- February 2016 – Referendum announced
- June 2016 – Referendum results
- July 2016 – Theresa May becomes Prime Minister
- March 2017 – May triggers Article 50
- April 2017 – May calls snap election
- June 2017 – Formal negotiations between UK and EU begin
- July 2018 – Cabinet reaches agreement, dubbed the Chequers deal
- July 2018 – Brexit Secretary David Davis resigns, replaced by Dominic Raab
- September 2018 – Draft deal rejected by EU leaders
- October 2018 – EU Summit
- November 2018 – Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions secretary Esther McVey resign
- December 2018 – Theresa May overcomes no confidence vote
- January 2019 – Theresa May’s Brexit deal is rejected by parliament
Your Guide to the Brexit Countdown
With resignations, backstops and borders hitting the headlines, it’s easy to feel disorientated when it comes to Brexit negotiations and the decisions coming from the Houses of Parliament.
We’ve created a handy infographic to get you up to speed on all you need to know as we approach the crucial final days of Brexit. Find out what’s happened so far and how the Pound is faring as the countdown to the official exit ticks down.
Key Brexit Players
The crucial people involved in the key Brexit decisions
Theresa May became UK Prime Minister on 13 July 2016, after former PM David Cameron resigned following the result of the referendum. Together with her cabinet and the current Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, she is responsible for negotiating the final Brexit deal with the EU and passing the final deal through Parliament.
Theresa May said in her first speech as Prime Minister,
Here is our renewed mission – delivering the Brexit that people voted for, bringing the country back together and building a country that truly works for everyone.
Stephen Barclay is the third Brexit Secretary in six months. Barclay was formerly a junior minister in the health and social care department, and became Brexit Secretary on 16 November 2018, after his predecessor, Dominic Raab, resigned over Theresa May’s draft withdrawal deal.
Speaking on May’s first Brexit deal, Barclay said,
It’s the only deal…that respects the referendum result that Brexiteers like me campaigned for that allows us to put an end to freedom of movement.
European Chief Negotiator for the United Kingdom Exiting the European Union
Michel Barnier is the former French foreign minister who is now the EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit. He became chief negotiator in December 2016, and initially clashed in discussions with the first Brexit Secretary, David Davis.
After MPs rejected May’s withdrawal deal, Barnier said,
Future steps must be indicated very clearly by the British government…We are fearing more than ever that there is a risk of a no deal.
Leader of the Opposition
Jeremy Corbyn has lead the Labour party since 2015. During the referendum, Corbyn campaigned for Britain to remain in the European Union. He tabled a vote of no confidence in Theresa May after she postponed the vote on the final Brexit deal, and again after the deal was rejected by the house on 15 January.
The Labour leader said in an interview in 2018,
What happened with this [Brexit] bill was that it was an undemocratic power grab by the government. We are not asking for a second referendum.
President of the European Commission
Serving as President of the European Commission since 2014, Juncker leads the executive branch of the European Union. Juncker said in Brussels that there was “no room whatsoever” for renegotiating the final Brexit deal.
After a summit in Brussels on December 19, Juncker said,
The risks of a disorderly exit of Great Britain from the European Union are clear. It would be an absolute catastrophe.
Simple, understandable answers to Brexit FAQs
Ever since the EU was established in 1993, MPs – particularly in the Conservative party – have been concerned that the EU has too much power over the UK. When David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, he was determined to end the conflict within his party over the UK’s place in the EU. Cameron called the referendum in the hope of quelling Euroscepticism in the Conservative party, allowing him to focus on his domestic agenda.
Reasons for members of the public voting to leave the EU include concerns over immigration and sovereignty. According to a study conducted on the day of the referendum, many people voted for Brexit in the hope that the UK could make its own laws and end free movement.
Brexit may also mean that Britain loses access to the single market. If a trade agreement isn’t reached, the UK could lose £75 billion if they’re no longer in the single market.
Businesses may also face a lack of employees. EU immigrants contribute significantly to major industries, particularly engineering and construction. The job searching website Indeed found that since the referendum, there has been a dramatic increase in migrants looking for jobs outside of the UK.
There’s speculation that this transition period may be extended. Michel Barnier floated the possibility of the transition period lasting until the end of 2022 – allowing an additional two years for negotiations.
If a deal is not reached, the UK will leave the EU immediately, without a transition period.
Theresa May coined the catchphrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’. The phrase made its first appearance during a speech in 2016, where May denied any possibility of a second referendum or disregard for the referendum result.
In July 2018, an MP asked Theresa May ‘Will Brexit be recognisable as Brexit?’ to which she clarified: ‘there has been much jocularity around the term Brexit means Brexit, but it does mean Brexit.’
The Irish border is central to Brexit negotiations. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will become the only land border between the UK and the EU after Brexit – making it a crucial part of the final Brexit deal. The backstop – a measure which would be put in place if no other solution was found to keep an invisible border– is a particularly controversial issue.
The backstop is an arrangement which ensures that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit until a long-term solution is found.
The EU and UK agreed to the backstop in 2017. The backstop means that the UK is in a temporary customs union with the EU. Goods can travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland without custom checks. However, since Northern Ireland would be in the single market, and the UK wouldn’t, further checks might have to take place on goods between the two countries. Many MPs are opposed to the backstop since it could tie the UK to EU laws – perhaps indefinitely.