On June 23, the United Kingdom will go to the polls in a vote on whether the county should remain in the European Union or break away from the bloc. Leaving, referred to as the Brexit, could have a wide-ranging impact on the global economy as well as the internal politics of the U.K. Here is everything you need to know about next week’s vote:
It is an economic and political union that has its roots in the European Coal and Steel Community, which was established in 1951 and consisted of just six countries. Today the EU has 28 members.
It can impose laws on member countries, but it is up to individual nations to implement them.
In 1973 the U.K. joined what was then called the European Community. The U.K. is not part of the eurozone and thus has its own currency (the pound) rather than the euro, which was adopted across much of the continent. It is also not part of Schengen Area, meaning it has kept a greater amount of sovereignty over its border controls.
U.K. and commonwealth citizens age 18 or older and living in the U.K. are eligible to vote. Those who have been living overseas for no longer than 15 years are also eligible.
Results will be declared in 382 voting offices around the U.K., and the final nationwide result will be announced in Manchester on June 24.
The vote is not legally binding. If the “leave” side wins, it will still be up to Parliament to repeal the 1972 act that authorized the U.K. to join the bloc.
David Cameron, as the head of Conservative Party, promised to hold a referendum while campaigning for re-election in the 2015 general election, in response to growing Euroskeptic pressure in his party and across the country.
The immediate impact of a Brexit is unclear because the U.K. will have to negotiate a deal with the EU. That will take about two years. During that time, the U.K. will remain in the EU but will not be able to participate in any decision-making.
Scotland — which held a referendum of its own in September 2014 on whether to leave the U.K., with 55 percent voting against independence — is largely pro-EU. A Brexit could result in Scots revisiting the independence question.
Immigration is cited as a big concern for many who are against EU membership. According to the “leave” camp, some 250,000 migrants from other EU countries enter the U.K. each year.
Brexit proponents also argue that 350 million pounds a week is sent to the EU and that only 5 percent of businesses in the U.K. export to Europe but 100 percent are burdened by EU-imposed regulations.
Sovereignty is another factor, with those in favor of a Brexit saying they want to take charge of borders and be able to control migration flows.
Those who want the U.K. to stay in the EU argue that the benefit of being in the single market — the world’s largest free-trade zone — is worth $127.7 billion annually.
It has been estimated that more than 3 million U.K. jobs are linked to trade with the EU and that some 950,000 positions could be lost by leaving.
Being a part of the EU results in other benefits such as cheaper and easier travel, say those in favor of remaining, as well as provides continentwide solutions to crime fighting and strengthens labor and environmental protection laws.
Pro-Europe voices have suggested that Britain has a stronger voice on the world stage by remaining in the EU. Moreover, the bloc has succeeded in its most important task since being formed in the shadows of World War II: securing peace.
Most experts say that the outcome of leaving would depend on the agreement that U.K. negotiates with the EU. “It depends if we keep the free movement of labor,” said Ian Preston, an economics professor at University College London. “If we leave the economic area and get [World Trade Organization]–type agreements instead, that is the most damaging economically. We will see a decrease in trade and foreign direct investments. That means lower GDP, which means lower tax receipts and an increase in taxes or borrowing.”
An early lead for the “in” campaign has turned in recent weeks, with the “leave” camp now ahead, according to some surveys. But many are suspicious about British polls.
The latest BMG Research poll found that 62 percent of voters will “definitely” cast a ballot.
“It’s not just about the EU. It’s also driven by domestic politics in the U.K.,” said Tim Oliver, a Dahrendorf fellow for Europe–North American relations at the London School of Economics. “It’s about kicking the government, it’s about Britain’s identity, it’s about globalization fears, about party politics, about London versus the rest of the U.K. and about the political and economic elite versus people who feel disenfranchised.”
The U.K. has often been dubbed the awkward partner of Europe. “The U.K. is historically a Euroskeptic country,” Matt Goodwin, a politics professor at the University of Kent, told ABC News. “There’s no doubt that there will be a strong ‘leave’ vote, and that will ensure hostility to Brussels and Westminster elite will continue. There is almost no chance to find unity, at least in the current generation, about the European question.”