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Pros and cons of Brexit

The UK formally left the EU on 31 December 2020. Here are the sticking points that were most important to the remain and leave camps during the Brexit process.

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Benefits of being in the EU: the debate

The Brexit process began when the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a 2016 referendum. Following the vote, there was four years of debate about the best scenario for a withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU.

Here we present the main arguments for remain and leave before the UK left the EU on 31 December 2020.

Learn about the opportunities Brexit offers traders

Benefits of being in the EU: the debate

The Brexit process began when the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a 2016 referendum. Following the vote, there was four years of debate about the best scenario for a withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU.

Here we present the main arguments for remain and leave before the UK left the EU on 31 December 2020.

Learn about the opportunities Brexit offers traders

Remain

Though unsuccessful in garnering enough votes in the referendum, the remain camp continued to advocate for a close relationship with the EU in the form of close links to the EU post-Brexit.

The arguments for remaining in the EU focused on the benefits of being part of a wider union, and the security and favourable trading relationship made possible through EU membership.

Key arguments for remain

Foreign affairs

As part of a community of 500 million people, Britain could have greater influence over international matters as a member of the EU.

Sovereignty

Britain proved that it could opt out of some EU policies which it considers counterintuitive, such as adoption of the euro, the Schengen Agreement and enforced migrant quotas.

Security

A union better equipped Britain to tackle threats to security, including terrorism and cross-border crime.

Money

European businesses invest billions of pounds in the UK every year, both in the public sector and private sector.

Trade

EU membership provided unrestricted access to the European single market, which was invaluable for trade and enables the easy movement of goods, services and people across member states.

Business

Free trade within the EU reduced red tape and enabled companies to grow.

Jobs

Millions of British jobs are linked to Europe and could be put at risk. Some sectors such as nursing and manufacturing could experience a slump in skilled labour.

Consumer goods

The average person in Britain saved hundreds each year thanks to lower prices of goods and services facilitated by the EU.

Leave

While the leave campaign succeeded in the referendum, negotiating a deal with the EU proved difficult – though one was eventually agreed to by both negotiating teams.

Key arguments for why the UK should leave the EU included greater control over foreign affairs, greater national sovereignty and the potential for glitzy new trade deals with countries like the US.

Key arguments for leave

Foreign affairs

Continued EU membership would've limited Britain’s international influence, ruling out an independent seat at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Sovereignty

Britain will have more control of its laws and regulations, without the risk of having counterintuitive European policies forcefully imposed.

Security

Some in the Leave camp believed that Britain’s domestic security could benefit from full border controls, which it would hope to gain outside the EU.

Money

EU membership fees – amounting to billions – could be repurposed and spent on issues that matter most to people in the UK.

Trade

Membership of the EU kept Britain from fully capitalising on trade with other major economies such as Japan, India and the US.

Business

The EU subjected Britain to slow and inflexible bureaucratic red tape, making it more prohibitive for smaller companies to do business.

Jobs

Improved global trade agreements and more selective immigration could have a positive effect on the British job market.

Consumer goods

EU VAT contributions and agricultural subsidies policies cost UK consumers hundreds of pounds each year.

Remain

Though unsuccessful in garnering enough votes in the referendum, the remain camp continued to advocate for a close relationship with the EU in the form of close links to the EU post-Brexit.

The arguments for remaining in the EU focused on the benefits of being part of a wider union, and the security and favourable trading relationship made possible through EU membership.

Key arguments for remain

Foreign affairs

As part of a community of 500 million people, Britain could have greater influence over international matters as a member of the EU.

Sovereignty

Britain proved that it could opt out of some EU policies which it considers counterintuitive, such as adoption of the euro, the Schengen Agreement and enforced migrant quotas.

Security

A union better equipped Britain to tackle threats to security, including terrorism and cross-border crime.

Money

European businesses invest billions of pounds in the UK every year, both in the public sector and private sector.

Trade

EU membership provided unrestricted access to the European single market, which was invaluable for trade and enables the easy movement of goods, services and people across member states.

Business

Free trade within the EU reduced red tape and enabled companies to grow.

Jobs

Millions of British jobs linked to Europe and could be put at risk. Some sectors such as nursing and manufacturing could experience a slump in skilled labour.

Consumer goods

The average person in Britain saved hundreds each year thanks to lower prices of goods and services facilitated by the EU.

Leave

While the leave campaign succeeded in the referendum, negotiating a deal with the EU proved difficult – though one was eventually agreed to by both negotiating teams.

Key arguments for why the UK should leave the EU included greater control over foreign affairs, greater national sovereignty and the potential for glitzy new trade deals with countries like the US.

Key arguments for leave

Foreign affairs

Continued EU membership would've limited Britain’s international influence, ruling out an independent seat at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Sovereignty

Britain will have more control of its laws and regulations, without the risk of having counterintuitive European policies forcefully imposed.

Security

Some in the Leave camp believe that Britain’s domestic security could benefit from full border controls, which it would hope to gain outside the EU.

Money

EU membership fees – amounting to billions – could be repurposed and spent on issues that matter most to people in the UK.

Trade

Membership of the EU kept Britain from fully capitalising on trade with other major economies such as Japan, India and the US.

Business

The EU subjected Britain to slow and inflexible bureaucratic red tape, making it more prohibitive for smaller companies to do business.

Jobs

Improved global trade agreements and more selective immigration could have a positive effect on the British job market.

Consumer goods

EU VAT contributions and agricultural subsidies policies cost UK consumers hundreds of pounds each year.

Pros and cons of no deal vs deal

There are two ways that Britain can leave the EU: with a trade deal, or without a trade deal. The transition period is meant to be used for the UK and EU to put together a trade deal before the 31 December 2020.

Pros and cons of no deal vs deal

There are two ways that Britain can leave the EU: with a trade deal, or without a trade deal. The transition period is meant to be used for the UK and EU to put together a trade deal before the 31 December 2020.

No deal

A no-deal Brexit would result in a rigid position on all the issues outlined above. It would likely mean that trade between the UK and EU defaults to WTO rules, which are widely seen as less beneficial than the current trading relationship between the two entities.

Argument for: a no-deal Brexit would see the UK leave the free trade zone, do away with EU regulations, and eradicate the need to accept the free movement of people. This would provide the opportunity to negotiate new trade deals with other countries.

Argument against: the EU is Britain’s biggest trading partner, and there’s no guarantee the UK will get better trade deals once it leaves. Adding to this, the UK could still end up being forced to comply with EU laws and regulations, as is the case with Norway and Iceland.

Deal

Leaving with a deal would aim to keep the trading relationship between the UK and the EU largely intact, or as frictionless as possible.

Argument for: strong trade ties between the UK and EU would make trading and economic activity easierstrong trade ties between the UK and EU would make trading and economic activity easier. Many commentators have stated that it is within the interests of the City and the UK as a whole to maintain free trade with the EU. Leaving with a deal in place would also prevent the uncertainty that surrounds leaving on WTO terms.

Argument against: staying inside the single market and customs union is regarded by many as a betrayal of the referendum result. By staying in the single market and customs union, the UK would be liable to EU rules and legislation regarding the free movement of goods, services and people across borders. Plus, it could put the UK in the dangerous position of still having to accept EU economic and political policy, while at the same time denying the UK a seat at the negotiating table.

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