Short for British Exit From EU. The Brits have set 23 June as the date for a nationwide referendum on pulling out of the EU. British bookies are offering 2:1 odds that Brexit will happen. The Conservative party prime minister will campaign to keep Britain in. He cannot get all the senior conservatives to support him. Heavy duty Conservatives like the mayor of London and the justice minister are in favor of getting out and have said so publicly.
Prime Minister Cameron went to Brussels, dickered, and came back with some concessions from the EU. Britain will be able to refuse to pay welfare to new immigrants until they have been in Britain for four years. There will be some poorly understood restrictions on immigration to Britain. It probably ain't enough. The Brits fear being overrun by foreigners and resent EU regulations on just about everything.
Problem for Her Majesty's Government. About one third of British exports go to the EU. Right now they go duty free since Britain is currently an EU member. If Britain pulls out, that stops and British exports to the EU will face full EU tariffs. Which means the end of that huge export market. The EU has 10% unemployment, which means plenty of EU suppliers who would be so pleased to pick up all the Brit's business after EU tariffs made the Brits noncompetitive.
I did see one clueless letter to the editor in the WSJ claiming that it ain't so, Britain could pull out and still enjoy EU tariff preferences. I don't believe that.
The Economist is clearly concerned, they see economic disaster, of the lights go out and everybody starves to death sort. They also checked with the bookies for odds. I think the Economist is onto something. Where do you go to replace one third of your export business? Canada? Australia? the US? Would we let them join NAFTA?
Britain is the second largest economy in the EU. If they pull out it will make the job of keeping the EU from falling apart harder. Actually, the EU has come a long way since 1945, they have passport-and-customs free travel between most EU countries, they have a single currency, they have EU wide regulations of things like food purity and labeling, electrical safety standards,building codes. They have a ways to go to become a United States of Europe, they have no EU wide foreign policy or armed forces, and the EU government in Brussels lacks a lot of powers that the US constitution gives to Washington.
I wish the Brits every kind of luck. They are gonna need it.