What happened?

On Thursday, the British voters chose to leave the European Union ("Brexit.")


The move is causing massive upheaval in the U.K., Europe as a whole, and financial markets across the world. The Dow dropped 600 points in response to the risk of a global recession.


The internet also exploded with Brexit commentary.


The 'leave' side, led by Nigel Farage of the U.K. Independence Party, won with 52% of the vote. In response to the decision, pro-E.U. Prime Minister David Cameron resigned.


The vote revealed deep demographic differences. Older, white people and those from working class backgrounds were more likely to vote 'leave': 60% of people 65 and older voted to leave, while only 27% of young people 18 to 24 followed suit. Voter turnout was high, around 72% (for reference, U.S. voter turnout in 2012 was 54%.)


Interestingly, though immigration was a core part of the argument to leave the E.U., areas with high immigration voted to stay.  

Art by Luna Adler

How does it affect you?

Removing the world’s fifth-largest economy from its biggest single market has serious economic and security risks. 


The U.K.'s short-term economic future relies on exit negotiations. The process to disentangle Britain from the E.U. is outlined in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty; the countries will need to agree on trade deals and international treaties to govern how the U.K. would interact with the E.U. moving forward. 


Though it's unlikely Brexit will trigger a global recession, it's hard to predict what effects turmoil in Britain will have on the E.U. and the rest of the world.


Many people have connected the right-wing movement that led to Brexit to American support for Donald Trump. The differences between U.S. and U.K. demographics make the comparison fairly weak—but there's no denying that populism and isolationism are powerful around the world.

How the U.K. voted in the E.U. referendum, via The New York Times

Debate it!

This is exactly how the question was put to voters: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"


[Then, check out the similar Short Version debate from before the vote.]


Long-term, Britain should have stayed to reap the benefits of being a member of one of the world's largest free-trade zones. Short-term, the British government should not have exposed its citizens to the economic self-harm that Brexit would entail.


The U.K. would be safer and more prosperous as a member of the E.U. In working to protect its citizens, an independent U.K. won't be able to take advantage of collective safety measures the E.U. offers, like the Schengen Information System (SIS), which allows law enforcement to share data within the E.U.  


The economic impact is also significant. Depending on how exit negotiations go, Brexit could cause the British economy to shrink between 3.8% and 7.5% by 2030.


Perhaps most revealing, three million people have signed an online petition calling for a second chance to cast their votes—the largest Parliament has ever seen.


By leaving the E.U., Britain will take back control of immigration and economic regulations. With renewed sovereignty, it will be able to address major political issues that are important to all U.K. citizens—wage stagnation and public safety, to name just two.


The U.K. never signed the Schengen Agreement, which abolished internal border controls. But it is still subject to laws requiring unlimited immigration within the eurozone. The obvious result, high immigration from less affluent E.U. countries, put strain on services like hospitals, schools and housing. 


The young, educated people who voted to remain are sheltered from the effects of E.U. immigration, wage stagnation, burdensome regulations, job displacement, and more. Older and poorer British citizens have finally spoken up for themselves.


Outside the E.U., the U.K. can expect all the benefits—economic policies, responsiveness to its electorate—sovereignty affords. 

Learn more...

  1. E.U. referendum results, mapped
  • "The UK has voted to leave the European Union, shocking the world and revealing a divided country."
  1. The Short Version before the vote
  • Leave: "By leaving the EU, Britain could maintain similar trade relations but regain the ability to regulate important aspects of its own economy, immigration rules, and security."
  • Remain: "E.U. membership fuels the economy, helps support public services, and opens up job opportunities for British workers across Europe."
  1. Vox FAQ on Brexit and what happens next
  • "None of this will necessarily be bad for the United States — Europe might muddle through and ultimately emerge stronger and more prosperous. But the peace and stability of the EU era has been broadly good for Americans and the world, so turmoil in Europe is cause for worry."
  1. Prime Minister David Cameron's resignation speech
  • "The British people made a different decision to take a different path. As such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction."
  1. David Frum on how Brexit may affect the U.S.
  • "Is it possible that leaders and elites had it all wrong? If they’re to save the open global economy, maybe they need to protect their populations better against globalization’s most unwelcome consequences—of which mass migration is the very least welcome of them all?"