
Now you’re decoded on the London Mayor and the new candidates you can join the debate. If you don’t live in London, call up a mate who does and lecture them on devolution, cos YOLO. For those who live in London you can vote in the actual mayoral election as long as your are over 18 on the day of the election in May 2016 and can register to vote.
Registering to vote takes about 5 minutes – do it here.