"Brexit" is a portmanteau word meaning "British exit" and referring to a referendum by British voters held on June 23, 2016, to decide whether to exit the European Union. British voters decided to leave the EU in a 52 percent to 48 percent vote that shocked the world and left markets the following day reeling and the pound down to levels not seen since 1985.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the "remain" camp, announced he would resign, and Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said that country would revisit the idea of holding a referendum on independence from Britain, given that an overwhelming majority of Scots voted in favor of staying in the EU.
The move opened up questions about regulation of the British markets, as well as about the stability of banks and currencies.
The main reasons cited for leaving were that the European Union had too large and bureaucratic over the past four decades and had diminished British influence and sovereignty. Immigration was also considered a key issue to the "leave" camp.  There has been growing disillusion with the EU over migration and problems with the euro.
Reasons to stay included the economic cost of leaving, which some economists warned would cut growth, weaken the pound and diminish the City of London as a financial center.
Prime Minister David Cameron promised a Brexit in the Conservative Party manifesto for the May 2015 election, but as he never expected the amount of negative sentiment toward the EU, nor did he believe that leaving was in the best interest of the nation, went on to back the "remain" camp. Automobile companies, such as Toyota UK, Vauxhall, Jaguar Land Rover and BMW, as well as component makers GKN and Magal Engineering, also backed the remain campaign.
The “leave” camp was led by Michael Gove, the justice minister, and Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London. Nearly half the Conservative members of Parliament favored leaving, as did the members of the UK Independence Party, or UKIP, and its leader, Nigel Farage.
The European Union came from a movement after World War II to create unity between Germany and France which eventually laid the foundations for the EU forty years later. Britain first joined what was then called the European Economic Community (formed in 1957) in 1973.
Over the years the political base of British "Euroscepticism" (the Leave camp) has moved from left to right. Labour was more suspicious of the EU in early years, and in 1962 its leader, Hugh Gaitskell, warned that joining the common market would end 1,000 years of British history. Labour was also in favor of withdrawal during the 1980s. But in 1998 Margaret Thatcher gave a speech attacking undue EU influence in the UK. Her denunciation of European Commission President Jacques Delors plan for closer EU integration and a single currency led to her downfall two years later, and the Tories replaced Labour as the party of Euroscepticism.
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- What is the EU, why was it created and when was it formed?. The Telegraph.
- The roots of Euroscepticism. The Economist.