The latest European elections created a voting frenzy that sparked a nationwide debate – the EU: should we remain, or is it time to leave?
Britons joined 500 million EU residents at the polling booths but have been left split over the question of Britain remaining in the EU.
The results and the remarkable rise of UKIP clearly show growing Euroscepticism with a majority of us now wanting a referendum.
Many complain they simply do not understand what goes on in Brussels and feel disengaged from European decision making.
But what is best for those retired or approaching retirement age? Should we remain in the EU or is it time to walk away?
Mature Times has dedicated its front page to you, the readers. What do you think about Britain remaining in the EU? The issue is a complex one. What does it mean to you? MT wants to know.
Perhaps one of the most important things to consider when asking whether we should remain in the EU is the affect it will have on pensions.
As it stands Britain’s private pensions are viewed by the European Union as single country schemes, which do not need to be fully funded. If we were to leave the EU the schemes would not only have to be fully funded, but more costly to run with higher admin. costs etc which would ultimately reduce the money in pensioners’ pockets.
That could leave over 65s struggling to make ends meet in an already difficult economy and could see many go without basic necessities, such as food and heating.
Over one million British people over the age of 65 now have their pensions paid overseas, with 74,000 receiving payouts in Spain alone.
As members of the European Union we are able to move freely throughout the member states and enjoy a new life, relatively close to home.
Retiring abroad is more popular than ever with many over 50s choosing to settle in European countries.
Hundreds of thousands have retired to sunnier climates in the Mediterranean with 330,000 living in France, 65,000 in Cyprus and more than one million in Spain.
However, if we leave the EU it is not clear what would happen to those citizens currently living abroad.
Departure would also raise questions as to whether people planning to retire to European countries, would be allowed to do so without paying a financial penalty.
For those considering retiring elsewhere in Europe and keen to keep hold of their pensions, staying within the union would therefore appear crucial.
Another important issue is the cost of energy – always a big concern for the elderly who have battled rising bills against dwindling savings or pension returns over recent years.
The latest crisis in relations with Russia shows just how dependent Europe is on oil and gas imported from the country.
Leaving the EU could give the UK the ability to negotiate first hand with the superpower, thereby possibly cutting the costs of fuel.
A price decrease would reduce pressure on the elderly and make heating costs easier to bear.
Though it would seem beneficial for Britain to walk away from the EU in this aspect, some experts argue that heating costs would rise if we chose to leave.
They say that a lone UK would be vulnerable to a superpower who would take advantage of us and force us to pay higher costs for our energy as well as other raw materials.
Others, however, suggest that remaining in the EU could help us learn valuable lessons in finding alternative fuel methods.
That in turn would hypothetically reduce the cost of heating and provide a more stable future for generations set to follow.
And what about healthcare? Current arrangements mean that UK citizens either living or travelling abroad are entitled to receive the same healthcare, free of charge, as locals. What would this mean if these reciprocal agreements were withdrawn, not only for those UK citizens living abroad, but also all of us who travel to EU countries for business or pleasure?
Eurosceptics say one other advantage of leaving the EU would be the freeing up of the annual £15-20 billion we currently pay to Brussels so spend at home instead.
We currently only get back half of what we pay in, much of which is spent on things we are not able to choose ourselves, such as subsiding landowners or promoting the EU.
Some claim the true cost of our membership, taking into account things as the “hidden tariff” paid by UK taxpayers when goods are exported, is a huge £65.7 billion each year.
Membership fees alone cost each British citizen around £130 per year – money that could be better spent elsewhere.
The two richest European countries, Norway and Switzerland, have steered clear of the EU.
So could Britain experience the financial gain if they were to walk away from the union?
Alternatively, would we as a nation suffer serious setbacks if the decision was made to turn our backs on Brussels?
Though we would be free to establish our own agreements with some of our best trading partners, such as America, China and Japan, they may no longer take us seriously.
Britain could see a significant shift in the balance of power which would see larger countries take advantage of us without the backing of the rest of the EU.
Mature Times wants to know what you think.
Please write or email us with your views, how it might affect you personally. We will publish, when and where possible, those who can no doubt sum it up better than we can.
by Andrew Young
Image courtesy of Ash Crow www.wikimediacommons.org