In 2016, Britain paid in £13.1bn, but it also received £4.5bn worth of spending, said Full Fact, “so the UK’s net contribution was £8.5bn”.
What was harder to determine was whether the financial advantages of EU membership, such as free trade and inward investment, outweighed the upfront costs.
“Brexiteers said it would keep Britain forever shackled to the EU, in vassalage, as Johnson put it.
Remainers complained that it would introduce too much economic risk with too little reward.”In the end, the failure of May’s withdrawal agreement - along with throwing away the Tories’ majority in an ill-judged snap election in June 2017 - was her undoing.
But Brexit supporters were adamant that a deal to allow continued tariff-free trading would be secured even if the UK left the single market.
Britain had a large trade deficit with the EU, they said, and so it would be in Europe’s interest to find a compromise - for goods and financial services.The consequences of Brexit for businesses that took advantage of these freedoms was always a matter of debate and conjecture.“More than 50% of our exports go to EU countries,” said Sky News during the campaign, and membership meant we had a say over how trading rules were drawn up.Within the EU, Britain also benefited from trade deals between the EU and other world powers (now including Canada and Japan, which have both concluded free-trade deals with the EU since the UK voted to leave).Farage has since cooled on the Norwegian model, and now favours no deal at all - which would result in the introduction of tariffs under World Trade Organization rules. Pro-Europeans argued that the UK’s status as one of the world’s biggest financial centres would be diminished if the City of London was no longer seen as a gateway to the EU for the likes of US banks.They also said financial firms based in the UK would lose “passporting” rights to work freely across the continent.Most political commentators agree that given a free hand, he would not have wanted to hold a referendum.Having called the vote, Cameron vowed to campaign with his “heart and soul” to keep Britain in the bloc.Even as the count was underway, UKIP’s Nigel Farage said it looked as if “Remain will edge it”.However, the Leave campaign won by 51.9% to 48.1%, a gap of 1.3 million votes.Now, however, years after the vote and deep into the departure process, argument continues about the pros and cons of quitting the EU - and what Brexit will mean for the UK.––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––In 2015, the Conservative general election victory activated a manifesto pledge to hold an in-out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.David Cameron had made the promise at a time when he was under pressure from Eurosceptic backbenchers and when the Tories were losing votes to UKIP.