Brexit refers to the Jun 23, 2016 referendum on the future of Britain in the European Union. The term comes from the Grexit reference to the potential for Greece to leave the Eurozone shared currency area in past years. In this historic referendum, British voters have to answer the question “Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?” Britain’s electoral commission came up with the phrasing of the question and parliament accepted it.
The question of having a referendum on the issue arose in the 2015 general election in the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron promised voters that he would offer the British people a final say on the issue of remaining in the EU if he won reelection. His ruling conservative party has been split on the Euro-skeptic idea and EU membership for around 40 years. The individual on the ground Conservative members are largely for exiting from the European Union over a variety of issues of sovereignty and border and legal control.
Those in favor of Britain leaving the EU believe that the restrictive rules hamper creation of new jobs. They also want to be able to decide on which laws to pass and on their trading partners. Though parliament in London passes laws, these can and have been overturned by the European Parliament and courts in Brussels.
Part of the reason the government decided to hold the referendum in early summer was to have it over before the next summer migration crisis begins in earnest. This migration problem has recently stirred up anger and fear in British citizens that they are losing control of their migration policy to the European Union in Brussels. Proponents of the leave campaign want to make their own immigration policy and decide on who comes into the country.
Those in favor of staying in the EU have their own reasons for their position. They feel that remaining in the block of European countries increases the nation’s economic, military, and global influence around the world. Remain campaigners argue that Britain is stronger and more secure at home and abroad by being a part of this largest economic block in the world.
The voting base for this historic referendum is different than for general elections. Any British citizen who is older than 18 is allowed to vote. Citizens of the Commonwealth of Nations who reside in Britain are also eligible to cast ballots. There are 53 member nations of the Commonwealth. This means that residents in Britain of such countries and entities as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus, and Gibraltar will be allowed to vote on the Brexit issue.
Brexit supports have argued that the European Union has many incentives to continue trading with the United Kingdom. It remains a large importer of services and goods and carries out much of its trade with the block. They feel that they will be able to forge new and better trade agreements with the rest of the world. This would save them more than 8 billion pounds in contributions made to the European Union budget every year. They believe that the country will be able to join Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein as a European Economic Area member nation.
Those who favor remaining in the EU argue that leaving the block will create too much uncertainty in British markets. They argue that foreign companies will not be so likely to invest in Britain and others may move their EU regional or international headquarters to other countries should Britain cease to have unfettered access to the common market.
The Treasury has predicted that a recession created by leaving the EU block would cost households 4,300 Pounds per year in lost jobs, trade, and higher taxes by the year 2030. They argue that the pound will weaken substantially and push up the costs for weekly shopping, travel, and imported goods. Others are worried about what will happen to outside Europeans living in Britain and British expatriates who live around Europe after an exit from the European Union.