The authoritative source for independent research on UK-EU relations


Relationship with the EU

This fact was correct when it was updated on 22 Sep 2020

What did EU membership mean for the UK?

The UK joined the EU in 1973 and left in 2020. As a member state, the UK was bound by the EU treaties which set out the privileges and obligations of membership. Consequently, the UK was represented, and where applicable, had voting rights in all the EU’s institutions. Moreover, UK citizens and businesses were in principle free to live, work and travel anywhere in the EU without restriction, subject only to minor limitations. In exchange, other EU citizens were in the same way free to come to the UK, and the UK had agreed to be bound by common EU laws in certain policy areas such as trade. But it also meant that EU law took precedence over conflicting UK law, which was politically contentious, required the UK to make contributions to the EU budget and limited the UK’s ability to control immigration.

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