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What is the EU?

The European Union (EU) is a group of 28 European countries working together to achieve objectives set out in international treaties. EU policies aim to allow the free movement of people, goods, services and capital (money) within the union. It operates a single market by applying the same trade laws in every member country.

Other areas where members work together include the environment, human rights, regional development, foreign policy, fisheries and agriculture. Many members of the EU have taken the partnership further and operate a shared single currency, the euro, and borders without passport controls. The UK chose not to join these developments.

The union is made of seven main EU institutions. These are:

Lesser known institutions include the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Investment Bank (which manages the European Investment Fund) and the EU Ombudsman.

Click here for a two page institutions summary.

The EU has its origins in the 1950s. Britain joined in 1973.

The history and policies of the EU are explained on this site, along with the arguments about remaining in or leaving.