You may be familiar with the Brexit vote, and the fact that the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. But what exactly does that mean for the average citizen? And how did this vote come about in the first place? We've got a primer on exactly how we ended up where we are today, and what it means for the future. If you're interested in an in-depth look at the conflicts that shaped our modern world, try this list of the best war history books.

What Is Brexit?

Brexit is a term that refers to the 2016 referendum in which citizens of the United Kingdom voted on whether or not to leave the European Union. With a turnout of 72%, the close vote yielded a result of 51.9% voting to leave. The vote was divided along age lines, with those younger than 45 siding with Remain and those older than 45 choosing the Leave campaign. The result was quite a shock to observers all around the world, and led to David Cameron's resignation as Prime Minister.

What Were The Demographics Of The Brexit Vote?

Demographic Leave Remain
Overall 51.9% 48.1%
England 53.4% 46.6%
Northern Ireland 44.2% 55.8%
Scotland 38% 62%
Wales 52.5% 47.5%
London 40.1% 59.9%
18-24 years old 27% 73%
25-34 38% 62%
35-44 48% 52%
45-54 56% 44%
55-64 57% 43%
65 and over 60% 40%

UK Voters On Brexit

What Are The Consequences Of Brexit?

On a practical level, the UK triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, which means the country is due to leave the EU in 2019. Because they have trade partners all across the continent, the UK must now negotiate individual trade deals and review its policies on immigration. It is unclear how much of the EU policies will be kept and what the ultimate ramifications will be, and it may be years before we know for sure what the true outcome is.

Immigrants Who Voted To Leave

More Information

The term "Brexit" refers to the 2016 referendum voted upon in the UK that determined whether or not the country would withdraw from the European Union. The highly politicized campaign became global news, and the effects of the vote will be felt for many years to come. We're taking a look at how this initiative came about and what it means for the UK and its standing on the continent.

Before the European Union, there was the European Communities, a collective term for several industry and economic groups that sought to regulate trade and commerce throughout Europe. The United Kingdom joined the EC in 1973. Their first attempts to join had been vetoed by French President Charles de Gaulle.

There were concerns among many British politicians that joining would restrict their ability to pass laws regarding trade and migrant workers. In 1974, the Labour Party campaigned on a commitment to renegotiate Britain's terms of membership in the EC. In 1975, a vote was held on whether to withdraw, with the majority voting to remain.

The European Union was officially formed in 1993 by the Maastricht Treaty. One of the most visible effects was the creation of the Euro. The UK opted not to join this single currency, instead keeping the pound sterling. Throughout the next two decades, there were many small political parties with a platform of leaving the EU, though they did not gain enough votes to have a significant impact.

The UK Independence Party, or UKIP, was formed in 1993. As dissatisfaction grew among voters in the 21st century, UKIP's appeal grew, until they became a major force in British politics. Facing pressure that they may lose control of Parliament, Conservative Party leader David Cameron promised that if his party were to win, they would hold a referendum on whether they should remain or leave. When his party won a majority of seats, Cameron was bound by his word.

Cameron attempted to halt the referendum by negotiating more favorable terms with the EU. One of the major issues was immigration. As European passport holders were allowed to work in England, the country saw an influx of immigrants, particularly from Spain, Bulgaria, and Poland. Many older British citizens and unskilled workers wanted the country to have greater ability to control its borders.

Leaders like Angela Merkel held to the principle that any country that wished to "have free access to the single market" must then accept "the fundamental European rights as well as obligations that come from it." A deal was not struck, and so the referendum was to be voted upon by British citizens.

The Leave EU campaign was promoted by UKIP, the face of which was Nigel Farage. They argued that the UK was paying too great a cost to be a part of the EU without receiving a comparable benefit. They further stated that leaving would allow the country to secure its borders and release pressure on public services. Critics argued that this amounted to little more than anti-immigrant rhetoric. Any accusation that European immigrants stole jobs and lowered wages may have been crude, but could also be persuasive.

Those campaigning to remain argued that removing the country from the EU would isolate them, jeopardize national security by reducing information sharing, and result in trade barriers, which would ultimately lead to economic hardships. The issue was covered extensively on television, and the entire world watched to see what would happen.

Initially, many pundits believed that it was a foregone conclusion that the Remain vote would win. However, polls were tight as the day of the vote neared. Farage, Boris Johnson, and others were accused of spreading misinformation about just how much the UK spent on being an EU member, and where the money saved would end up. Going into the vote, many still predicted that Remain would win handily.

On June 23, 2016, voters went to the polls, with a turnout of more than two-thirds of the electorate. Just under fifty-two percent voted to leave. The result came as a shock all around the globe. This shift to a more conservative and isolationist policy was seen as a foreshadowing to the election of Donald Trump in America. It also led to speculation that Scotland may vote to secede from the UK in order to become a part of the EU as an independent nation.

Many voters, unaware of the full consequences of their actions, were at first unsure of exactly what would happen next. Cameron announced that he would resign, and Theresa May eventually became Prime Minister. After a period of negotiation, the government invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, meaning the country is due to leave in 2019.

As the UK is a part of Europe, and has a great deal of trade with EU member countries, there is still a lot that must be worked out. It is not yet clear what the long-term effects will be on issues like immigration, or if the economy of the country will indeed take a significant hit. But the vote was final, and future leaders of Britain will have to work out exactly where the country stands on the continent and in the world.

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