The European Union is made up of 28 European countries that collectively govern the economic, social and security policies of its member states. Think you know how this political superpower operates?
Whether you’re a policy wonk or just have a casual knowledge of international politics, you’ve probably heard of the “Brexit,” or Britain’s national vote on whether or not to exit the European Union after 43 years as a member of the 28-nation bloc. Britain’s exit from the European Union could send shockwaves throughout Europe that threatens the region’s economic and political stability. So why would Great Britain want to leave?
To answer that question you first have to understand what Britain would be giving up. Britain would be scrapping a free trade deal with its largest trading partner: about 45% of all British exports go to Europe. Even if it left the European Union, Britain could always establish a new trade agreement with its European trading partners but Britain's Cabinet Office thinks it could take as long as 10 years to renegotiate a trade deal, not to mention all the countries that Europe had trade deals with that Britain doesn't.
The European Union formed after World War II as a means of fostering economic cooperation. The central idea was that countries which trade together are more likely to avoid going to war with each other. So the threat of a British exit from the Union threatens to destabilize the very foundation of European political cooperation.
So a Brexit from the European Union would hurt the European economy and have a negligible effect on the British economy. The British public is pretty evenly split on whether or not to leave. The UK Independence Party, Britain's ruling political party, believe Britain is being held back by the EU, which they say imposes too many rules on business and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They also want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here to live and/or work. One of the main principles of EU membership is "free movement", which means you don't need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. They also object to the idea of "ever closer union" and what they see as moves towards the creation of a "United States of Europe.”