UK in Europe

What it means to British citizens

The United Kingdom has been a member of the European Union since 1973.

The benefits of membership have been:

    Political (security and democracy)
    Economic (market for our products)
    Social (free movement of people)
    Environmental (cleaner and safer place to live)
    Human rights (fair treatment of people)

on this page

Why we didn't join the eurozone
What we pay in
What we get back


The UK became a member of the European Union in 1973. They called it the Common Market in those days.

We wanted to get in earlier but President Charles de Gaulle of France was against the idea. He believed the UK was more interested in the US than Europe.

Since it joined, the UK has mostly played a full part in the EU.

Charles de Gaulle, President of France 1959-1969


we didn’t join the single currency, the €uro
we didn’t sign up to the Schengen agreement removing border controls,
and we don’t accept the Charter of Fundamental Rights where it conflicts with British law.

Why we didn't join the eurozone

Successive governments decided not to join the €uro for political and economic reasons.

What we pay in

The EU budget in 2017 was 157.9 billion €uros (about £142.9 billion).

Member states pay about 1 per cent of what they earn.

UK pays 16.9 billion €uros (£15.36 billion).

Biggest items in EU budget:
   Support for farmers, fisheries, and environmental protection takes about one third of the budget,
   Other areas include combating terrorism, organised crime and illegal immigration. About 6% is spent on internal administration mostly at the Commission.

What we get back

Our largest market for exports
A cleaner and safer environment
Help for our farmers and poorer areas
Outside the Balkans no more wars in Europe
Co-operation to combat international crime and climate change