What is Brexit? What you need to know about the UK and the European Union vote

It’s one thing when a bunch of politicians yammer on about an issue facing a country, but when David Beckham steps up to the mic to take a position, it’s time to start listening.

The former soccer god spoke out on Tuesday about the biggest issue facing his home country of England – whether to remain in the European Union, or to back out and be just Britain.

As an American, about now you are probably wondering why you should care about what the United Kingdom does. Good question.  Beside the Beckham beefcake part of it, the results of Thursday’s upcoming referendum on whether to stay or to go will have ripple effects around the world.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister David Cameron warned that if British voters choose to leave the EU the decision will be 'irreversible.’

Here’s a quick look at what Brexit is and why the results of the vote are  important.

What does Brexit mean?

Nothing, really. It is a combination of “Britain” and “exit” – or Brexit. What Britain would be exiting is the European Union.

What’s the European Union?

The European Union is an economic and political partnership of 28 countries. Each of the countries   are independent but they share trade agreements.  The European Union, or EU, operates a single market which allows free movement of goods, capital and services.

The 28 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

What is the argument for staying?

It is mainly an economic one. There are 3 million United Kingdom jobs linked to trade in Europe, according to those who want the UK to stay in the EU. The country also benefits from lower prices for things like travel within the EU countries. Another reason would be a law enforcement advantage – the European Arrest Warrant enables the UK and EU members to more easily extradite criminals across borders. Security – all for one and one for all – is another consideration.

What is the argument for going?

A big argument  is the country would save 350 million British Pounds a week, according to one source. Another major argument is that it would allow the UK to be in charge of her own borders (read: immigration). If someone has the right to live in one of the EU countries, they can live in any or all of the EU countries.

What does the Queen want?

Some reports suggest that Queen Elizabeth II is in favor of leaving the EU. However, we will likely never know what she really thinks about it as she remains non-political  in public. However, according to a chatty source who spilled the beans about a lunch the Queen and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had in 2011, the queen was quoted as saying, the “EU is going in the wrong direction.” (Read: she is in favor of leaving).  

Anyone famous want the country to leave the EU?

Sir Michael Caine, Dame Joan Collins, Downtown Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and Elizabeth Hurley are down with Brexit.

Which celebs want to stay?

J.K. Rowling, Elton John, Simon Cowell, Jude Law, Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch say they like the EU just  fine.

What happens if they leave?

Any number of things can happen if the UK becomes the first country to leave the EU. Surely, there will be trade issues – Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel has said trade agreements with Britain under the EU will not be the same if the UK leaves. There are jobs and other economic issues to consider. Also, Scotland, one of four nations that make up the United Kingdom, says they will have their own referendum for independence so they can then pursue their own membership with the EU.

When will we know?

The referendum is Thursday. We should know by Friday morning. Hard to call in advance since the vote seems, at least in polling, to be almost evenly spilt.