In what promises to be an historic moment, citizens of the United Kingdom will vote on a referendum Thursday to decide whether to leave or stay in the European Union.
The saga of the so-called “Brexit” vote is one that has played out publicly and vocally in the U.K., and the most recent polls show a country divided almost right down the middle on whether to remain part of the European Union or go it alone as a separate entity.
The European Union was created following World War II as a way to unify Europe against the extreme nationalism that had torn it apart years before.
The outcome of the vote is expected to have major economic, social, and political reverberations, not only in Britain but throughout Europe and even the world. Those in the ‘stay’ camp include high-ranking members of Parliament like Prime Minister David Cameron, whose future in British government may be in jeopardy, no matter how the vote turns out. They argue that the economic impact of a ‘leave’ vote would be devastating, negating crucial trade deals the U.K. has with other countries as an EU member and sending global stock markets into a frenzy. The ‘leave’ camp, led by the U.K. Independence Party, argues that Britain’s membership in the EU dilutes citizens’ voice in government
What are the arguments on each side for stay and leave? What will the impact of a stay or leave vote be on the U.K.? On the EU? Why should Americans care?
Aaron Klein, fellow in economic studies and policy director of the Initiative on Business and Public Policy at the Brookings Institution; former deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the U.S. Treasury Department; he tweets @Aarondklein