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Brexit: Reference Guide & FAQs
Updated: 2017-03-20 (Originally published 2016-06-26).
A reference guide and term glossary on Brexit and the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and frequently asked questions answered.
Brexit is the term invented for the event where the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (Brexit = BRitish EXIT). More officially, it is referred to as the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016 (or the 2016 British referendum, for short).
Key Points to Keep In Mind
- Most importantly, currently nothing has changed. The UK has voted to leave the EU, but it will be a lengthy process to disentangle itself from the European Union – years, most likely.[source]
- On 20 March 2017, Theresa May announced that she will officially notify the European Union on 29 March that the UK is leaving, triggering Article 50.[source]
- New laws will need to be passed before anything, such as the privileges and rights of both UK citizens abroad and EU citizens visiting or living in the UK, changes.[source]
- European Union law is still upheld in the United Kingdom.
- The United Kingdom has not formally given notice that it is leaving the European Union.
Terms & Jargon to Understand Brexit:
When the United Kingdom first joined the European Union’s predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), in 1973, the term “Common Market” was often used as a stand-in to refer to the Union.
This is the part of the EU’s governing law that deals with a member state of the European Union leaving. The exact text and a further explanation is available on this page, below.
In UK law, a referendum is a vote for the electorate (the citizens) to determine the outcome of a single political question. Most span localites, a few cover one of the UK’s constituent countries (Wales, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland), and an extreme minority are UK-wide. To date, only three referendums have been held in the UK, and this Brexit vote is one of them.
Criticism of, or opposition to, the European Union (EU) for any of a number of reasons. Also known as EU-scepticism or anti-EUism. Though many factors contribute to this sentiment, it seems to be most common for Eurosceptics to feel that integration (in the EU) weakens the effectiveness of the sovereign nation and reduces the rights of its people.
The Key Entities Involved
Here are some of the names of parties and people most relevant to the entire Brexit campaign.
The UK, short for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is the sovereign nation which is at the heart of Brexit. It consists of four constituent countries under common leadership (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland), itself a form of “European union.”
For outsiders, especially those of us not even in Europe, it may be a bit complicated to understand the differences between some of these terms (such as Britain, United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, and Ireland), and to help with that, please see one of our articles identifying these terms: (Great) Britain vs. United Kingdom vs. England »
Britain Stronger in Europe
Britain Stronger in Europe is the official “Remain” campaign and advocacy group, which strongly urged the United Kingdom’s continuation in the European Union up until the Brexit votes.
Theresa May succeeded David Cameron as the UK’s Prime Minister, after her competitor, Andrea Leadsom, pulled out days earlier. May is the UK’s second female in this top position, after Margaret Thatcher. Prior to her new role as Prime Minister, which began on 13 July 2016, she was the Leader of the Conservative Party.
Vote Leave is the official “Leave” campaign and advocacy group, which supported the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union up until the Brexit votes.
Nigel Farage was the leader of the UKIP (UK Independence Party) from 2006 to 2016 and the Member of European Parliament (MEP) for the party since 1999. After the successful ending to the Brexit campaign, he resigned, stating, “During the referendum I said I wanted my country back … now I want my life back.”[source]
Boris Johnson was a former mayor of London and a key figure in the Brexit campaign’s “Leave” platform.
UKIP is short for the United Kingdom’s Independence Party, which was the main party which campaigned for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. It was led by Nigel Farage during the crucial Brexit campaign, who resigned after the successful campaign’s end.
David Cameron was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2010 to 2016, notably during the Brexit campaign. After initially rejecting a growing sentiment to hold a Brexit referendum, he later promised an In-Out referendum. In favor of the UK remaining in the EU, he announced his resignation as Prime Minister soon after the Brexit results were declared.
A controversial figure for both “Leave” and “Remain” campaigns, Michael Gove was a key figure during Brexit as he was the co-convenor of the Vote Leave advocacy group. After the voting, as the contest to find Britain’s next prime minister was heating up, he withdrew his support for fellow Leave campaigner Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, and instead announced his own candidacy.
The Now-Infamous “Article 50”
Article 50 is the segment of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), “Title VI: Final Provisions,” introduced as part of the Lisbon Treaty. The Lisbon Treaty was a recent amendment and addendum to the TEU which went into effect in 2009. Article 50 is the specific clause introduced which outlines the terms of an EU member state’s withdrawal.[Source]
Click Here to Read the Entire "Article 50"
1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.
A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.
Brexit: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Brexit and its possible effects and future scenarios, and the answers for them (with sources, where possible).
Brexit FAQs: Voting
When Did the UK Vote?
The vote was held on Thursday, 23 June, 2016. As soon as polling stations closed, just before midnight, the count began. BBC declared the victor as the “Leave” group in the early morning on Friday, 24 June, 2016, mere hours after the polls closed.
How Many People Voted?
33,551,983 people, in all. This was a voter turnout of 71.8%, the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election. There were 26,033 rejected ballots.[source]
What Was the Final Tally?
Leave: 51.9% (17,410,742 votes)
Remain: 48.1% (16,141,241 votes)
Brexit FAQs: Trivia
Has This Happened Before?
No sovereign member of the EU has ever left, so this is completely without precedent. However, territories of member nations have left: Algeria upon its independence from France, Greenland (DK), and Saint Barthélemy (FR).
How Many EU Citizens in UK?
There are about 3,325,000 EU nationals living and working in the United Kingdom as of March 2016[source]. See the full list of numbers here »
How Many UK Citizens in EU?
There are about 1,217,500 UK citizens working and living on the continent in the European Union, as of March 2016[source]. See the full list of numbers here »
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