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  • The EU, or European Union, is currently an

  • economic-political union of 28 member states. Initially it came about as a way to bring

  • together a collection of nations that had, on and off for centuries, been at war.

  • Germany and France entered a series of negotiations following the Second World War to ensure that

  • the two countries would never again be at odds. In 1952 a European coal and steel Community

  • agreement was signed between Germany and France and also included Belgium, Italy, Luxumbourg

  • and the Netherlands. In 1957 this was turned into the EEC or European

  • Economic Community through the Treaty of Rome. This founding group brought about the common

  • market. The first wave of EU expansion was in 1973

  • when Britain, Ireland and Denmark signed up. Since then Greece entered the group in 1981.

  • Spain and Portugal joined in ’86. Eastern Germany was absorbed in the year of German

  • unification in 1989 and then Austria, Sweden and Finland signed up in 1995.

  • The biggest single enlargement came in 2004 with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech

  • Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus, all signing into the EU.

  • Romania and Bulgaria signed up in 2007 and the most recent enlargement came in 2013 when

  • Croatia became a member. The EU, as we know it today, was formally

  • established in 1992 with the Maastricht Treaty. This document paved the way for the creation

  • of a single currency and the euro formally replaced banknotes of 12 member states in 2002.

  • In 2009 the current structure of the EU was

  • formulated through the Lisbon Treaty which reformed many aspects of the union and created

  • a permanent president of the European Council. While no EU member has ever left the union,

  • Greenland, which gained membership through its association with Denmark, withdrew because

  • of a dispute over fishing rights. Withdrawal from the European Union is a right

  • of EU member states under the Treaty on European Union (Article 50) which says "Any Member

  • State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements."

  • This is not the first time that the UK has

  • held a referendum on its membership of what is now the EU. In 1975 Britain voted by a

  • margin of two-to-one to stay in the European Economic Community, as the European Union

  • was then known. But will things change on the 23rd June?

The EU, or European Union, is currently an

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