“Brexit” – a term coined to describe a potential British exit from the European Union – has been in overdrive over the past few weeks as Prime Minister David Cameron has warned European leaders that the UK could leave the EU if certain demands are not met.
In a shopping list delivered to European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday, Cameron called for a four-year ban on EU migrants claiming in-work benefits after entering the UK. He also asked for improvements in economic competitiveness, and said that he wanted to see greater fairness between the eurozone and non-eurozone nations.
A referendum on the UK’s EU membership is scheduled to take place before the end of 2017.
Those in favour of “Brexit” argue that outside the EU, the UK would be better able to control immigration and negotiate trade agreements on its own terms, as well as cut red tape and reduce the burden of EU regulations.
However, others say the consequences could be catastrophic, with a huge economic fallout.
“Brexit” could see the UK economy lose more than two percent of its total GDP by 2030, critics argue.
There are also concerns that opening up Britain’s economy to the rest of the world could expose UK firms to huge competition from low-cost countries.
However, so far one of the biggest uncertainties surrounding “Brexit” is the fact that such an exit has never been done before, so no one really knows what the exact fallout or benefits could be.
Al Jazeera took to the streets of London to ask people how they felt about the possibility of the UK leaving the EU.
|Anton Taratine: ‘We live in globalised times’|
Anton Taratine owns a coffee business and will be opening his first coffee shop in Brixton, south London, before Christmas.
“I’m from Russia originally. I lived in Canada before that and I’ve been living in London for five years. I think financially we, the UK, would be better to separate, but culturally we would lose out.
“Most people who live in cities have the same attitude. If you venture into the countryside, where people are sometimes more traditionally minded, they are more likely to want Britain to be separate from Europe, but we live in globalised times.
“It has gotten a lot more expensive here in recent years, if that’s possible, but if you have a head on your shoulders you can get along.”
|William Sellick: ‘We managed on our own for thousands of years’|
William Sellick is a former soldier who served in Northern Ireland. He works for the Poppy Factory in Richmond, in southwest London, where employees make wreaths and crosses. He is currently placing crosses with the names of the 180,000 servicemen and women who have died since World War I in the Field of Remembrance in Westminster.
“Personally I think the UK being in the EU is a bad thing. It’s just not working out. The cost of living is high, we are being ruled from outside our own country. Laws are being dictated to us.
“We managed on our own for thousands of years. It’s chaotic now. Just look at the migrant crisis. No one knows what they’re at.”
|Geoffrey Rowell: ‘We must look to history to see why we are united’|
Geoffrey Rowell is a retired Anglican Bishop, who served as the third Bishop in Europe between 2001 and 2013.
“I’m on my way to Lambeth Palace, the archbishop of Canterbury’s residence, to give a speech.
“I think England should stay in the EU. There are always questions regarding democracy, the balance between countries, and the central authorities commission.
“Questions are also being asked about an ever-increasing union, but we must look back into history and examine why we were united in the first place. It happened after two world wars in order to prevent conflict.
“There is a crisis happening in Europe now – the refugee crisis and it is crucial to respond to this in a right and proper way.”
|Cherry Drane: ‘We are tied together – culturally, economically, socially’|
Cherry Drane lives on the outskirts of London. She thinks the capital has become far too busy to live in and only visits occasionally.
“The world is open now, so there’s really very little we can do about it. There is a great cultural movement between countries. We have so many cultures here now and we do need to understand more about them. Every country has its own identity, unfortunately ours hasn’t always been great.
“I think pulling out of Europe would be massively disruptive. We are tied together culturally, economically and socially.”
|Chris St Clair: ‘We have strength in unity’|
Chris St Clair hands out newspapers outside a Tube station in a London suburb.
“I think the EU could be run a bit better. It could be so much more efficient. It is important that we are part of the EU. It means we have strength in unity.
“The only way to leave is via a major liability. Once we’re gone, we’re gone. There is no turning back. We would be excluded from key decision-making. Seamless access to other markets would be tough for businesses.
“I definitely think we do need to get the Conservative Party to get out of government. They aren’t exactly very European.”
|Catriona Kerridge: ‘It’s important for us to stay together’|
Catriona Kerridge is an author and playwright based in London.
“My mother is German and I speak German at home. I think it’s important for us to stay together. I don’t think we take enough of an advantage of Europe.
“In theatre for example, it should be a lot more open to take shows on the road to neighbouring countries. I did the Erasmus Programme, where I studied aboard for a year, and it was eye-opening. I think there should be more movement between countries.
“We in the UK should be forced to copy climate change legislation from Germany, where they are very progressive, especially in the use of solar-powered energy.”
|Maureen O’Halloran: ‘The cost of living here is obscene’|
Maureen O’Halloran is an international fashion stylist who moved to London earlier this year.
“What amuses me about this whole European Union thing is that, as an Irish person living in London, when I go to the Irish banks here, they aren’t connected to the Irish banks in Ireland. If I want to transfer money, it takes five working days. Someone is making money off my money. In the US, it’s done in 12 hours. It makes no sense. Where’s the ‘union’ in that?
“It’s unbelievably expensive to live here. I don’t know how people survive in London. Do I think they should stay in the eurozone? Yes, but is there any way we can bring down the cost of living here? It’s obscene.”
|‘Gazza’: ‘We were all right without Europe, and we’re all right with them’|
“Gazza” says he doesn’t care to use a surname.
“You don’t need them on the stalls. I’ve had this stall for four years now. It’s really good fun. You meet lovely people working at it.
“I personally don’t think I can change anything in Europe. The politicians just do whatever they want anyway. People don’t really realise that.
“Britain was all right without Europe and we’re all right with them, as history will tell us.
“Will it make a big difference either way if we leave or don’t leave? I don’t think so. To be honest, I can’t really be bothered either way.”
|Mike Cooley: ‘The government has accrued power, only to give it away’|
Mike Cooley used to work in local politics. He is in London for an eye examination.
“It’s funny when you look at the world around us. The USSR is now Russia, Ukraine and numerous other countries that aren’t getting along with each other. The same goes for the countries that used to make up Yugoslavia, which separated in the 1990s.
“Even here in the UK, Scotland almost became independent and then we are expected to be ruled from Europe. I don’t understand why Europe wants to do the opposite.
“The government has accrued power, allegedly for the good of the public, only to give it away. I don’t get it.”
|Errol Jackson: ‘I like that Europe is one big melting pot’|
Errol Jackson works as an IT manager in a suburb in northwest London.
“I think it’s funny how we are meant to be the same, but we are so different. You can’t compare Irish people to English people for example.
“I think we can exist harmoniously within the eurozone as long as we strike a free-trade agreement with the EU and have deregulation of the economy, which will be good for business too.
“The pound is so strong at the moment, which is great if you want to travel, so I wonder how that will change.
“I like that fact that Europe is one big melting pot. There’s no reason why each country should operate individually, it makes no sense really.”