Confused About Brexit? John Oliver Explains Everything You Need to Know

John Oliver
John Oliver is not happy that his home country might vote to leave the European Union. YouTube

Britain's Parliament has been in recess in the lead-up to the referendum on whether the U.K. should leave the European Union, but its politicians on Monday will reconvene to pay tribute to Jo Cox, the MP who was killed outside of her office last Thursday. The man suspected of killing Cox is named Thomas Mair, but when asked to identify himself in court, Mair said, "My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain."

On Thursday, voter will decide if the U.K. is going to remain a part of the European Union. Cox wanted the U.K. to stay in the union; Mair doesn't. The ins and outs of the contentious issue—which has been dubbed "Brexit," short for "British Exit"—have been lost on many Americans, who have been dealing with their own tension-filled political circus. During Sunday night's edition of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver ran down what exactly is at stake across the Atlantic.

Why stay?

Not only does it make little economic sense to leave the EU, to do so would be "destabilizing," according to those in the "remain" camp. HM Treasury, the Bank of England, the OECD, the IMF, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Oxford Economics and other institutions have all conducted studies that have found that leaving the EU would have a negative impact on the U.K.'s GDP. When Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who supports Brexit, was asked about the overwhelming evidence suggesting leaving would be bad for the the British economy, he responded by saying that he thinks "the people have had enough of experts with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong."

Other influential figures who favor leaving, like former London Mayor Boris Johnson, have cited the millions of pounds the U.K. is forced to pay the EU on a weekly basis, but critics say most of these figures are dramatically inflated, and when the economic benefits of paying these dues are considered, no money is actually being "lost."

Oh, and President Barack Obama, along with China, Japan and India, all support the U.K. remaining in the EU. Meanwhile, Donald Trump thinks they should split.

The opposition

The movement for EU independence is led by the U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP. Critics see the party as unabashedly racist (just as many feel about Trump), and the primary reason it wants to leave the EU is because the UKIP feels there are too many damn immigrants on its jolly little island. The party thinks that because citizens of EU countries can freely travel across the borders of other EU countries, removing itself from the EU would prevent other Europeans from pouring into the U.K.

But this wouldn't really be the case. The U.K.'s economy is always going to depend on having a healthy trade relationship with the rest of Europe. A healthy trade deal necessitates mobility of labor, which means the people UKIP find unsavory would still be able to get into their country. Just as much of Trump's campaign is built on a perversion of the idea of American exceptionalism, the pro-Brexit campaign has been able to tap into a sense of British exceptionalism. The tagline to UKIP's campaign could easily be, "Make Britain Great Again." Translation: Keep brown people out.

Currently, it is impossible to predict how Thursday's vote will go, and polls indicate the country is split on whether to stay. John Oliver, as you may have guessed, is a fierce opponent of Brexit, and laments how his "homeland is on the edge of doing something absolutely insane."

"Here is how I feel about the EU," he went on to explain in a closing statement. "It's a complicated, bureaucratic, ambitious, overbearing, inspirational and consistently irritating institution, and Britain would be absolutely crazy to leave it. If it stays, it can reap all the benefits, while still being a total dick about everything, and that is the British way. So to the people of the U.K., I say this: If you need your hatred-of-the-EU itch scratched, I understand, but don't vote for a Brexit on Thursday."