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What is ‘Brexit’?

Brexit
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For other uses, see Brexit (disambiguation).
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Brexit (/ˈbrɛksɪt, ˈbrɛɡzɪt/; a portmanteau of “British” and “exit”) is the scheduled withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). Following a June 2016 referendum, in which 51.9% of participating voters voted to leave, the UK government formally announced the country’s withdrawal in March 2017, starting a two-year process that was due to conclude with the UK withdrawing on 29 March 2019. As the UK parliament thrice voted against the negotiated withdrawal agreement, that deadline has been extended twice, and is currently 31 October 2019. An Act of Parliament requires the government to seek a third extension if no agreement is reached before 19 October.
Withdrawal is advocated by Eurosceptics and opposed by pro-Europeanists, both of whom span the political spectrum. The UK joined the European Communities (EC) in 1973, with continued membership endorsed in a 1975 referendum. In the 1970s and 1980s, withdrawal from the EC was advocated mainly by the political left, e.g. in the Labour Party’s 1983 election manifesto. From the 1990s, the eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party grew, and led a rebellion over ratification of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty that established the EU. In parallel with the UK Independence Party (UKIP), and the cross-party People’s Pledge campaign, it pressured Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to hold a referendum on continued EU membership. Cameron, who had campaigned to remain, resigned after the result and was succeeded by Theresa May.
On 29 March 2017, the UK government invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, formally starting the withdrawal. May called a snap general election in June 2017, which resulted in a Conservative minority government supported by the Democratic Unionist Party. UK–EU withdrawal negotiations began later that month. The UK negotiated to leave the EU customs union and single market. This resulted in the November 2018 withdrawal agreement, but the UK parliament voted against ratifying it three times. The Labour Party wanted any agreement to maintain a customs union, while many Conservatives opposed the agreement’s financial settlement on the UK’s share of EU financial obligations, as well as the “Irish backstop” designed to prevent border controls in Ireland. The Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and others seek to reverse Brexit through a second referendum. The EU has declined a re-negotiation that omits the backstop. In March 2019, the UK parliament voted for May to ask the EU to delay Brexit until October. Having failed to pass her agreement, May resigned as Prime Minister in July and was succeeded by Boris Johnson. He sought to replace parts of the agreement and vowed to leave the EU by the new deadline, with or without an agreement.
Many effects of Brexit depend on how closely the UK will be tied to the EU, or whether it withdraws before terms are agreed – referred to as a no-deal Brexit. The broad consensus among economists is that Brexit will likely reduce the UK’s real per capita income in the medium term and long term, and that the referendum itself damaged the economy.[a] Brexit is likely to reduce immigration from European Economic Area (EEA) countries to the UK, and poses challenges for UK higher education, academic research and security. Following Brexit, EU law and the EU Court of Justice will no longer have supremacy over UK laws or its Supreme Court, except to an extent agreed upon in a withdrawal agreement. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 retains relevant EU law as domestic law, which the UK could then amend or repeal.
Terminology and etymology
In the wake of the referendum of 23 June 2016, many new pieces of Brexit-related jargon have entered popular use.
Article 50
Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union is a procedure in the treaty that sets out how member states can leave the Union, with a two-year timetable for leaving. Article 50 was triggered by Prime Minister Theresa May at the end of March 2017.
Backstop
A term referring to the Irish backstop, a part of the negotiated withdrawal agreement that will keep Northern Ireland in some aspects of the European Union Customs Union and of the European Single Market to prevent a hard border in Ireland, so as not to compromise the Good Friday Agreement. The backstop comes into force if the withdrawal agreement is ratified, and a trade agreement has not been reached before the end of the transition period
Blind/Blindfold Brexit
Coined in September 2018 to describe a scenario where the UK leaves the EU without clarity on the terms of a future trade deal. EU and British negotiators would then have until 31 December 2020 to sign off on a future trade deal, during which time the UK would effectively remain a member of the EU, but with no voting rights.
Brexit
Brexit (like its early variant, Brixit) is a portmanteau of “British” and “exit”. Grammatically, it has been called a complex nominal. The first attestation in the Oxford English Dictionary is a Euractiv blog post by Peter Wilding on 15 May 2012. It was coined by analogy with “Grexit”, attested on 6 February 2012 to refer to a hypothetical withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone (and possibly the EU altogether, although there was never a clear popular mandate for it). At present, Brexit is impending under the EU Treaties and the UK Acts of Parliament, and the current negotiations pursuant thereto.
This is shorthand for a model where the UK leaves the EU and signs a free trade agreement. This would allow the UK to control its own trade policy as opposed to jointly negotiating alongside the EU, but would require rules of origin agreements to be reached for UK–EU trade. It is likely this would lead to UK–EU trade being less “free” than joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and result in additional border controls being required, which is an issue of contention, particularly on the island of Ireland. The Canadian–EU deal took seven years to negotiate, but Brexiteers argue it would take much less time between the UK and EU as the two participants already align on regulatory standards.
Chequers Agreement
The short name given by the media to The framework for the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, the government’s white paper drawn up at Chequers and published on 12 July 2018, which set out the sort of relationship the UK government wanted with the EU after Brexit. The government published the updated draft on 22 November 2018.
Clean break Brexit
This term, used particularly by the Brexit Party, is more generally known as a no-deal Brexit. The Brexit Party have also used the simpler term “Clean Brexit” interchangeably with the longer term since early September 2019.
Customs Union
See also: European Union Customs Union and Customs Union between the EU and the UK
A customs union is an agreement under which two or more countries agree not to impose taxes on imported goods from one another and to apply a common tariff on goods imported from countries not party to the agreement.
Divorce bill
It is expected that the UK will make a contribution toward financial commitments that it had approved while still a member of the EU, but are still outstanding. The amount owed is officially referred to as the financial settlement but has informally been referred to as an exit bill or divorce bill. While serving as Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab said the UK will not pay the full financial settlement to the EU in a no-deal scenario but would instead pay a significantly lower amount to cover the UK’s “strict legal obligations”. The UK Government’s estimate of the financial settlement in March 2019 was £38 billion. After normal member contributions payable to 31 October 2019 of £5 billion, a final settlement of £33 billion on 31 October is currently estimated by the Office for Budget Responsibility.
Hard and soft Brexit
“Hard Brexit” and “soft Brexit” are unofficial terms that are commonly used by news media to describe the prospective relationship between the UK and the EU after withdrawal. A hard Brexit (also called a no-deal Brexit) usually refers to the UK leaving the EU and the European Single Market with few or no deals (trade or otherwise) in place, meaning that trade will be conducted under the World Trade Organization’s rules, and services will no longer be provided by agencies of the European Union (such as aviation safety). Soft Brexit encompasses any deal that involves retaining membership in the European Single Market and at least some free movement of people according to European Economic Area (EEA) rules. Theresa May’s “Chequers agreement” embraced some aspects of a “soft” Brexit. Note that the EEA and the deal with Switzerland contain fully free movement of people, and that the EU has wanted that to be included in a deal with UK on fully free trade.
Hard border
Because of Brexit, a physical border could be erected between Northern Ireland, a constituent part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. This raises concerns about the future of the Good Friday Agreement (or Belfast Agreement), a peace deal signed in 1998 which helped to end the Northern Ireland conflict (The Troubles).
Further information: Brexit and the Irish border
Indicative vote
Indicative votes are votes by members of parliament on a series of non-binding resolutions. They are a means of testing the will of the House of Commons on different options relating to one issue. MPs voted on eight different options for the next steps in the Brexit process on 27 March 2019; however, none of the proposals earned a majority in the indicative votes. MPs also voted on four options on 1 April 2019 in the second round of indicative votes. Still, none of the proposals earned a majority.
Leaver
Those supporting Brexit are sometimes referred to as “Leavers”. Alternatively the term “Brexiteers”, or “Brexiters” has been used to describe adherents of the Leave campaign. Likewise, the pejorative term “Brextremist”, a portmanteau of “Brexiter” and “Extremist” has been used by some outlets to describe Leavers of an overzealous, uncompromising disposition.
Lexit
also Lexiter. A portmanteau of ‘left-wing’ and ‘Brexit’, referring to left-wing advocacy of EU withdrawal.
Meaningful vote
A meaningful vote is a vote under section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, requiring the government to arrange for a motion proposing approval of the outcome of negotiations with the EU to be debated and voted on by the House of Commons before the European Parliament decides whether it consents to the withdrawal agreement being concluded on behalf of the EU in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union.
Managed no-deal
“Managed no-deal Brexit” or “managed no deal Brexit” was increasingly used near the end of 2018, in respect of the complex series of political, legal and technical decisions needed if there is no withdrawal agreement treaty with the EU when the UK exits under the Article 50 withdrawal notice. The Institute for Government has advised that the concept is unrealistic.
No-deal Brexit
This means the UK would leave the European Union without a withdrawal agreement.
Further information: No-deal Brexit
Norway model/Norway plus
This is shorthand for a model where the United Kingdom leaves the European Union but becomes a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area, possibly with the addition of a customs union (“plus”). EFTA and EEA membership would allow the UK to remain in the single market but without having to be subject to the Common Fisheries Policy, Common Agricultural Policy, and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The UK would be subject to the EFTA court, which largely shadows the ECJ, have to transfer a large amount of EU law into UK law, and have little say on shaping EU rules (some of which the UK will be compelled to take on). The UK would also have to allow freedom of movement between the EU and UK, which was seen as a key issue of contention in the referendum.
People’s Vote
People’s Vote is an advocacy group launched in April 2018, who calls for a public vote on the final Brexit deal. The People’s Vote march is part of a series of demonstrations against Brexit.
Remainer
Those in favour of the UK remaining in the EU are sometimes referred to as “Remainers”. The derogatory term “Remoaner” (a blend of “remainer” and “moan”) is sometimes used by Leavers to describe adherents of the Remain campaign.
Second referendum
A second referendum has been proposed by a number of politicians and pressure groups. The Electoral Commission has the responsibility for nominating lead campaign groups for each possible referendum outcome.
Slow Brexit
The term “slow Brexit” was first coined by British Prime Minister Theresa May on 25 March 2019 as she spoke to Parliament, warning MPs that Article 50 could be extended beyond 22 May, slowing down the Brexit process. A ‘slow Brexit’ implies a longer period of political uncertainty in which members of Parliament will debate the next steps of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Background: the United Kingdom and Europe
Further information: Foreign relations of the United Kingdom § Europe, Politics of the United Kingdom § European Union, and European integration
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The “Inner Six” European countries signed the Treaty of Paris in 1951, establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The 1955 Messina Conference deemed that the ECSC was a success, and resolved to extend the concept further, thereby leading to the 1957 Treaties of Rome establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). In 1967, these became known as the European Communities (EC). The UK attempted to join in 1963 and 1967, but these applications were vetoed by the President of France, Charles de Gaulle.
Accession and period of European Union membershipMain article: History of European Union–United Kingdom relations
Some time after de Gaulle resigned as president of France in 1969, the UK successfully applied for EC membership, and the Conservative prime minister Edward Heath signed the Treaty of Accession in 1972. Parliament passed the European Communities Act later that year and the UK joined Denmark and Ireland in becoming a member of the EC on 1 January 1973.
The opposition Labour Party won the February 1974 general election without a majority and then contested the subsequent October 1974 general election with a commitment to renegotiate Britain’s terms of membership of the EC, believing them to be unfavourable, and then hold a referendum on whether to remain in the EC on the new terms. Labour again won the election (this time with a small majority), and in 1975 the UK held its first ever national referendum, asking whether the UK should remain in the EC. Despite significant division within the ruling Labour Party, all major political parties and the mainstream press supported continuing membership of the EC. On 5 June 1975, 67.2 percent of the electorate and all but two UK counties and regions voted to stay in; support for the UK to leave the EC in 1975 appears unrelated to the support for Leave in the 2016 referendum.
The Labour Party campaigned in the 1983 general election on a commitment to withdraw from the EC without a referendum, although after a heavy defeat Labour changed its policy. In 1985, the second Margaret Thatcher government ratified the Single European Act—the first major revision to the Treaty of Rome—without a referendum.
In October 1990, under pressure from senior ministers and despite Thatcher’s deep reservations, the UK joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), with the pound sterling pegged to the deutschmark. Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister the following month, amid Conservative Party divisions arising partly from her increasingly Eurosceptic views. The UK and Italy were forced to withdraw from the ERM in September 1992, after the pound sterling and the lira came under pressure from currency speculation (“Black Wednesday”).
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Under the Maastricht Treaty, the EC became the EU on 1 November 1993, reflecting the evolution of the organisation from an economic union into a political union. Denmark, France, and Ireland held referendums to ratify the Maastricht Treaty. In accordance with British constitutional convention, specifically that of parliamentary sovereignty, ratification in the UK was not subject to approval by referendum. Despite this, the British constitutional historian Vernon Bogdanor wrote at the time that there was “a clear constitutional rationale for requiring a referendum” because although MPs are entrusted with legislative power by the electorate, they are not given authority to transfer that power (the UK’s previous three referendums all concerned the transfer of parliamentary powers). Further, as the ratification of the treaty was in the manifestos of the three major political parties, voters opposed to ratification had no way to express that opposition. For Bogdanor, while the ratification of the treaty by the House of Commons might be legal, it would not be legitimate—which requires popular consent. The way in which the treaty was ratified, he judged, was “likely to have fundamental consequences both for British politics and for Britain’s relationship with the [EC].” This perceived democratic deficit directly led to the formation of the Referendum Party and the UK Independence Party.
Euroscepticism, opt-outs and ‘outers’Main articles: Euroscepticism in the United Kingdom and Opt-outs in the European Union
Thatcher, who had supported the common market and the Single European Act, in the Bruges speech of 1988 warned against “a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels”. She influenced Daniel Hannan, who in 1990 founded the Oxford Campaign for Independent Britain; “With hindsight, some see this as the start of the campaign for Brexit”, Financial Times later wrote. In 1994, Sir James Goldsmith formed the Referendum Party to contest the 1997 general election on a platform of providing a referendum on the nature of the UK’s relationship with the rest of the EU. The party fielded candidates in 547 constituencies at that election, and won 810,860 votes—2.6 per cent of the total votes cast—but failed to win a parliamentary seat due to the vote being spread across the country. The Referendum Party disbanded after Goldsmith’s death in 1997.
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Conservative prime ministers Thatcher (left) and Cameron (right) used Eurosceptic rhetoric while being in favour of the UK’s membership and the development of the European Single Market. Euroscepticism—and in particular the impact of the UK Independence Party (founder and former leader Farage pictured centre) on the Conservatives’ election results—contributed to Cameron’s 2015 attempt to renegotiate the UK’s EU membership and ultimately the holding of the 2016 referendum.
The UK Independence Party (UKIP), a Eurosceptic political party, was formed in 1993. It achieved third place in the UK during the 2004 European elections, second place in the 2009 European elections and first place in the 2014 European elections, with 27.5 per cent of the total vote. This was the first time since the 1910 general election that any party other than Labour or the Conservatives had taken the largest share of the vote in a nationwide election. UKIP’s electoral success in the 2014 European election is documented as the strongest correlate of the support for the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum. UKIP won two by-elections (triggered by defecting Conservative MPs) in 2014; in the 2015 general election, the party took 12.6 percent of the total vote and held one of the two seats won in 2014.
Policy opt-outs of European Union member states viewtalkedit
Country # of
opt-ins
or
opt‑outs Policy area
Schengen Area Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) Area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ) Charter of Fundamental Rights Social Chapter
Denmark 3 INT OO OO OO NO NO
Ireland 2 OI NO NO OI NO NO
Poland 1 NO NO NO NO OO NO
United Kingdom 4 OI OO NO OI OO FO
Legend
OI — opt-in – possibility to opt in on a case-by-case basis.
OO – opt-out in place
FO – former opt-out that was subsequently abolished.
INT – participates on an intergovernmental basis, but not under EU law
NO – fully participating in policy area
Opinion polls 1977–2015Main article: Opinion polling for the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum
Both pro- and anti-EU views have had majority support at different times since 1977. In the EC membership referendum of 1975, two-thirds of British voters favoured continued EC membership. There is Euroscepticism both on the left and right of British politics.
According to a statistical analysis published in April 2016 by Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, surveys showed an increase in Euroscepticism (defined as a wish to sever or reduce the powers of the EU) from 38% in 1993 to 65% in 2015. Euroscepticism should, however, not be confused with the wish to leave the EU: the BSA survey for the period July–November 2015 showed that 60 per cent backed the option to continue as an EU member and 30 percent backed the option to withdraw.
Referendum of 2016Main article: 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum
Negotiations for membership reformMain article: United Kingdom renegotiation of European Union membership, 2015–16
In 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron initially rejected calls for a referendum on the UK’s EU membership,[99] but then suggested the possibility of a future referendum to endorse his proposed renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the rest of the EU. According to the BBC, “The prime minister acknowledged the need to ensure the UK’s [renegotiated] position within the [EU] had ‘the full-hearted support of the British people’ but they needed to show ‘tactical and strategic patience’.” On 23 January 2013, under pressure from many of his MPs and from the rise of UKIP, Cameron announced that a Conservative government would hold an in-or-out referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017, on a renegotiated package, if elected in the 7 May 2015 general election. This was included in the Conservative Party manifesto for the election.
The Conservative Party won the election with a majority. Soon afterwards, the European Union Referendum Act 2015 was introduced into Parliament to enable the referendum. Cameron favoured remaining in a reformed EU, and sought to renegotiate on four key points: protection of the single market for non-eurozone countries, reduction of “red tape”, exempting Britain from “ever-closer union”, and restricting immigration from the rest of the EU.
In December 2015, opinion polls showed a clear majority in favour of remaining in the EU; they also showed support would drop if Cameron did not negotiate adequate safeguards[definition needed] for non-eurozone member states, and restrictions on benefits for non-British EU citizens.
The outcome of the renegotiations was announced in February 2016. Some limits to in-work benefits for new EU immigrants were agreed, but before they could be applied, a member state such as the UK would have to get permission from the European Commission and then from the European Council, which is composed of the heads of government of every member state.
In a speech to the House of Commons on 22 February 2016, Cameron announced a referendum date of 23 June 2016, and commented on the renegotiation settlement. He spoke of an intention to trigger the Article 50 process immediately following a Leave vote and of the “two-year time period to negotiate the arrangements for exit.”
After the original wording for the referendum question was challenged, the government agreed to change the official referendum question to “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”
Campaign groupsMain article: Campaigning in the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum
A “Vote Leave” poster in Omagh, Northern Ireland, saying “We send the EU £50 million every day. Let’s spend it on our NHS instead.”The official campaign group for leaving the EU was Vote Leave after a contest for the designation with Leave.EU. Vote Leave was later found to have exceeded its allowed spending limit during the campaign.
The official campaign to stay in the EU, chaired by Stuart Rose, was known as Britain Stronger in Europe, or informally as ‘Remain’. Other campaigns supporting remaining in the EU included Conservatives In, Labour in for Britain, #INtogether (Liberal Democrats), Greens for a Better Europe, Scientists for EU, Environmentalists for Europe, Universities for Europe and Another Europe is Possible.
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Referendum resultMain article: Results of the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum
The result was announced on the morning of 24 June: 51.89 percent voted in favour of leaving the EU, and 48.11 percent voted in favour of remaining a member of the EU. Comprehensive results are available from the UK Electoral Commission Referendum Results site. A petition calling for a second referendum attracted more than four million signatures, but was rejected by the government on 9 July.
United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016
National result
Choice Votes %
Leave the European Union 17,410,742 51.89%
Remain a member of the European Union 16,141,241 48.11%
Valid votes 33,551,983 99.92%
Invalid or blank votes 25,359 0.08%
Total votes 33,577,342 100.00%
Registered voters and turnout 46,500,001 72.21%
Voting age population and turnout 51,356,768 65.38%
Source: Electoral Commission
National referendum results (without spoiled ballots) Leave: 17,410,742 (51.9%) Remain: 16,141,241 (48.1%)
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Results by Country of the United Kingdom/region of England (left) and by council district (GB) & UK Parliament constituency (NI) (right)
Voter demographics and trendsFurther information: Causes of the vote in favour of Brexit
According to researchers based at the University of Warwick, areas with “deprivation in terms of education, income and employment were more likely to vote Leave”. The Leave vote tended to be greater in areas which had lower incomes and high unemployment, a strong tradition of manufacturing employment, and in which the population had fewer qualifications. It also tended to be greater where there was a large flow of Eastern European migrants (mainly low-skilled workers) into areas with a large share of native low-skilled workers. Those in lower social grades (especially the ‘working class’) were more likely to vote Leave, while those in higher social grades (especially the ‘upper middle class’) more likely to vote Remain.
According to Thomas Sampson, an economist at the London School of Economics, “Older and less-educated voters were more likely to vote ‘leave’ […] A majority of white voters wanted to leave, but only 33 per cent of Asian voters and 27 per cent of black voters chose leave. There was no gender split in the vote […] Leaving the European Union received support from across the political spectrum […] Voting to leave the European Union was strongly associated with holding socially conservative political beliefs, opposing cosmopolitanism, and thinking life in Britain is getting worse”. Econometric studies show that “education and, to a lesser extent, age were the strongest demographic predictors of voting behaviour”. Support for leaving was linked with “poor economic outcomes at the individual or area level” and with “self-reported opposition to immigration, but not with exposure to immigration”.
Opinion polls found that Leave voters believed leaving the EU was “more likely to bring about a better immigration system, improved border controls, a fairer welfare system, better quality of life, and the ability to control our own laws”, while Remain voters believed EU membership “would be better for the economy, international investment, and the UK’s influence in the world”. Polls found that the main reasons people voted Leave were “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”, and that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders”. The main reason people voted Remain was that “the risks of voting to leave the EU looked too great when it came to things like the economy, jobs and prices”.
Resignations, contests, and appointmentsMain article: Aftermath of the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum
After the result was declared, Cameron announced that he would resign by October. He stood down on 13 July 2016, with Theresa May becoming Prime Minister after a leadership contest. George Osborne was replaced as Chancellor of the Exchequer by Philip Hammond, former Mayor of London Boris Johnson was appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and David Davis became Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn lost a vote of confidence among his parliamentary party, and an unsuccessful challenge of his leadership was launched. On 4 July, Nigel Farage announced his resignation as leader of UKIP.
IrregularitiesSee also: Unlawful campaigning in the 2016 EU referendum and Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum
Irregularities have been alleged in the conduct of the referendum campaign.
On 11 May 2018, the UK Electoral Commission found against Leave.EU, which ran a separate campaign to the official pro-Brexit group Vote Leave, following its investigations into alleged irregularities during the referendum campaign. Leave.EU’s co-founder Arron Banks has stated that he rejects the outcome of the investigation and will be challenging it in court.
In July 2018, the UK Electoral Commission found Vote Leave to have broken electoral law, spending over its limit. Also, the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee released an interim report on Disinformation and ‘fake news’, stating that the largest donor in the Brexit campaign, Arron Banks, had “failed to satisfy” the Committee that his donations came from UK sources, and may have been financed by the Russian government.
LitigationThere has been litigation to explore the constitutional footings on which Brexit stands after R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (simply known as the “Miller case”) and the 2017 Notification Act:
In R. (Webster) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the High Court of Justice determined that the decision to leave the EU was an executive decision of the Prime Minister using a statutory power of decision found to have been delegated to her by the Notification Act.[better source needed] This case was criticised academically, and it is also subject to an appeal.
The confirmation that the decision was an executive act was part of the basis of R. (Wilson) v. Prime Minister the impact irregularities in the referendum, which is the basis for the executive decision to leave, is being challenged, with a hearing on 7 December 2018.[clarification needed]
Regarding the reversibility of a notification under Article 50, Wightman and others v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union was referred to Court of Justice of the European Union; the UK government sought to block this referral, taking the matter on appeal to the UK Supreme Court, but was unsuccessful. On 10 December 2018, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that the UK could unilaterally revoke its Article 50 notification.
Article 50 process
TimelineBelow is the timeline of major events concerning Brexit.
201623 June: The UK holds a referendum on whether to leave the European Union. 51.9% of voters vote to leave.
24 June: David Cameron announces his resignation as Prime Minister.
13 July: Theresa May accepts the Queen’s invitation to form a government. David Davis is appointed the newly created Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to oversee withdrawal negotiations.
27 July: The European Commission nominates French politician Michel Barnier as European Chief Negotiator for the United Kingdom Exiting the European Union.
7 December: The UK House of Commons votes 461 to 89 in favour of Theresa May’s plan to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017.
201724 January: The UK Supreme Court rules in the Miller case that Parliament must pass legislation to authorise the triggering of Article 50.
26 January: The UK Government introduces a 137-word bill in Parliament to empower Theresa May to initiate Brexit by triggering Article 50. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn instructs his MPs to support it.
16 March: The bill receives Royal Assent.
29 March: A letter from Theresa May is handed to President of the European Council Donald Tusk to invoke Article 50, starting a two-year process with the UK due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.
18 April: Theresa May announces that a general election is to take place on 8 June.
8 June: A general election is held in the UK. The Conservative Party remains the largest single party in the House of Commons but loses its majority, resulting in the formation of a minority government with a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland.
19 June: Brexit negotiations commence.
20186 July: A UK white paper on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, known as the Chequers agreement, is finalised.
8 July: Davis resigns as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Dominic Raab is appointed as his successor the following day.
9 July: Boris Johnson resigns as Foreign Secretary.
21 September: The EU rejects the UK white paper.
14 November: The Brexit withdrawal agreement is published.
15 November: Raab resigns as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Stephen Barclay is appointed as his successor the following day.
25 November: 27 other EU member states endorse the Withdrawal Agreement.
201915 January: The First meaningful vote is held on the Withdrawal Agreement in the UK House of Commons. The UK Government is defeated by 432 votes to 202.
12 March: The Second meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement with the UK Government is defeated again by 391 votes to 242.
14 March: The UK Government motion passes 412 to 202 to extend the Article 50 period.
20 March: Theresa May requests the EU extend the Article 50 period until 30 June 2019.
21 March: The European Council offers to extend the Article 50 period until 22 May 2019 if the Withdrawal Agreement is passed by 29 March 2019 but, if it does not, then the UK has until 12 April 2019 to indicate a way forward. The extension is formally agreed the following day.
29 March: The original end of the Article 50 period and the original planned date for Brexit. Third vote on the Withdrawal Agreement after being separated from the Political Declaration. UK Government defeated again by 344 votes to 286.
5 April: Theresa May requests for a second time that the EU extend the Article 50 period until 30 June 2019.
10 April: The European Council grants another extension to the Article 50 period to 31 October 2019, or the first day of the month after that in which the Withdrawal Agreement is passed, whichever comes first. However, the UK must hold European Parliament elections in May 2019 (it did); otherwise it will leave on 1 June 2019.
24 May: Theresa May announces that she will resign as Conservative Party leader, effective 7 June, due to being unable to pass her Brexit plans through parliament and several votes of no-confidence, continuing as prime minister while a Conservative leadership contest takes place.
18 July: MPs approve, with a majority of 41, an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 that blocks suspension of Parliament between 9 October and 18 December, unless a new Northern Ireland Executive is formed.
24 July: Boris Johnson accepted the Queen’s invitation to form a government and became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the third since the referendum.
25 July: Both Houses of Parliament went into summer recess on 25 July until 3 September (Lords and Commons.
28 August: Boris Johnson announced his intention to end the current session of Parliament in September. The Queen would deliver a throne speech on 14 October to begin a new session. This was controversial because it would limit the time for Parliament to pass legislation ahead of the Article 50 deadline of 31 October. The Queen approved the timetable at a meeting of her Privy Council in Balmoral.
3 September: A motion for an emergency debate to pass a bill that would rule out a unilateral no-deal Brexit by forcing the Government to reach an Agreement, get parliamentary approval for no-deal Brexit. This motion, to allow the debate for the following day, passed, 328 to 301. 21 Conservative MPs voted for the motion.
4 September: The Benn Bill passed second reading by 329 to 300; a 22nd Conservative, Caroline Spelman, voted against the Government position. Later the same day MPs subsequently rejected Johnson’s motion to call an October general election, failing to achieve the two-thirds Commons majority needed under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, in a vote of 298 to 56. Labour MPs abstained from the vote.
9 September: The Government again loses an attempt to call an election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. Dominic Grieve’s humble address, requiring key Cabinet Office figures to publicise private messages about the prorogation of parliament, is passed by the House of Commons. Speaker John Bercow announces his intention to resign as Speaker of the House of Commons on or before 31 October. The Benn Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. Parliament is prorogued until 14 October 2019. Party conference season begins, with anticipation building around a general election.
24 September: The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom rules unanimously that Boris Johnson’s decision to advise the Queen to prorogue parliament was unlawful, and that the prorogation itself is therefore null and of no effect.
29 September: It is announced that a court action will commence on 4 October, in response to Johnson’s statement that he does not intend to seek a further extension as may be required by the Benn Act.