Part of a Brexit
(Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union)
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Part of a series of articles on the
British membership
of the
European Union
UK location in the EU 2016.svg
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom portal
Flag of Europe.svg European Union portal

Brexit (t/;[1] 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.[2][3] 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.


Below is a timeline of major events concerning Brexit.[17]




  • 6 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.


  • 15 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.[19]
  • 12 March: The Second meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement with the UK Government is defeated again by 391 votes to 242.[20]
  • 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.[21]
  • 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.[22][23]
  • 24 May: Theresa May announces that she will resign as Conservative Party leader, effective 7 June, due to being unable to get her Brexit plans through parliament and several votes of no-confidence,[24] 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.[25]
  • 24 July: Boris Johnson accepts the Queen's invitation to form a government and becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the third since the referendum.[26]
  • 25 July: Both Houses of Parliament go into summer recess on 25 July until 3 September.[27][28]
  • 28 August: Boris Johnson announces his intention to end the current session of Parliament in September. The Queen would deliver a speech from the throne 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.[29] The Queen approved the timetable at a meeting of the Privy Council at Balmoral.[30]
  • 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 get parliamentary approval for either a withdrawal agreement or a no-deal Brexit. This motion, to allow the debate for the following day, passed by 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 rejected Johnson's motion to call an October general election by a vote of 298 to 56, which failed to achieve the two-thirds Commons majority needed under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. 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.[31][32][33]
  • 2 October: The Government publishes a white paper outlining a new plan to replace the Irish backstop, involving regulatory alignment across the island of Ireland but retaining a customs border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.[34]
  • 7 October: The Outer House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh dismisses a case brought by Remainers, including Joanna Cherry, who had previously succeeded in the Court of Session and then in the UK Supreme Court. In this case, they sought a court order compelling Boris Johnson to write the letter requesting an extension that could be required by the Benn Act, in view of statements by Johnson and his representatives which it was claimed indicate that they might attempt to circumvent the Act. The Court accepted an assurance to it by the government's lawyers that Johnson would write the required letter. The Court also dismissed a request for an order preventing the government from frustrating the Benn Act, for example by asking another EU member state to veto a requested Brexit extension, after the government's lawyers undertook to the Court that no such action would be taken. There is to be an appeal to the Inner House of the Court of Session. Separately in the Inner House, the Remainer team are requesting a ruling that, if such a letter comes to be required and Johnson fails to write it, the Court will write the letter itself—an unusual procedure that is available only in Scotland.[35][36]
  • 9 October: The Inner House delays its decision until 21 October, stating: "Until the time for sending the letter has arrived, the PM has not acted unlawfully, whatever he and his officials are reported to have said privately or in public. The situation remains fluid. Over the next two weeks, circumstances will inevitably change.”[37]
  • 14 October: Parliament returns for the Queen's Speech.[38]
  • 17-18 October: European Council to meet.[39]
  • 19 October: Parliament to sit, which it rarely does on a Saturday.[40][41]
  • 31 October: date by which UK is scheduled to leave EU, with or without a withdrawal agreement; the deadline is 24:00 on 31 October in the Brussels timezone, which is 23:00 on 31 October in the UK.
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