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After Brexit Vote, Britain Asks Google: 'What Is The EU?'

By a 52-48 percent margin, the popular vote in the United Kingdom last night moved to detach the country from the European Union.

It's been a momentous event, building up for months with anticipation and anxiety domestically and abroad, marked by bitter campaigning, sharp regional disagreements and the murder of an anti-"Brexit" member of Parliament, Jo Cox.

But if you judge a country's interests only by prevalent Google searches, it was after the polls closed when British voters started to think seriously about the implications of their choice.

According to data from Google Trends, the searches for "what is the eu" and "what is brexit" started climbing across Britain late into the night. The polls closed at 10 p.m. local time.

Searches for "what is the eu" and "what is brexit" <a href=",+what+is+brexit&geo=GB&date=now+1-d&cmpt=q&tz=Europe/Belfast&tz=Europe/Belfast&tz=Europe/Belfast" target="_blank">spiked in the U.K.</a> after polls closed.
/ NPR Screen Grab/Google Trends
NPR Screen Grab/Google Trends
Searches for "what is the eu" and "what is brexit" spiked in the U.K. after polls closed.

Though of course searches for these questions were dwarfed by the general interest in "Brexit results," the question "what is the EU" spiked in popularity across all parts of the U.K., in this order: Northern Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland.

Google Trends, on Twitter, has highlighted a few local spikes, too, with "what is Brexit" a top search related to the referendum in both Northern Ireland and Scotland. Both of them voted in favor of remaining in the EU.

Londoners specifically did a lot of googling for "move to Gibraltar." (Gibraltar is a British territory in southern Europe.)

Like many in the U.K., people around the world are starting to figure out what Brexit is and what it means. Driven in large part by concerns about immigration, Britain's unexpected decision to exit the EU won't be settled for a few years and leaves a lot of uncertainty about the future of trade and cooperation.

Read more of NPR's coverage of Brexit here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.