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Brexit also Brixit

noun [countable/uncountable]

the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union

'But throughout his speech and in the comments that followed, Cameron and his administration avoided speaking directly about the consequences that Brexit could have on the nation's golden goose – the City of London, its massive financial industry.'

CNN Money 31st January 2013

'Yet the chances of Britain leaving the EU in the next few years are higher than they have ever been. A Brixit looms for several reasons. For one thing, the British never fell in love with Europe, instead weighing costs against economic benefits.'

The Economist 21st June 2012

"Should I stay or should I go?" for those of us of a certain age, these words might instantly evoke the dulcet tones of a 1981 hit by punk rock band The Clash. As it happens however, they recently turn out to be a particularly appropriate catchphrase in British politics, as the UK government struggles to make tough decisions about its future relationship with the European Union (EU).

if a Brexit were to become a reality, then Britain could be on ground-breaking territory, since no member state has ever, thus far, left the European Union

In January 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a long-awaited speech on the UK's relations with the EU. The speech was an attempt to respond to criticism from so-called Eurosceptics, politicians, many among his own party, who are dissatisfied with the UK's membership of the Union, and who have called into question the Conservatives' pledge to 'bring power back' from Brussels to Westminster. Against a backdrop of mounting pressure to go to a public vote on whether Britain should be 'in or out' of the Union, and an indication that such a vote could in the future become a reality, the terms Brexit and Brixit suddenly made the leap from being obscure bits of political jargon to headlining in the global media.

The coinages Brexit and Brixit are a tongue-in-cheek reference to Great Britain no longer being part of the European Union – in other words a British exit or Britain exiting from the EU. The terms immediately gained wider exposure with the Prime Minister's announcement on January 23rd, which confirmed that the UK government would take definite steps to legislate for a referendum on EU membership before leaving office, and if re-elected would hold this referendum before the end of 2017.

If a Brexit were to become a reality, then Britain could be on ground-breaking territory, since no member state has ever, thus far, left the European Union. In fact provision for a member state to voluntarily leave the Union only became official relatively recently, within the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon. However the possibility of parting company with Europe is not a totally unexplored concept in British politics, since, back in 1975, the UK did go to a referendum on whether to stay in the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community.

Background – Brexit and Brixit

The terms Brexit and Brixit first appeared in June 2012, the latter allegedly coined by a columnist in The Economist (as referenced in the second citation above), and the former by nationalist organization The British Resistance.

The words were most likely inspired by the term Grexit, which had appeared in February 2012 and refers to the possibility of Greece leaving the Eurozone (the group of EU countries which use the Euro as a unit of currency). The term Fixit, referring to the possibility of Finland doing the same, also appeared in June 2012.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 12th February 2013.

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