European Union referendum

This page contains frequently asked questions about the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU) that took place on 23 June 2016.

Please note that the Scottish Parliament is not responsible for the content of any external websites.

  • What were the results of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU?

    The question asked in the referendum was whether the United Kingdom (as the Member State) should leave the EU or remain a member of the EU.

    The results of the UK vote on 23 June 2016 were:

    Remain: 16.14 million people

    Leave: 17.41 million people

    Turnout: 72.2%

    You can find information about the Scottish results in the infographic produced by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe).

    You can find details of the results across the four nations of the UK on the website of the Electoral Commission.

  • Is the EU referendum result legally binding?

    The EU referendum was advisory and not legally binding. As such, the outcome of the referendum does not in itself have any legal effect. 

  • What is the process for the UK to leave the European Union?

    Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union sets out how a Member State such as the UK can withdraw from the European Union if it wishes to do so. Article 50 is triggered by a letter or other form of notification from the UK Government to the European Council. There is no timescale for submitting a notification under Article 50.

    Article 50 provides for up to two years to negotiate a withdrawal settlement between the leaving state and the EU, once notification has been given. If no agreement is reached within the two years and there is no agreement to extend the time for negotiations, the Treaties would cease to apply and the state that triggered Article 50 would leave the EU unless an extension is sought.

    The UK triggered Article 50 on 29 March 2017.

    The UK left the European Union at 23:00 GMT on 31 January 2020.

    The UK is now in a transition (or implementation) period, which will end on 31 December 2020. 

  • Can I apply for Scottish citizenship as Scotland voted to remain part of the EU?

    No – all UK nationals are British citizens and there is no separate Scottish citizenship. 

  • What will happen to EU citizens in the UK following the UK decision to leave the EU?

    If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you and your family can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. You can also apply if you’re the family member of an eligible person of Northern Ireland.

    Further information about the EU Settlement Scheme

    How can I keep up to date with Brexit developments?

    You can find information about developments and key legislation in the Post-Brexit Hub maintained by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe).

    SPICe also produces regular blogs on the progress of negotiations and the potential impact of Brexit for Scotland. These can be found under the ‘EU and International Affairs’ category of the SPICe Spotlight blog.

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