What is 'Brexit'?
It's the issue of whether Britain should exit the European Union or not — a question that will be decided in a historic referendum on June 23.
What is happening?
A referendum to decide whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold one if he won the 2015 general election, in response to growing calls from his own Conservative MPs and the UK Independence Party (UKIP), who argued that Britain had not had a say since 1975, when it voted to stay in the EU in a referendum. For a start, those wanting Britain to leave the EU see it as an opportunity to reassert British national sovereignty and in a sense liberate Britain from the bottlenecks of EU both politically and financially.
What is the European Union?
The European Union - often known as the EU - is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries . It began after World War Two to foster economic co-operation, with the idea that countries which trade together are more likely to avoid going to war with each other. It has since grown to become a "single market" allowing goods and people to move around, basically as if the member states were one country. It has its own currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries, its own parliament and it now sets rules in a wide range of areas - including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and even things like mobile phone charges.
Why do they want the UK to leave?
They believe Britain is being held back by the EU, which they say imposes too many rules on business and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They also want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here to live and/or work. One of the main principles of EU membership is "free movement", which means you don't need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. They also object to the idea of "ever closer union" and what they see as moves towards the creation of a "United States of Europe".
Advantages of Brexit
Economically, Britain would immediately save $12 billion a year in EU budget payments. Freed from famously cumbersome EU regulations, Brexit supporters say, Britain would attract greater investment and become a more dynamic economic hub — particularly if it still had full access to the EU's tariff-free single market. But that's a big if, and would rely on Britain renegotiating a new trade deal with the EU's remaining 27 member states — many of whom, post-Brexit, would want to make a bitter example of the U.K., to discourage other members from fleeing.
Under the EU's labor rules, any citizen of a member state has the right to live and work in another member state — a rule that has allowed some 942,000 Eastern Europeans to move to the U.K. as the EU has expanded its borders. Brexiters say these migrants have overwhelmed the housing system and abused Britain's generous in-work benefits. At least 34,000 of them are getting child benefits for children who do not even live in the U.K. and sending that money — totaling about $42 million a year — back to their home countries. Leaving the EU would allow Britain more control over how many migrants are allowed to enter. That's become a big selling point after the influx of 1 million refugees into EU countries.
Risks of a Brexit
The uncertainty it would create could destabilize the markets and cause the pound to plummet. Some extreme predictions are that a Brexit will blow a £100 billion hole in Britain's economy, and Britain will lose 3 million jobs!
What will the referendum question be?
"Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
The two campaigns, "In " and "Out", are likely to form the official lobby groups for each side in the referendum have set out their positions on the main topics that will form the basis for the referendum.