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What You Need to Know About Brexit

FILE - A Pro-Brexit campaigner hands out leaflets at Liverpool Street station in London.

What: "Brexit" is an abbreviated term that refers to Britain's possible withdrawal from the 28-nation European Union. It is an adaptation of "Grexit," a reference to a possible Greek exit from the eurozone.

When: On June 23, British voters voted to break away from the EU.

Referendum question: Voters were asked, "Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?" The question was recommended by Britain's Electoral Commission and accepted by the government and parliament.

Why: To appease the Conservative Party and undermine EU opponents, Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold a referendum on the issue if he was reelected in 2015. Conservatives, now in the majority, have been split on the question of EU membership for some 40 years. Grassroots Conservatives generally favor leaving the EU.

Significance: Proponents of a British exit believe it will free Britain from rules that are adverse to job creation and allow the country to choose its laws and trading partners. EU advocates contend Britain's membership in a bloc of like-minded countries would help sustain the country's global influence and military and economic security.

Eligible voters: Citizens over age 18 could cast ballots on the Brexit question. This includes citizens in Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental group of 53 member states.

How long will it take to leave the EU? Once Article 50 is triggered, which formally notifies the intention to withdraw, a two-year clock starts running. During that period, Britain will continue to abide by EU treaties and laws -but it will not take part in any decision making.

What will happen during that time? The UK would begin negotiating out the terms of its departure. The biggest issues include such things as what financial regulations would still apply to the City of London, trade tariffs and movement rights of EU citizens and UK nationals. The agreement would have to be ratified both by the European council and the EU parliament.

What is the likely impact of Brexit on the EU? Some believe Britain quitting its membership could encourage other nations to follow suit with referendums of their own.