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WMNews: Brexit Facts

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Sean Harris It's one of the most significant shake-ups in recent British history. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we’re counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about Brexit.

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Script written by Sean Harris

Top 10 Need to Know Brexit Facts

It’s one of the most significant shake-ups in recent British history. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we’re counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about Brexit.

#10: What Was the 2016 Brexit Referendum?
A Divided Nation

The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, otherwise known as Brexit, was a public vote in the UK and Gibraltar to determine whether Great Britain should remain in or leave the EU. Over 33.5 million people went to the ballots on June 23rd, 2016, a 72.2% turnout of registered voters. In a somewhat surprising result, a 51.9% majority votedto leave the EU in this non-binding referendum and Britain’s political, financial and social landscapes saw dramatic change happen literally overnight. Reporting on the uncertainty that the result caused, Sky News summarised the referendum result as “Not a quake [but] off the Richter Scale”.

#9: What Is the European Union?
The Community

The EU is a politico-economic union between a bloc of member states, built around standardised legislation and free border policies. It aims for free movement and trading between member states and to establish common ground in terms of agriculture, environmental concerns and industrial development. Not every European country is a member of the EU, however, with the likes of Russia, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway not involved. The Union is the result of various treaties and agreements negotiated in the years after World War II – a conflict which had devastated European relations. Officially, the Union was established in 1993 with the Maastricht Treaty, but the UK joined the bloc in 1973 – it was known then as the European Economic Community, which was created in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome.

#8: What Was the Case for the UK to Leave the EU?
‘Take Control’

Those campaigning to leave the EU rallied under the slogan ‘Vote leave, take back control’. Their argument was that the Union had too much influence over British laws, and that too much money was being spent by the UK in Europe. Vote Leave said that at least £350 million was being sent to Europe every week, and that a break from the EU would mean greater investment within the UK itself. Immigration policies were also at the center of Vote Leave’s campaign. They attacked the open border system of Europe, which they said had allowed immigration to get ‘out of control’, putting strain on services such as the National Health Service and impacting security.

#7: Why Was There a Referendum?
The Promise

Though there had been calls for a referendum for years, plans for a vote were initially announced in January 2013, during a speech by Prime Minister David Cameron in which he promised an in-out vote should the Conservatives win the next general election. Cameron did win the 2015 election, and in February 2016 he announced the EU referendum date, after high profile negotiations with the EU. The PM had been trying to bolster Britain’s position and influence within the Union, but Eurosceptics criticised his efforts – former London mayor Boris Johnson labelled Cameron’s achievements as “two thirds of diddly squat”.

#6: Who Opposed the Brexit?
The Opposition

The issue of Britain’s membership in the EU proved hugely divisive in UK politics, splitting members from all the major parties. David Cameron led the ‘Remain’ campaign under the argument that Britain was ‘stronger in Europe’. Officially, the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party opposed Brexit, although some leading party members have been criticised for not supporting the cause as much as they should have, including Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Outside of parliament, various support groups were set up for the Remain campaign too, including Academics for Europe, Environmentalists for Europe and Scientists for EU.

#5: Who Was For the Brexit?
The Leadership

The former London mayor and prominent Conservative figure Boris Johnson was one of the leading campaigners for Brexit. The United Kingdom Independence Party, fronted by Nigel Farage, were also advocates of Vote Leave. Groups such as Labour Leave, Liberal Leave and Green Leaves were also set up for those wanting to leave the EU against the official positions of their parties. The organisation ‘Grassroots Out’ was formed as a way of uniting major Brexit campaign groups ‘Vote Leave’ and ‘Leave.EU’. Early opinion polls had suggested that Britain would vote to remain in the EU, and during the early stages of vote counting some prominent figures had accepted a loss. But the final result proved different.

#4: What Were the Results of the Referendum?
The Vote

The polls closed at 10pm in Britain, before an unexpected victory for Vote Leave became clear. 17,410,742 people voted to leave the European Union, a majority of 51.9% to Remain’s 48.1%. The division between the countries of the UK was stark, with Scotland and Northern Ireland voting in the majority to stay in the EU, and almost all of England and Wales voting in the majority to leave – although the majority of London voters chose to remain. Some of the most significant victories for Vote Leave came in the middle of England; it gained a 59.3% majority in the West Midlands, and a 58.8% majority in the East Midlands.

#3: What Was the Reaction of British Politicians?
The Bombshell

Hours after the result was announced, David Cameron appeared before the media outside Number 10 Downing Street and resigned as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party. “The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered,” he said, “I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.” Cameron also indicated he did not believe that he was the right ‘captain’ for Britain in the wake of the referendum. The result of the referendum has also triggered a crisis in the Labour Party, after 11 senior members resigned from their positions amid criticism aimed at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for not doing enough tosecure the Remain vote. Corbyn has vowed to fight on, but there is mounting pressure on his position.

#2: What Economic Ramifications Will This Have?
The Single Market

Immediately after the referendum result, the value of the pound sank to its lowest for decades as economic uncertainty set in. As Britain had voted to no longer be part of the European single market, investors and analysts showed concern for the country’s future as a major trading force. Though separate trade agreements are set to be made with EU member countries, Britain’s cutting adrift from the bloc was seen as a major risk by many. In the country itself, the result is expected to have an impact on the housing market, potentially prompting a fall in prices. Food bills are also expected to rise, as well as fuel and energy costs.

#1: What’s Next for the United Kingdom?
The Future

The economic uncertainty and political upheaval look set to continue for some weeks and months. David Cameron indicated during his resignation speech that he hopes to see a new PM in place by October 2016, and Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to fight for his position as Labour leader despite massive changes in his party. There are also suggestions of a possible break up within the UK itself, with calls mounting in Scotland – where the vote toremain secured a majority – to break away from the UK. The actual withdrawal from the EU is not immediate though, since the referendum was not legally binding. This means the government will make the ultimate decision about leaving the EU as well as when it will do so, by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union; and IF it is indeed triggered, then it could be up to two years before Britain is out. There has been pressure within the UK for a second referendum, but little indication of it happening as of June 27th, 2016. Regardless, Britain’s voting to leave the EU represents one of the most significant political changes for the country in decades. Whether it is a step in the right or wrong direction remains to be seen.

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