Brexit basics: What is Brexit and why does it matter?

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union at 2300 GMT on Oct. 31. Below is an explainer of the Brexit basics:

Small toy figures are seen in front of UK and European Union displayed flags in this illustration picture, October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

    For a graphic:


    A blend of “Britain” and “exit”, the word was coined by former lawyer Peter Wilding four years before the vote for the UK to leave the EU took place.

    The EU, built on the ruins of World War Two to integrate economic power and end centuries of European bloodshed, is now a group of 28 countries which trade and allow their citizens to move between nations to live and work.

    In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 52 percent of British voters backed leaving while 48 percent voted to remain in the bloc. Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the referendum, resigned immediately afterwards.


The referendum was a simple yes or no vote. It left lawmakers to grapple with the mechanics of how to leave the EU in a country divided over everything from secession and immigration to capitalism and modern Britishness.

In order to leave, the UK had to invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty, which outlines the steps for a member state to withdraw.

Cameron’s successor Theresa May formally triggered Article 50 in March 2017 which set the clock ticking for the UK to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal by March 29, 2019.

The deadline was extended three times, to Oct. 31, 2019 after parliament three times rejected the deal May had struck with the EU.

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