2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum

The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, commonly referred to as the EU referendum or the Brexit referendum, took place on 23 June 2016 in the United Kingdom (UK) and Gibraltar to ask the electorate whether the country should remain a member of, or leave, the European Union (EU). The result would then be facilitated through the European Union Referendum Act 2015 and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The referendum resulted in 51.9% of the votes cast being in favour of leaving the EU. Although the referendum was legally non-binding, the government of the time promised to implement the result.[3] Parliament gave legal effect to the referendum by passing the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 and on 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom gave formal notice of intent to withdraw from the EU.

United Kingdom European Union membership referendum
23 June 2016

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
LocationUnited Kingdom (pop. 65.65m)[1] and Gibraltar (pop. 34,000)[2]
OutcomeThe UK votes to leave the European Union
Results
Response Votes  %
Leave 17,410,742 51.89%
Remain 16,141,241 48.11%
Valid votes 33,551,983 99.92%
Invalid or blank votes 25,359 0.08%
Total votes 33,577,342 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 46,500,001 72.21%

Results by voting area
On the map, the darker shades for a colour indicate a larger majority. The results for Northern Ireland are by parliamentary constituency. The electorate of 46.5m represents 70.8% of the population.

Membership of the EU had long been a topic of debate in the United Kingdom. The country joined the European Communities (EC), principally the European Economic Community (EEC) or Common Market, the forerunner to the European Union, in 1973, along with the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom). A referendum on continued membership of the Communities was held in 1975, with 67.2% of the population voting in favour of Britain remaining a member.[4]

In May 2015, following a Conservative Party manifesto pledge, the legal basis for the EU referendum was established through the European Union Referendum Act 2015. Britain Stronger in Europe became the official group campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU, and was endorsed by the Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne. Vote Leave was the official group campaigning for the UK to leave the EU, and was fronted by Conservative MPs Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, along with Labour MP Gisela Stuart.[5] Other campaign groups, political parties, businesses, trade unions, newspapers and prominent individuals were also involved, with both sides having supporters from across the political spectrum. Parties in favour of 'remain' included Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party (SNP), Plaid Cymru and the Green Party;[6][7][8][9] while the UK Independence Party (UKIP) campaigned in favour of leaving the European Union;[10] and the Conservative Party remained neutral.[11] In spite of the official positions of the Conservative Party and Labour, both parties allowed their MPs to publicly campaign for either side of the issue.[12][13]

Immediately after the result, financial markets reacted negatively worldwide, and Cameron announced that he would resign as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, having campaigned unsuccessfully to remain in the European Union. It was the first time that a national referendum result had gone against the preferred option of the UK Government. Cameron was succeeded by Theresa May on 13 July 2016. The Labour Party also faced a leadership challenge as a result of the EU referendum.