British farmers face complex questions in 'Brexit' debate
The UK will hold a referendum on whether to remain in or leave the European Union possibly later this year.
The May 2015 Conservative election victory gave the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, the mandate to seek reforms of the EU and then to put the resulting package to an In/Out referendum before the end of 2017 although there will be strong pressure for an early decision once the reform package is known.
The European Council meeting held a first substantive discussion on the four reform proposals that Cameron has put forward last December. It has agreed to try to reach agreement on these proposals at its next meeting in February. Tackling the entitlements of EU migrants to welfare benefits in their host country looks like the most difficult issue to resolve.
Public opinion in the UK appears evenly split on the issue, although a majority still indicate they would vote to stay 'In' if Cameron succeeds in getting a significant package of reforms and decides to campaign on this platform to remain in the EU.
UK withdrawal from the EU (or British exit, also called Brexit) would be a complex process given the role that EU legislation now plays in domestic legislation.
The EU Treaty provides for a period of two years once a country indicates that it intends to leave the Union to negotiate a withdrawal treaty.
This would set out the nature of the UK's future relationship with the EU particularly in the areas of trade, scientific cooperation, access to the single market and other issues.
At the same time, the UK would need to decide what policies it wanted to put in place at home in those areas where EU policies currently play an important role.