Brexit Explained All You Need To Know About the UK Referendum

Britain + Exit = Brexit. Sounds simple, but it's not. Why do so many British want out of the EU? And what will happen if they leave? Everything you need to know to understand the referendum.
Foto: Andy Rain/ picture alliance / dpa

On June 23, 2016, British voters will decide whether they want to leave the European Union, a possibility widely referred to as "Brexit." Polls indicate that the result of the referendum is wide open, with the Remain camp and the Leave camp neck-and-neck in recent public opinion polls.

But how did the United Kingdom end up in this situation? Ahead of 2015 parliamentary elections, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to hold the referendum should his Tories win and he be returned to 10 Downing Street. The pledge fulfills a demand that EU-opponents within his party have been making for years. Cameron himself hopes that British voters will choose to remain part of the EU, which is why he negotiated concessions for his country with European leaders, including the cutting of social benefits for citizens of other EU countries living in Britain and more freedoms for British banks, for example. The prime minister hopes that such reforms will encourage the UK electorate to vote to remain inside the EU.

Many in Britain, particularly Conservatives, believe however that the compromise with Brussels is insufficient. Several cabinet ministers announced their opposition to Cameron's position and have been campaigning on behalf of the Leave camp. They are free to do so because Cameron has relaxed party discipline on the Brexit question. Cameron, however, has been under fire from the opposition as well, with the Labour Party accusing the prime minister of senselessly putting Britain's future at risk.

Governments across Europe are looking to the UK with concern. Should British voters decide to leave the EU, it could throw Europe into a crisis with incalculable consequences.


Authors: Markus Becker, David Böcking, Almut Cieschinger, Vera Kämper, Claudia Niesen, Carsten Volkery

Research and fact-checking: Almut Cieschinger, Rainer Lübbert, Claudia Niesen, Anika Zeller

Graphics and production: Katja Braun, Frank Kalinowski

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