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What is Brexit and why does it matter?

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British voters have defied the will of their leaders, foreign allies, experts and much of the political establishment by opting Thursday to rupture this country’s primary connection to Europe in a stunning result that will radiate vast economic, political and security uncertainty across the globe.

How confusing is it? Even lots of Brits may not have known what they were voting. From The Washington Post:

That confusion over what Brexit might mean for the country's economy appears to have been reflected across the United Kingdom on Thursday. Google reported sharp upticks in searches not only related to the ballot measure but also about basic questions concerning the implications of the vote. At about 1 a.m. Eastern time, about eight hours after the polls closed, Google reported that searches for "what happens if we leave the EU" had more than tripled.

Here’s what you need to know.

WHAT IS ‘BREXIT’?

A combination of the two words ‘British exit,’ coined in response to the question of whether Britain would decide to exit their membership with the European Union. Thursday, June 23, was voting day for the United Kingdom.

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WHAT HAPPENED?

U.K. voters favored leaving the EU 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent. England and Wales had “leave” majorities, while every council in Scotland had “remain” majorities. Voter turnout was about 72 percent, the highest turnout since a 1992 general election.

Britain already uses separate currency than the rest of the EU, the pound. After the outcome, it at one point fell more than 10 percent, though it has since slightly recovered. Another outcome of the vote is Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, who advocated for staying in the EU, resigned this morning.

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HAS ANY OTHER EU MEMBER STATE LEFT BEFORE?

No.

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WHAT IS THE EUROPEAN UNION?

An association of European nations formed in 1993 in hopes of achieving political and economic consolidation.

Originally it was Germany, France and four other nations who formed the European Economic Community in 1957, determined to banish forever the bloodshed of two world wars. The grouping became the EU in 1993 and has grown into a 28-nation bloc of more than 500 million people stretching from Ireland to the Aegean Sea.

The EU has substantial powers over member states’ laws, economies and social policies. It has its own parliament, central bank and 19 EU members use a common currency, the euro.

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WHY DID SOME VOTE TO LEAVE?

Some Britons feel their island nation – a former imperial power with strong ties to the United States – is fundamentally different to its European neighbors. Anti-EU Britons resent everything from fishing quotas to fruit sizes being decided in Brussels.

The anti-EU view is especially strong in the Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron. It was partly to appease his party that Cameron promised to hold a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017.

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WHY DID SOME BRITONS WANT TO STAY?

Supporters say Britain’s economy and security are enhanced by EU membership. They argue that membership makes it much easier for British companies both large and small to import and export goods to other member countries with minimum hassle. Supporters say being part of the 28-nation bloc gives them many more options and makes it easy for them to live and work in other countries.

Labour Party leaders also argue that European rules and regulations and European courts have improved the way British workers are treated. They say removing these protections could lower living standards.

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WHAT ISSUES SHAPED THE CAMPAIGN?

The “remain” side, headed by the prime minister, argued that Britain’s economy would suffer a tremendous blow if the country leaves the trading bloc. This position has been backed by many prominent business leaders who warn of a possible catastrophe.

With the refugee crisis heavily impacting European nations, the “leave” side has expressed concerns about immigration. Membership in the bloc gives residents of other countries the right to live and work in Britain. Britons argue that by leaving, they can take total control of their borders and set up their own entry rules.

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WHAT WILL CHANGE IF I TRAVEL TO THE U.K.?

Mark Vitner, a Charlotte-based economist at Wells Fargo said you probably won’t have to worry about the Brexit creating any major swings in foreign exchange rates.

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HOW DOES THIS IMPACT CHARLOTTE?

The U.K.’s vote to leave could have a trickle-down effect felt as far away as Charlotte.

The vote could impact the roughly 600 companies from the European Union that have operations in Charlotte. Of those, 118 are from the U.K., according to the Charlotte Chamber.

Chamber officials said they don’t see any immediate ramifications for member organizations from a “Brexit,” unless the U.K. falls into a major recession because of it.

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