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26 April 2016

The answers to the questions you were too embarrassed to ask

The answers to the questions you were too embarrassed to ask

For this edition, Leaders' Questions is looking a little different. Instead of asking various pastors and priests about a particular topic, idea has asked Danny Webster, who leads our Public Leadership programme, a few questions we've always wanted to know, but were too embarrassed to ask.

Membership of the European Union is one of the most contested issues in British politics, and in their 2015 general election manifesto the Conservatives included a commitment to hold a referendum on continued membership. Following forming a majority government in May 2015, the Conservative Party pressed ahead with plans that included a process of negotiation within the EU, as well as a law agreeing to a referendum before the end of 2017. After a series of negotiations and agreement by other EU member states the prime minister announced that this vote would take place on 23 June.

Who is on which side?
The government are supporting continued membership of the European Union, however, the Conservative Party are not formally supporting either side, with many MPs from the party backing the Leave campaign. The Labour and Liberal Democrat parties are supporting Remain, while UKIP is backing Leave.

How does the vote work?
The vote is a simple choice between 'Leave' and 'Remain' in answer to the question: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?" The result will be based on a simple count of which side, across the whole of the UK, receives the most votes.

Who can vote?
All British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK at the time of the vote are entitled to vote, as well as British citizens who are resident abroad and have been registered to vote in the UK in the past 15 years. Members of other EU countries other than Malta and Cyprus are not permitted to vote, even if they are resident in the UK. Unlike in general elections members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar are also entitled to vote.

When will the result be known?
After the polls close at 10pm on 23 June counts will begin in 382 centres across the UK. The results from these counts will be announced as they are completed before they are compiled in 12 regional centres. The final result will be announced in Manchester – expected at lunchtime on 24 June.

What happens next?
The United Kingdom will still be in the European Union on 24 June 2016. That's not a political prediction, or prophetic insight, but regardless of whether we vote to leave or remain our membership will not immediately alter. Just as membership of the EU is only agreed after a period of negotiation and the assent of all existing member states, leaving the Union also requires negotiation and agreement. This is expected to take at least a couple of years and will also require the final approval of the UK parliament.

If we leave the EU will we be allowed to enter Eurovision?
The good news (for Eurovision fans) is that Eurovision has a somewhat elastic definition of European – which stretched to include Australia in 2015. As one of the principal financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union (which is independent from the EU) the UK, along with France, Germany, Spain and Italy, is guaranteed entry. 

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