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In a month from today, the European Union will discover the results of the British referendum

In a month exactly the European Union will discover the result of the British referendum. Meanwhile, what could the consequences of a Brexit be?

On June 24th the European Union will discover the result of the referendum on whether the United Kingdom should stay or leave the EU. Since its difficult accession to membership in 1973, and a first “in or out” referendum in 1975, the UK has held a position that many consider to be ambiguous in regard of the “continental” European project. Indeed, the UK has never really rallied to the European project as it is thought in Berlin or Paris; and when today Boris Johnson scandalises European leader by comparing the EU to the “continental” plans of Napoleon or Hitler, he is but saying out loud a relatively widespread idea in the UK. An unapologetic insularity in opposition to continental ambitions, a political battle between part of the Conservatives and partisans of full sovereignty from UKIP on the British side; from Berlin to Paris, Margaret Thatcher’s “I want my money back” still resonates in all continental ears. A month away from the vote, this new episode could turn out to be the last of a complicated relationship between the UK and the EU or simply another tension for the EU to deal with.  

What would the “European” consequences of a Brexit be?  

The UK is in fact one of the Member States that contributes more to the EU budget than what it gets in return, despite the UK rebate obtained by Margaret Thatcher in 1985. According to The Telegraph, if the UK was in 2013 the second largest net contributor in whole to the EU behind Germany, it is only in 8th position if the contribution is divided by the number of inhabitants.  

According to The Telegraph, the net annual “membership fee” paid by the UK to the EU is 6.5 billion pounds, that is, 12.9 billion pounds in contribution minus the 6 billion pounds the UK gets in return through European funds. For the moment it is impossible to say that the UK will compensate the current beneficiaries of European funds by maintaining the same investment pattern as the EU.  

Thus, through the lack of Common Agriculture Policy direct payments to farmers, the lack of European Regional Development Funds and European Social Funds for entrepreneurs and citizens, disappearance of European Maritime and Fisheries Funds for fishermen and lack of Horizon 2020 funds for researchers it would represent a loss of 6 billion pounds every year if the post-Brexit government chooses not to compensate this loss by national funds.  

For the 2014-2020 period, the UK should benefit:  

– Almost 6 billion pounds in European Structural and Investment Funds (ERDF, ESF, EAFRD, EMFF)
– Over 17 billion pounds in Common Agriculture Policy direct payments to farmers.  

Moreover, by leaving the EU the UK would renounce to its participation in the Erasmus+ programme (2014-2020 budget of 14.7 billion euro) or the Horizon 2020 programme (2014-2020 budget of 79 billion euro).  

Finally, The UK leaving the EU would weaken the Interreg territorial cooperation programmes it is part of and even provoke the disappearance of some of these programmes such as the Interreg France-Channel-England or the UK-Ireland Interreg programmes.  

Therefore, the possible exit of the UK from the EU represents a risk for the current and potential beneficiaries of EU funds as they know exactly what they would lose, without knowing what the investment priorities of a post-brexit government would be for farmers, fishermen, vulnerable youth, students, researchers or simply citizens.


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