Brexit () is the impending withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). In a referendum on 23 June 2016, 51.9% of the participating UK electorate voted to leave the EU, out of a turnout of 72.2%. On 29 March 2017, the UK government invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union. The UK is thus due to leave the EU at 11 pm on 29 March 2019 UTC. Prime Minister Theresa May announced the government's intention that the UK would not seek permanent membership of the European single market or the EU customs union after leaving the EU and promised to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972 and incorporate existing European Union law into UK domestic law. A new government department, the Department for Exiting the European Union, was created in July 2016. Negotiations with the EU officially started in June 2017, aiming to complete the withdrawal agreement by October 2018. In June 2018, the UK and the EU published a joint progress report outlining agreement on issues including customs, VAT and Euratom. The UK joined the European Communities (EC) in 1973, with membership confirmed by a referendum in 1975. In the 1970s and 1980s, withdrawal from the EC was advocated mainly by Labour Party members and trade union figures. From the 1990s, the main advocates of withdrawal were the newly founded UK Independence Party (UKIP) and an increasing number of Eurosceptic Conservative Party members. Prime Minister David Cameron held the referendum in fulfilment of a 2015 manifesto pledge. Cameron, who had campaigned for "Remain", resigned after the referendum result and was succeeded by Theresa May, who called a snap general election in which she lost her overall majority. Her minority government is supported in key votes by the Democratic Unionist Party. Six weeks after the referendum, the Bank of England introduced quantitative easing and low interest rates, depreciating sterling and allowing a rise in inflation that outpaced wage growth for most of 2017. There is a broad consensus in existing economic research that Brexit is likely to reduce UK's real per-capita income in the medium and long-term. Studies on effects that have already materialised since the referendum show annual losses of £404 for the average UK household and losses between 1.3-2.1% of UK GDP. Brexit is likely to reduce immigration from European Economic Area (EEA) countries to the UK, and poses challenges for UK higher education and academic research. As of June 2018, the size of the "divorce bill", the UK's inheritance of existing EU trade agreements, and relations with the Republic of Ireland remain uncertain. The precise impact on the UK depends on whether it is a "hard" Brexit or a "soft" Brexit.