In a matter of days, the UK electorate faces its biggest choice in more than a generation — whether to remain in the EU.
While the campaign to exit the bloc says a decision to remain would be the bigger risk, its opponents contend that breaking up with Brussels would be a leap in the dark.
The promise: the UK would seek to leave the EU by 2019 and would be prepared to defy Brussels over immigration laws, according to a leading pro-Brexit minister.
The risk: George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, has warned of a £30bn black hole in public finances if Britain should vote to leave on June 23.
The immediate aftermath: David Cameron would probably face the end of his career as prime minister as EU membership was put aside.
The politics: the political and constitutional questions caused by a vote to leave could open up a period of profound uncertainty for the UK and the EU.
The legal analysis: the referendum is advisory rather than mandatory; what happens next is a matter of politics, not law.
The mechanics: the UK would have two years to negotiate a deal after triggering the exit clause of the EU treaties; extending talks beyond that would require unanimity.
The economics: the professional consensus is clear – leaving the EU would hit growth. The size of that impact would depend on factors such as trade, productivity and foreign direct investment. But champions of Brexit argue that the economy would prosper outside the EU.
Immigration: the record influx of EU nationals has proved a powerful rallying call for the Leave campaign. Some three-quarters of EU citizens working in the UK would not meet current visa requirements for non-EU overseas workers if Britain left the bloc. But such restrictions are likely to apply to new entrants rather than to EU migrants already in the UK.
Trade options: leading Leave campaigners say they would not seek to join the EU’s single market — which requires free movement of labour. Instead they would seek a trade deal with the bloc. Treatment of the service sector, which accounts for 80 per cent of UK gross domestic product, would be a huge issue.
The European response: European leaders have stepped up secret discussions for an EU without Britain, drawing up a plan B focused on closer security and defence co-operation.
Source: Financial Times