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Everything You Need To Know About The "Brexit" Vote, In Harry Potter GIFs

~Accio Knowledge About the United Kingdom Potentially Leaving the European Union~

Posted on June 20, 2016, at 11:06 a.m. ET

The United Kingdom is currently in the midst of a huge debate leading up to a vote this week over something called "Brexit."

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It's left a lot of people outside the U.K. confused as if they'd been hit with a Confounding Charm.

But don't worry! We're about to drop some ~knowledge~.

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So let's use our Time Turner and go wayyyyyyy back.

Established in the aftermath of World War II, the group that would someday become the European Union was founded on friendship! And economic cooperation! And coal!

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The European Coal and Steel Community eventually grew from six countries that wanted to make it easier to trade the things needed to rebuild after the war to the current 28 countries all linked together in freedom of movement and trade and human rights standards and a bunch of other things. That process really kicked off in 1957 with the Treaty of Rome, forming the European Economic Community (EEC).

Britain joined the EEC in 1973 and it was pretty neat! They even had a referendum* back in 1975 where people were like, "Oh hello, Europe. Yes, we'll join up in this thing, sounds smashing.**"

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*A referendum is just a fancy word for "vote where people choose an answer to a question" — in this case "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"

**Smashing is British for "neat."

Fast-forward to 1999. The European Union has expanded to 13 countries and 11 members of the common market have moved to a single currency: the euro.

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It was a big jump, because it also meant tying their monetary policy together. The European Central Bank controls the printing of euros and how much money is in the system at any given time.

(Check out Greece last year for an idea of why that can be a problem in a crisis.)

But not Britain! Instead, the United Kingdom opted to remain outside the so-called eurozone, sticking with the pound as its currency, and maintaining its own monetary policy.

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This was partly because while they tried to adapt their economy to prep for the euro, there was a small economic crash. That put people off pretty strongly and the "five economic tests" then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown developed for the U.K. to join the eurozone in 1997 have never been passed.

But the U.K. is still tied heavily into the EU's economy and British goods and people don't have any trouble crossing borders within the union and vice versa. They send representatives to the European parliament and follow EU regulations dealing with things like car safety standards and whatnot.

Since the euro was established, the EU has grown by another 13 countries, with 19 of the 28 part of the eurozone.

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Whether a member state uses the euro or not, the common market of the union provides all of its members the freedom of movement of goods, services, people, and capital.

But that expansion, mostly into Eastern and Central Europe, made those who have been suspicious of the EU — or "Euroskeptics" — even less convinced of its usefulness. It also spawned a lot of anti-immigration backlash as the idea of low-skilled workers from the former Communist bloc, manifested in such stereotypes as the "Polish plumber," began to spread.

Loudest among the Euroskeptics lately has been Nigel Farage, the leader of the nationalist United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

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UKIP is best known outside Britain for headlines highlighting its anti-immigration stances. A lot of its policies and politicians alike have been branded as downright anti-Muslim and chauvinistic. But despite that, they've gotten enough local support to, along with some backbench members of the Conservative Party, put pressure on British Prime Minister David Cameron.

That pressure came into play during last year's general election, when Cameron promised if the Conservatives won there’d be a referendum to decide if the U.K. would stay in the EU.

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And win he did, by a surprising amount! But an Unbreakable Vow is just that, even in politics.

At first it seemed like a win for Cameron, who in January used the potential exit from the EU, or "Brexit" as it's been nicknamed, to extract concessions on how the U.K. fits into the union.

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These promises, set to go into place immediately if the U.K. votes to stay, would grant Britain a special status in the EU. That includes an "emergency brake" on benefits to newly arrived migrants for the next seven years, with the amount they receive increasing over four years from when they arrive in the country, and new protections for non-eurozone members of the EU.

But that hasn't prevented UKIP and others from organizing around the Brexit.

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The "Vote Leave" campaign — made up of some prominent members of the Conservative government, some Labour Party members, and others — has been lobbying hard to sway the vote.

The main reason for leaving the EU, they argue, is that the cost of giving up some sovereignty in order to access the common single market is no longer worth it. Primarily they want to take back complete control of Britain's laws, courts, and migration policies.

That in turn can be linked to their opposition to the idea of "an ever closer union," one of the principles the EU has been acting under since the early 1990s. They worry that if the EU makes more laws that the U.K. has to follow, it could mean more and more of the things a country should be able to do for itself will be transferred to the EU.

UKIP, on the other hand, is running its own campaign. Both the party and Vote Leave are stressing the EU's immigration policy as a big reason to leave — a move that their opponents are calling fearmongering.

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That's included Vote Leave putting up signs claiming that Turkey is joining the EU imminently (it isn't) and one pro-Brexit group briefly claiming staying in the EU could prompt an Orlando-style attack.

At the same time, the polls as of last week weren't looking good for the "Britain Stronger in Europe" forces, including arch-enemies Cameron and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

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The "Remain" campaigners argue that Britain is safer and stronger within the European Union than being on the outside looking in. They point to the fact that not only do half of Britain's exports go to the EU, nearly nearly half of investment into the U.K. is from the EU. The U.K. trades more with countries like Ireland and Belgium than it does with China and India.

Despite that, for a while it was looking extremely close. A YouGov poll released last Wednesday showed "Leave" with 46% support and just 39% for "Remain." Only another 11% said they were still undecided and 4% claimed they wouldn't vote at all.

And during a set of extremely unscientific polls taken during a set of debates between the two sides hosted by BuzzFeed UK and Facebook, the audience watching at home came down as more in favor of the Leave speakers than those arguing for Remain. (The in-studio audience actually listening to the speakers voted almost the opposite, but it was still close.)

The vote is on June 23 and, as is the norm with British politics, as the day gets closer things are getting weird.

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Like last Wednesday, when a flotilla of boats from either side fought against each other in the Thames, the river that cuts through London. So yeah. That happened.

But they also turned tragic last week with the death of British MP Jo Cox, an pro-immigration and anti-Brexit advocate, who was killed in her constituency. This caused campaigning to halt for two days.

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As the campaign enters its final few days the polls seem to be turning slightly back in Remain's favor.

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Meanwhile, City of London bankers are torn over whether leaving the EU would be a freeing from regulation or a recipe for financial disaster.

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The U.S. on the other hand is convinced that a Brexit would be not great. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said last week that he sees "only negative economic outcomes” if the "Leave" vote prevails.

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"In the weeks after a vote in favor of Brexit, the S&P 500 would likely slump 5% and volatility would spike by 40%, according to a scenario analysis conducted by financial technology company FIS," CNN reported on Tuesday.

But as we all know, Divination is a rubbish subject. So we'll just have to wait and see how the U.K. votes and figure out what it all means afterwards.

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A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.