Britain’s future in the world’s biggest trading bloc could be thrown into doubt by May’s general election.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party has promised to hold the first referendum on the U.K.’s membership of the European Union in 40 years if it wins power again. Cameron says he wants Britain to stay in a reformed EU; the main opposition Labour Party says he’s playing with fire by offering a vote in the first place.
The costs of EU membership are significant, and the burden of red tape — along with a sharp rise in immigration — are other factors cited by British politicians who want to turn their back on the EU.
Regulation generates many complaints. London-based think tank Open Europe says the 100 most expensive EU laws cost the British economy £33.3 billion ($49.7 billion) each year. But that figure doesn’t reflect any benefits derived from those laws, like helping facilitate trade across the 28 countries that form the EU single market.
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