Related: Women Background Referendum Campaigns Campaigns leave Campaign remain Misc Immediate aftermath Issues Effects Legislative Calls for a second vote Brexit (/ˈbrɛksɪt/ or /ˈbrɛɡzɪt/; a portmanteau of "British" and "exit", is the impending withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). It follows the referendum of 23 June 2016 when 51.9 per cent of voters chose to leave the EU. Withdrawal has been advocated by Eurosceptics, both left-wing and right-wing, while pro-Europeanists, who also span the political spectrum, have advocated continued membership.



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Timetable for the exit process, December 2018

Brexit (/ˈbrɛksɪt/ or /ˈbrɛɡzɪt/; a portmanteau of "British" and "exit", is the impending withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). It follows the referendum of 23 June 2016 when 51.9 per cent of voters chose to leave the EU. Withdrawal has been advocated by Eurosceptics, both left-wing and right-wing,[1][2][3] while pro-Europeanists, who also span the political spectrum, have advocated continued membership.

The UK joined the European Communities (EC) in 1973 under the Conservative government of Edward Heath, with continued membership endorsed by a referendum in 1975. In the 1970s and 1980s, withdrawal from the European Communities was advocated mainly by the political left, with the Labour Party's 1983 election manifesto advocating full withdrawal.[2] In the late 1980s, opposition to the development of the EC into an increasingly political union grew on the right, with Margaret Thatcher – despite being a key proponent of the European single market – becoming increasingly ambivalent towards the EC.[2] From the 1990s, opposition to further European integration came mainly from the right, and divisions within the Conservative Party led to rebellion over the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

The new UK Independence Party (UKIP) was a major advocate of a further referendum on continued membership of what had now become the European Union, and the party's growing popularity in the early 2010s resulted in UKIP being the most successful UK party in the 2014 European Parliament election. The cross-party People's Pledge campaign was also influential in bringing about a referendum. The Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron pledged during the campaign for the 2015 UK General Election to hold a new referendum—a promise which he fulfilled in 2016 following the pressure from the Eurosceptic wing of his party. Cameron, who had campaigned to remain, resigned after the result and was succeeded by Theresa May, his former Home Secretary. She called a snap general election less than a year later, but lost her overall majority. Her minority government is supported in key votes by the Democratic Unionist Party.

On 29 March 2017, the Government of the United Kingdom invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 at 11 pm UK time,[4][5] when the period for negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement will end unless an extension is agreed.[6] May announced the government's intention not to seek permanent membership of the European single market or the EU customs union after leaving the EU[7][8] and promised to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972 and incorporate existing European Union law into UK domestic law.[9] 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. In July 2018, Cabinet agreed to the Chequers plan, an outline of proposals by the UK Government. In November 2018, the Draft Withdrawal Agreement and Outline Political Declaration, agreed between the UK Government and the EU, was published.[10] On 15 January 2019, the House of Commons voted 432 to 202 against the deal, the largest parliamentary defeat in history for a sitting UK government.[11][12]

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,[13][14] and that the Brexit referendum itself had damaged the economy.[15] Studies on effects since the referendum show annual losses of £404 for the average UK household from increased inflation, and losses between 2 and 2.5 per cent of UK GDP.[16][17][18] Brexit is likely to reduce immigration from European Economic Area (EEA) countries to the UK,[19] and poses challenges for UK higher education and academic research.[20] As of November 2018, the size of the "divorce bill"—the UK's inheritance of existing EU trade agreements—and relations with Ireland and other EU member states remains uncertain. The precise impact on the UK depends on whether the process will be a "hard" or "soft" Brexit. Analysis by HM Treasury has found that there is no Brexit scenario that is expected to improve the UK economic condition.[21] A November 2018 Treasury publication regarding the potential impact of the Chequers proposal estimated that within 15 years the UK economy will be 3.9% worse off compared with staying in the EU.[22]

Terminology and etymology

In the wake of the referendum of 23 June 2016, many new pieces of Brexit-related jargon have entered popular use.

A term referring to the government's proposal to 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. (See Irish border question.) In principle, it is a temporary measure while the United Kingdom identifies and develops a technology that operates customs, excise and other controls as between the UK and the EU, without any evident border infrastructure, and there must be compliance with section 10 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, on "Continuation of North-South co-operation and the prevention of new border arrangements."
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.[23][24] EU and British negotiators would then have until 31 December 2020 to sign off on a future trade deal, during which time the UK will effectively remain a member of the EU, but with no voting rights.[25][26]
Brexit (like its early variant, Brixit)[27] is a portmanteau of "British" and "exit". The first attestation in the Oxford English Dictionary is a Euractiv blog post by Peter Wilding on 15 May 2012.[28][29][30] 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 also the EU).[31] At present, Brexit is impending under the EU Treaties and the UK Acts of Parliament, and the current negotiations pursuant thereto.[32][30]
Those supporting Brexit are sometimes referred to as "Brexiteers",[33][34] or "Brexiters".[35] Alternatively, the term "Leavers" has also been used in media outlets.[36][37]
Canada Plus
This is shorthand for a model where the United Kingdom leaves the European Union and signs a free trade agreement. This would allow the UK to control its own trade policy with non-EU countries, but would require rules of origin agreements to be reached for UK–EU trade. It is likely this would lead to trade being less "free" than joining the EFTA, and result in additional border controls being required, which is an issue of contention, particularly in Ireland. The Canadian – European Union deal took 7 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.[38]
Chequers plan
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.[39][40] On 22 November 2018 the government published the updated draft.[41]
Divorce bill
It is expected that the UK will make a contribution toward financial commitments that it approved while still a member of the EU, but are still outstanding. In the first phase of negotiations the total amount was referred to as the single financial settlement, or just the settlement. Especially in the media, this has been called an exit bill or divorce bill, while the EU talk of settling the accounts.[42] While serving as Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab said the UK will not pay its financial settlement to the EU in a no-deal scenario.[43] The Withdrawal Agreement published in November 2018 states that the financial contribution will be £39 billion.
Hard and soft Brexit
"Hard Brexit" and "soft Brexit" are unofficial terms that are commonly used by news media[44] 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).[45] 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.[46] Theresa May's "Chequers plan" embraced some aspects of a "soft" Brexit.[47] 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.
Managed no-deal
"Managed no-deal Brexit"[48] or "managed no-deal Brexit"[49] 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.
Norway Model or 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. 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, something that was seen as a key issue of contention in the referendum.[50]
Those in favour of the UK remaining in the EU are sometimes referred to as "Remainers".[51] The derogatory term "Remoaner" (a portmanteau of "remainer" and "moaner") is sometimes used by pro-Brexit media outlets.[52][53]


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.[54] After de Gaulle relinquished the French presidency, the UK successfully applied for membership and the Conservative prime minister Edward Heath signed the Treaty of Accession in 1972.[55] Parliament passed the European Communities Act later that year[56] and the UK joined Denmark and Ireland in becoming a member of the EC on 1 January 1973.[57]

The opposition Labour Party contested the 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.[58] Labour won the election, and in 1975 the United Kingdom held its first ever national referendum, asking whether the UK should remain in the European Communities. Despite significant division within the ruling Labour Party,[59] all major political parties and the mainstream press supported continuing membership of the EC. On 5 June 1975, 67.2 per cent of the electorate and all but two[60] UK counties and regions voted to stay in;[61] support for the UK to leave the EC in 1975 appears unrelated to the support for Leave in the 2016 referendum.[62]

Comparison of results of 1975 and 2016 referendums

The Labour Party campaigned in the 1983 general election on a commitment to withdraw from the EC without a referendum,[63] although after a heavy defeat Labour changed its policy.[63] In 1985, the 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 Margaret Thatcher's deep reservations, the United Kingdom 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 United Kingdom 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").[64]

Under the Maastricht Treaty, the European Communities became the European Union on 1 November 1993,[65] reflecting the evolution of the organisation from an economic union into a political union.[66] 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 European Community.”[67][68] This perceived democratic deficit directly led to the formation of the Referendum Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party.

Referendum Party and UKIP

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 United Kingdom's relationship with the EU.[69][70] The party fielded candidates in 547 constituencies at that election, and won 810,860 votes—2.6 per cent of the total votes cast—[71] but failed to win a single parliamentary seat due to the vote being spread across the country. The Referendum Party disbanded after Goldsmith's death in 1997.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP), a Eurosceptic political party, was also 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.[72] 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.[73]

UKIP won two by-elections (triggered by defecting Conservative MPs) in 2014; in the 2015 general election, the party took 12.6 per cent of the total vote and held one of the two seats won in 2014.[74]

Opinion polls 1977–2015

Both pro- and anti-EU views have had majority support at different times since 1977.[75] In the European Communities membership referendum of 1975, two-thirds of British voters favoured continued EC membership.

In a statistical analysis published in April 2016, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University defined Euroscepticism as the wish to sever or reduce the powers of the EU and, conversely, Europhilia as the desire to preserve or increase the powers of the EU. According to this definition, the British Social Attitudes (BSA) surveys showed an increase in Euroscepticism from 38 per cent, in 1993, to 65 per cent 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 per cent backed the option to withdraw.[76]

Referendum of 2016

Negotiations for EU reform

In 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron initially rejected calls for a referendum on the UK's EU membership,[77] but then suggested the possibility of a future referendum to endorse his proposed renegotiation of Britain's relationship with the EU.[78] According to the BBC, "The prime minister acknowledged the need to ensure the UK's [renegotiated] position within the European Union had 'the full-hearted support of the British people' but they needed to show 'tactical and strategic patience'."[79] 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.[80] This was included in the Conservative Party manifesto for the election.[81][82]

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 European Union, 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 EU immigration.[83]

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 for non-eurozone member states, and restrictions on benefits for EU citizens.[84]

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 country such as the UK would have to get permission from the European Commission and then from the European Council.[85]

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.[86] 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."[87]

Campaign groups

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[88] after a contest for the designation with Leave.EU.[89][90]

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,[91] Labour in for Britain,[92] #INtogether (Liberal Democrats),[93] Greens for a Better Europe,[94] Scientists for EU,[95] Environmentalists For Europe,[96] Universities for Europe[97] and Another Europe is Possible.[98]

Referendum result

The result was announced on the morning of 24 June: 51.89 per cent voted in favour of leaving the European Union, and 48.11 per cent voted in favour of remaining a member of the European Union.[99][100] 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,[101][102] but was rejected by the government on 9 July.[103]

United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016
National result
Choice Votes %
Leave the European Union 17,410,74251.89%
Remain a member of the European Union 16,141,24148.11%
Valid votes 33,551,98399.92%
Invalid or blank votes 25,3590.08%
Total votes 33,577,342100.00%
Registered voters and turnout 46,500,00172.21%
Voting age population and turnout 51,356,76865.38%
Source: Electoral Commission
National referendum results (without spoiled ballots)
17,410,742 (51.9%)
16,141,241 (48.1%)
Results by Country of the United Kingdom/region of England (left) and by council district (GB) & UK Parliament constituency (NI) (right)

Demographic analysis of voters

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, with 52 per cent of both men and women voting to leave. 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 rather than better."[14] Econometric studies show "first, education and, to a lesser extent, age were the strongest demographic predictors of voting behavior... Second, poor economic outcomes at the individual or area level were associated with voting to leave... Third, support for leaving the European Union is strongly associated with self-reported opposition to immigration, but not with exposure to immigration."[14]

Resignations, contests, and appointments

After the result was declared, Cameron announced that he would resign by October.[104] 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 leadership challenge was launched. On 4 July, Nigel Farage announced his resignation as leader of UKIP.[105]


Irregularities have been alleged in the conduct of the referendum campaign.

On 11 May 2018, the 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.[106] Leave.EU's co-founder Arron Banks has stated that he rejects the outcome of the investigation and will be challenging it in court.[107]

In July 2018, the UK Electoral Commission found Vote Leave to have broken electoral law, spending over its limit.[108] 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.[109]


There has been litigation to explore the constitutional footings on which Brexit stands after 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,[110] and it is also subject to an appeal.[111]
  • The confirmation that the decision was an executive act was part of the basis of R. (Wilson) v. Prime Minister[112] 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].[113]
  • 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;[114] the UK government sought to block this referral, taking the matter on appeal to the UK Supreme Court, but was unsuccessful.[115] On 10 December 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the UK could unilaterally revoke its Article 50 notification[116]

Procedure for leaving the EU

Letter from Theresa May invoking Article 50

Withdrawal from the European Union is governed by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. Under the Article 50 invocation procedure, a member notifies the European Council, whereupon the EU is required to "negotiate and conclude an agreement with [the leaving] State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the [European] Union". The negotiation period is limited to two years unless extended, after which the treaties cease to apply.[117] There was a discussion whether parallel negotiation of withdrawal terms and future relationships under Article 50 are appropriate (Chancellor Merkel's initial view) or whether Britain did not have the right to negotiate future trade with the EU27 as this power is arguably reserved to the EU as long as the UK is a member (the view of a European Commission lawyer).[118]

Although the 2015 Referendum Act did not expressly require Article 50 to be invoked,[119] the UK government stated that it would expect a leave vote to be followed by withdrawal.[120][121] Following the referendum result, Cameron resigned and said that it would be for the incoming Prime Minister to invoke Article 50.[122][123]

The Supreme Court ruled in the Miller case in January 2017 that the government needed parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50.[124][125] Subsequently, the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted, on 1 February 2017, for a government bill authorising the prime minister to notify an intention to leave under Article 50,[126] and the bill passed into law as the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017. Theresa May then signed a letter invoking Article 50 on 28 March 2017, which was delivered on 29 March by Tim Barrow, the UK's ambassador to the EU, to European Council President Donald Tusk.[127][128][129]

It had been argued that the Article 50 withdrawal process could be halted unilaterally by the British government,[130] with which opinion the author of Article 50 itself, Lord Kerr, expressed agreement.[131] The European Parliament's Brexit committee said that unilateral revocation, regardless of its legality, poses a substantial moral hazard, with an EU member state potentially able to abuse it to blackmail the Union.[132]

The reversibility of notifications under Article 50 was subject to litigation, which a cross-party group of Scottish politicians and the Good Law Project referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union.[133] The UK government sought to block this referral, ultimately in the UK Supreme Court, but it was unsuccessful in this attempt.[134] On 10 December 2018, the ECJ ruled that a country could unilaterally cancel its withdrawal from the EU, by simple notice, provided that it did so prior to actual departure, unconditionally and in good faith.[135] However the Government's immediate response was that it had no intention of exercising that right.[135]

Date and time of Brexit

Both parties to the withdrawal negotiation are bound by Article 50 (3) of the Treaty, which states explicitly that the EU treaties will cease to apply "from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after" the withdrawal notification unless the EU Council and UK agree to extend the two-year period.[136]

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, in section 20 (1), defines the leaving time as 23:00 on 29 March 2019 GMT (UTC+0) which is 00:00 on 30 March 2019 CET in Brussels.[137][138][136][139][140]



The British and EU negotiators agreed that initial negotiations, relating especially to residency rights, would commence in June 2017 (immediately after the French presidential and parliamentary elections), and full negotiations, relating especially to trading agreements, could commence in October 2017 (immediately after the German federal election, 2017).[141][142][143] The first day of talks was 19 June.[142]


On 28 June 2016, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, and on the following day European Council President Tusk, stated that the UK could remain in the European Single Market (ESM) only if the UK accepted its four freedoms of movement: for goods, capital, services, and labour.[144][145] In October, Prime Minister Theresa May emphasised that ending the jurisdiction of EU law and free movement from Europe were the UK's priorities, along with British and EU companies having maximum freedom to trade in the UK and the ESM.[146][147]

In November 2016, May proposed that Britain and the other EU countries mutually guarantee the residency rights of the 3.3 million EU immigrants in Britain and those of the 1.2 million British citizens living on the Continent, in order to exclude their fates being bargained during Brexit negotiations.[148] Despite initial approval from a majority of EU states, May's proposal was blocked by Tusk and Merkel.[149]

In January 2017, the Prime Minister presented 12 negotiating objectives and confirmed that the UK government would not seek permanent single market membership.[150] The European Parliament's lead negotiator Guy Verhofstadt responded that there could be no "cherry-picking" by the UK in the talks.[151]

The statutory period for negotiation began on 29 March 2017, when the UK formally submitted a letter notifying withdrawal. The letter called for a "deep and special relationship" between the UK and the EU, and warned that failure to reach an agreement would result in EU-UK trade under World Trade Organization terms, and a weakening of the UK's co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism. The letter suggested prioritising an early deal on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa, and stated that the UK would not seek to remain within the ESM. Instead, the UK would seek a free trade agreement with the EU.[152] In response, Merkel insisted that the EU would not discuss future co-operation without first settling the terms of leaving the EU; Verhofstadt referred to the letter as "blackmail" with regard to the point on security and terrorism, and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK's decision to quit the bloc was a "choice they will regret one day".[153]

On 29 April 2017, immediately after the first round of French presidential elections, the EU27 heads of state accepted negotiating guidelines prepared by Tusk.[154] The guidelines take the view that Article 50 permits a two-phased negotiation, in which the UK first agrees to a financial commitment and to lifelong benefits for EU citizens in Britain, and then negotiations on a future relationship can begin.[155] In the first phase, the EU27 would demand the UK pay a "divorce bill", initially estimated as amounting to £52bn[156] and then, after additional financial demands from Germany, France, and Poland, to £92bn.[157] A report of the European Union Committee of the House of Lords, published on 4 March 2017, stated that if there is no post-Brexit deal at the end of the negotiating period, the UK could withdraw without payment.[158]

On 22 May 2017, the European Council authorised its negotiators to start the Brexit talks and it adopted its negotiating directives.[159] The first day of talks took place on 19 June, where Davis and Michel Barnier, European Chief Negotiator for Brexit, agreed to prioritise the question of residency rights, while Davis conceded that a discussion of the Northern Irish border would have to await future trade agreements.[160]

On 22 June 2017, Prime Minister May guaranteed that no EU citizen living legally in the UK would be forced to leave, and offered that any EU citizen who lived in the UK for more than five years until an unspecified deadline between March 2017 and March 2019 would enjoy the same rights as a UK citizen, conditional on the EU providing the same offer to British expatriates living in the EU.[161] The Prime Minister detailed her residency proposals on 26 June, but drew no concessions from EU negotiators,[162] who had declined to expedite agreement on expatriates by the end of June 2017,[163] and who are hoping for European courts to continue to have jurisdiction in the UK with regards to EU citizens, according to their negotiation aims published in May 2017.[164][165]

The second round of negotiations began in mid-July 2017. Progress was made on the Northern Irish border question; UK negotiators requested a detailed breakdown of the "divorce bill" demand; and the EU negotiators criticised the UK's citizenship rights offer.[166] David Davis did not commit to a net payment by the UK to the EU with regards to the requested divorce bill, while Michel Barnier would not compromise on his demand for the European Court of Justice to have continuing jurisdiction over the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit,[167] rejecting the compromise proposal of a new international body made up of British and EU judges.[168]

On 16 August 2017, the UK government disclosed the first of several papers detailing British ambitions following Brexit, discussing trade and customs arrangements.[169] On 23 August, Theresa May announced that Britain will leave the EU Court of Justice's direct jurisdiction when the Brexit transition period that is planned after March 2019 ends, but that both the British courts and the EU Court of Justice will also keep "half an eye" on each other's rulings afterwards as well.[170] One of the UK government's position papers published in August called for no additional restrictions for goods already on the market in the UK and EU.[171]

The third round of negotiations began on 28 August 2017. There was disagreement over the financial settlement; The Irish Times explained that British negotiators referred to the seven-year Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF or Maff) for the period 2014–2020 agreed by member states and the EU parliament as a "planning tool" for the next period rather than a legally-binding financial obligation on member states. The British case is that the MFF sets ceilings on spending under various headings and is later radically revised during the annual budget process when real legal obligations on each state arises. This contrasts with the EU Commission's methodology for calculating the UK Brexit bill which involves dividing the MFF into the shares historically agreed by each member state.[172] On the Irish border question there was a "breakthrough", with the British side guaranteeing free movement of EU citizens within the Common travel area constituting Ireland and the United Kingdom.[173]

On 5 September 2017, Davis said that "concrete progress" had been made over the summer in areas such as protecting the rights of British expats in the EU to access healthcare and over the future of the Irish border, while significant differences over the "divorce bill" remained.[174] On 9 September, the EU Commission published several negotiating papers, including one in which the EU concedes/declares that it is the responsibility of the UK to propose solutions for the post-Brexit Irish border. The paper envisages that a "unique" solution would be permissible here; in other words, any such exceptional Irish solution would not necessarily be a template for post-Brexit relationships with the other EU members.[175]

On 22 September 2017, May announced further details of her Brexit proposal.[176][177] In addition to offering 20 billion euros over a two-year transition period and continued acceptance of European immigrants,[178] she also offered a "bold new security relationship" with the EU which would be "unprecedented in its depth" and to continue to make "an ongoing contribution" to projects considered greatly to the EU and UK's advantage, such as science and security projects.[177][176] She also confirmed that the UK would not "stand in the way" of Juncker's proposals for further EU integration.[177][176] Barnier welcomed May's proposal as "constructive,"[179] but that it also "must be translated into negotiating positions to make meaningful progress".[179] Similarly, President of France Emmanuel Macron was adamant that the EU would not begin negotiations on future EU-UK relationships until "the regulation of European citizens, the financial terms of the exit, and the questions of Ireland" were "clarified" by the UK.[180]

The fourth round of talks began on 25 September, with Barnier declaring he had no mandate from the EU27 to discuss a transition deal suggested by Prime Minister May. Davis reiterated that the UK could honour commitments made during its EU membership only in the context of a future "special partnership" deal with the EU.[181]

At the European Council meeting of 19/20 October 2017, the 27 leaders of the EU states were to decide whether or not to start trade negotiations with the UK.[171] However, Davis has conceded that so soon after the German elections on 24 September, a German coalition government may not be in place in time for making this decision in October, delaying any European Council decision until their December meeting.[182][183]

EU negotiators have stated that an agreement must be reached between Britain and the EU by October 2018 in order to leave time for national parliaments to endorse Brexit.[179]

On 9 October 2017, May announced to the British Parliament that Britain could operate as an "independent trading nation" after Brexit if no trade deal is reached with the EU.[184]

In December 2017, EU leaders announced an agreement to begin the next phase of negotiations, with talks on a transition period after March 2019 to begin in early 2018 and discussions on the future UK-EU relationship, including trade and security, to begin in March.[185]

On 10 June 2018, the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar cleared the path for the June negotiations by postponing the Irish border question until the final Brexit deal in October 2018.[186]

On 19 June 2018, the UK and the EU published a joint statement outlining agreements at the negotiators' level. Michel Barnier praised the "dedication and commitment" of the negotiating teams, and said progress had been made in issues like customs, VAT and the European nuclear agreement, Euratom.[187][188]

On 12 July 2018, Prime Minister May and part of the cabinet published a proposal for agreement on future relations between UK and EU. It is by media called the Chequers plan.

On 14 November 2018 a lengthy meeting of the Cabinet approved a Draft Withdrawal Agreement.[189][190] The following day, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, his Cabinet colleague Esther McVey and several junior ministers resigned their posts because of their disagreement with the contents of the document.[191]

On 19 December 2018 the EU Commission announced its "no-deal" Contingency Action Plan in specific sectors, in respect of the UK leaving the European Union "in 100 days' time."[192]

Post–Article 50 British legislation

European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018

In October 2016, Theresa May promised a "Great Repeal Bill", which would repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and restate in UK law all enactments previously in force under EU law. Subsequently renamed the European Union (Withdrawal) bill, it was introduced to the House of Commons on 13 July 2017.[193]

On 12 September 2017, the bill passed its first vote and second reading by a margin of 326 votes to 290 votes in the House of Commons.[194] The bill was further amended on a series of votes in both Houses of Parliament. After the Act became law on 26 June 2018, the European Council decided on 29 June to renew its call on Member States and Union institutions to step up their work on preparedness at all levels and for all outcomes.[195]

The Withdrawal Act fixes the period ending 21 January 2019 for the government to decide on how to proceed if the negotiations have not reached agreement in principle on both the withdrawal arrangements and the framework for the future relationship between the UK and EU; while, alternatively, making future ratification of the withdrawal agreement as a treaty between the UK and EU depend upon the prior enactment of another act of Parliament for approving the final terms of withdrawal when the current Brexit negotiations are completed. In any event, the act does not alter the two-year period for negotiating allowed by Article 50 that ends at the latest on 29 March 2019 if the UK has not by then ratified a withdrawal agreement.

The Withdrawal Act which became law in June 2018 allows for various outcomes including no negotiated settlement.

Additional government bills

A report published in March 2017 by the Institute for Government commented that, in addition to the European Union (Withdrawal) bill, primary and secondary legislation will be needed to cover the gaps in policy areas such as customs, immigration and agriculture.[196] The report also commented that the role of the devolved legislatures was unclear, and could cause problems, and as many as fifteen new additional Brexit Bills may be required, which would involve strict prioritisation and limiting Parliamentary time for in-depth examination of new legislation.[197]

In 2016 and 2017, the House of Lords published a series of reports on Brexit-related subjects, including:


The Nuclear Safeguards Bill 2017–19, relating to withdrawal from Euratom, was presented to Parliament in October 2017 and began its Report Stage in January 2018.[198]

Voting on the final outcome

Replying to questions at a parliamentary committee about Parliament's involvement in voting on the outcome of the negotiations with the EU, the Prime Minister said that "delivering on the vote of the British people to leave the European Union" was her priority. The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, commented that the government did not want a vote at the beginning of the process, to trigger Article 50, nor a vote at the end.[199]

Developments since the referendum of 2016


Opinion polls in the fortnight following the referendum suggested that the immediate reaction in the Netherlands and other European countries was a decline in support for Eurosceptic movements.[200]

A general election was held on 8 June 2017, announced at short notice by the new Prime Minister Theresa May. The Conservative Party, Labour and UKIP made manifesto pledges to implement the referendum, although the Labour manifesto differed in its approach to Brexit negotiations, such as unilaterally offering permanent residence to EU immigrants.[201][202][203][204] The Liberal Democrat Party and the Green Party manifestos proposed a policy of remaining in the EU via a second referendum.[205][206][207] The Scottish National Party manifesto proposed a policy of waiting for the outcome of the Brexit negotiations and then holding a referendum on Scottish independence.[208][209] Compared to the 2015 general election, the Conservatives gained votes (but nevertheless lost seats and their majority in the House of Commons). Labour gained significantly on votes and seats, retaining its position as the second-largest party. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin also made gains in votes and seats. Parties losing votes included the SNP, Liberals, Greens, and especially UKIP.[210]

On 26 June 2017, Conservatives and the DUP reached a confidence and supply agreement whereby the DUP would back the Conservatives in key votes in the House of Commons over the course of the parliament. The agreement included additional funding of £1 billion for Northern Ireland, highlighted mutual support for Brexit and national security, expressed commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, and indicated that policies such as the state pension triple lock and Winter Fuel Payments would be maintained.[211]


Six weeks after the referendum, the Bank of England sought to cushion the potential shock to the economy by lowering interest rates to the record low of 0.25%, introducing quantitative easing, and creating 70 billion pounds of new money, thereby depreciating the pound sterling and encouraging commercial banks to pass on lower borrowing costs.[212]

A rise in inflation outpaced wage growth for most of 2017, with inflation gradually rising to 3%, before receding again as a year-long "wage squeeze" attributed to the referendum ended in February 2018 and wage growth caught up with inflation. Since the referendum, absolute employment has continuously risen to previously unrecorded levels, and by early 2018 relative unemployment reached its lowest level (4.2%) recorded since 1975.[213]

During 2017 the UK continued to be the favourite European destination for foreign physical investment (as distinct from company takeovers), creating 50,000 new jobs, ahead of Germany (31,000 jobs) and France. Factors mentioned were sterling devaluation since the referendum, broadband, and American investment.[214]


Official figures for June 2017 (published in February 2018) showed that net EU immigration to the UK had slowed to about 100,000 immigrants per year, corresponding to the immigration level of 2014. Meanwhile, immigration from non-EU countries had increased. Taken together, the two inflows into the UK result in an only slightly reduced net immigration of 230,000 newcomers in the year to June 2017. The Head of the Office of National Statistics suggested that Brexit could well be a factor for the slowdown in EU immigration, but cautioned there might be other reasons.[215]

Following an unprecedented vote on 4 December 2018, MPs ruled that the UK government was in contempt of parliament for refusing to provide to Parliament, the full legal advice it had been given on the effect of its proposed terms for withdrawal.[216] The key point within the advice covered the legal effect of the "backstop" agreement governing Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the UK, in regard to the customs border between the EU and UK, and its implications for the Good Friday agreement which had led to the end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and specifically, whether the UK would be certain of being able to leave the EU in a practical sense, under the draft proposals.

The following day, the advice was published. The question asked was, "What is the legal effect of the UK agreeing to the Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement on Ireland and Northern Ireland in particular its effect in conjunction with Articles 5 and 184 of the main Withdrawal Agreement?" The advice given was that:[216]

The Protocol is binding on the UK and EU [para 3], and anticipates a final future resolution of the border and customs issues being reached [para 5,12,13]. But "the Protocol is intended to subsist even when negotiations have clearly broken down" [para 16] and "In conclusion, the current drafting of the Protocol ... does not provide for a mechanism that is likely to enable the UK lawfully to exit the UK wide customs union without a subsequent agreement. This remains the case even if parties are still negotiating many years later, and even if the parties believe that talks have clearly broken down and there is no prospect of a future relationship agreement." [para 30]

Delay of vote on Withdrawal Agreement

On 10 December 2018, the Prime Minister postponed the vote in the House of Commons on her Brexit deal. The announcement came minutes after the Prime Minister's Office confirmed the vote would be going ahead.[217] Faced with the prospect of a defeat in the House of Commons, this option gave the Prime Minister more time to negotiate with Conservative backbenchers and the EU, even though they had ruled out further discussions.[218] The decision was met with calls from many Welsh Labour MPs for a motion of no confidence in the Government.[219] The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, described the government as being in "disarray".

In the view of the European Research Group wing of the Tory Party (who are most opposed to it), the proposed Withdrawal Agreement treaty is a legal contract to pay £39bn and accept the Irish backstop; in exchange Britain would secure a transition phase with no veto rights, be bound to accept all fresh EU law even when it threatened the national interest, and, on payment of the exit fee, to have an opportunity of starting talks on a deal, the terms of which must be agreed by all 27 EU states (unlike the Withdrawal Agreement).[220]

Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK ambassador to the EU at the time of the 2016 referendum, publicly commented on 13 December 2018 that the EU was always adroit at reframing things that have already been agreed, such as the Irish backstop, in ways that "make the medicine slip down".[221]

Vote on Withdrawal Agreement

On 15 January 2019, the House of Commons voted 432 to 202 against the deal, which was the largest majority against a United Kingdom government ever.[11][222][223] Soon after, a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty's Government was tabled by the opposition,[224] which was rejected by 325 votes to 306.[225]

Second vote on the withdrawal agreement

On 24 February, Theresa May announced that the next vote on the withdrawal agreement would be on 12 March, just 17 days away from Brexit. [226]

Domestic impact on the United Kingdom

The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) produced reports on the economic impact on 58 industries of Britain leaving the EU. The Labour Party made a freedom of information request for details about the reports, but DExEU said that publishing the information would undermine policy formulation, and that it needed to carry out policymaking in a "safe space".[227] Labour then proposed a motion of a rarely-used type known as a "humble address" in the Commons on 1 November 2017, calling for the papers to be released; the motion was passed unanimously. The leader of the house, Andrea Leadsom, said that there could be some delay while ministers decided how to release the information without prejudicing Brexit negotiations.[228]


Long-term impact

KPMG, based on a 2017 survey of 2,000 EU workers in the UK, estimated that about a million EU citizens working in the UK saw their future in Britain as over or hanging in the balance.[229]

A 2017 paper by King's College London economists Giuseppe Forte and Jonathan Portes found that "while future migration flows will be driven by a number of factors, macroeconomic and otherwise, Brexit and the end of free movement will result in a large fall in immigration from EEA countries to the UK."[230] According to a 2016 study by Portes, "The spectrum of options for UK immigration policy post Brexit remains wide... However, almost any plausible outcome will result in an increase in regulatory burdens on business; a reduction in the flows of both unskilled and skilled workers; and an increase in illegal working. The key question for policymakers will be how to minimise these negative impacts while at the same time addressing domestic political demands for increased control without antagonising our EU partners to the point of prejudicing other key aspects of the negotiations. This will not be an easy task."[19] Will Somerville of the Migration Policy Institute wrote that "Future migration levels are impossible to predict in the absence of policy and economic certainty", but estimated immediately after the referendum that the UK "would continue to receive 500,000 or more immigrants (from EU and non-EU countries taken together) per year, with annual net migration around 200,000".[231]

The decline in EEA immigration is likely to have an adverse impact on the British health sector.[232] According to the New York Times, Brexit "seems certain" to make it harder and costlier for the NHS, which already suffers from chronic understaffing, to recruit nurses, midwives and doctors from the rest of Europe.[232]

Immediate effects

Official figures in March 2017 indicated that EU immigration to the UK continued to exceed emigration, but the difference between immigration and emigration ("net migration") had fallen to its lowest for three years.[233] The number of EU nurses registering with the NHS fell from 1,304 in July 2016 to 46 in April 2017.[234]

Economic effects

Immediate effects

Research on the effects that have already materialised in the United Kingdom since the referendum results show that the referendum result pushed up UK inflation by 1.7 percentage points, leading to an annual cost of £404 for the average British household.[16] Another study on the effects that had already materialised found that by September 2018, the economic costs of the Brexit vote were already 2% of GDP.[17][235][236] A September 2018 analysis by the think tank Centre for European Reform showed that the losses amounted to 2.5% of GDP.[18] Another analysis found, using the synthetic control method, that the Brexit referendum caused a decline in trade in the subsequent two years.[237][238]

According to a Financial Times analysis, the Brexit referendum results had by December 2017 reduced national British income by between 0.6% and 1.3%, which amounts to almost £350 million a week.[239] University of California, Berkeley, economist Barry Eichengreen said in August 2017 that some of the adverse effects of uncertainty brought about by the Brexit referendum were being made apparent, as British consumer confidence was down and spending had declined to its lowest level in four years.[240] In November 2017, it was reported that European banks had reduced their UK-related assets by €350bn in the 12 months after Brexit vote, and that the trend was expected to increase ahead of the March 2019 Brexit deadline.[241]

A 2018 analysis by economists at Stanford University and Nottingham University estimated that uncertainty around Brexit reduced investment by businesses by approximately 6 percentage points and an employment reduction by 1.5 percentage points.[242] A 2019 analysis by University of Cambridge economists and a 2018 analysis by University of Maryland and University of Michigan economists found that uncertainty about the United Kingdom's future trade policy which resulted from the Brexit referendum result depressed the United Kingdom's international trading activity from June 2016 onwards.[243][244][245] A 2019 analysis found that British firms substantially increased offshoring to the European Union after the Brexit referendum, whereas European firms reduced new investments in the UK.[246][247]

Long-term economic analyses

There is overwhelming or near-unanimous agreement among economists that leaving the European Union will adversely affect the British economy in the medium- and long-term.[lower-alpha 1] Surveys of economists in 2016 showed overwhelming agreement that Brexit would likely reduce the UK's real per-capita income level.[249][250][251] A 2017 survey of the existing academic literature found "the research literature displays a broad consensus that in the long run Brexit will make the United Kingdom poorer because it will create new barriers to trade, foreign direct investment, and immigration. However, there is substantial uncertainty over how large the effect will be, with plausible estimates of the cost ranging between 1 and 10 per cent of the UK's income per capita."[14] These estimates differ depending on whether the UK stays in the European Single Market (for instance, by joining the EEA), makes a free trade agreement with the EU, or reverts to the trade rules that govern relations between all World Trade Organization members.[14] In January 2018, the UK government's own Brexit analysis was leaked; it showed that UK economic growth would be stunted by 2–8% for at least 15 years following secession from the EU, depending on the leave scenario.[259][260]

Most economists, including the UK Treasury, argue that being in the EU has a strong positive effect on trade and as a result the UK's trade would be worse off if it left the EU.[261][262][263][264] According to a group of University of Cambridge economists, under a "hard Brexit" whereby the UK reverts to WTO rules, one-third of UK exports to the EU would be tariff-free, one-quarter would face high trade barriers and other exports risk tariffs in the range of 1–10%.[265] A 2017 study based on data from 2010 found that "almost all UK regions are systematically more vulnerable to Brexit than regions in any other country. Due to their longstanding trade integration with the UK, Irish regions have levels of Brexit exposure, which are similar to those of the UK regions with the lowest levels of exposure, namely London and northern parts of Scotland. Meanwhile, the other most risk-exposed EU regions are all in southern Germany, with levels of risk which are typically half that of any UK or Irish region, and one third of that displayed by many UK regions. There is also a very noticeable economic geography logic to the levels of exposure with north-western European regions typically being the most exposed to Brexit, while regions in southern and eastern Europe are barely affected at all by Brexit, at least in terms of the trade linkages... Overall, the UK is far more exposed to Brexit risks than the rest of the EU."[266]

After the referendum, the Institute for Fiscal Studies published a report funded by the Economic and Social Research Council which warned that Britain would lose up to £70 billion in reduced economic growth if it did not retain Single Market membership, with new trade deals unable to make up the difference.[267] One of these areas is financial services, which are helped by EU-wide "passporting" for financial products, which an Oliver Wyman report for a pro-EU lobby group estimated indirectly accounted for up to 71,000 jobs and £10 billion of tax annually,[268][not in citation given] and some banks announced plans to relocate some of their operations outside the UK.[269] According to a 2016 article by John Armour, Professor of Law and Finance at Oxford University, "a 'soft' Brexit, whereby the UK leaves the EU but remains in the single market, would be a lower-risk option for the City than other Brexit options, because it would enable financial services firms to continue to rely on regulatory passporting rights."[270]

A 2017 study found, on the basis of "plausible, empirically based estimates of the likely impacts on growth and wages using relationships from the existing empirical literature", that "Brexit-induced reductions in migration are likely to have a significant negative impact on UK GDP per capita (and GDP), with marginal positive impacts on wages in the low-skill service sector."[271][14] It is unclear how changes in trade and foreign investment will interact with immigration, but these changes are likely to be important.[14]

Former Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King commented that warnings of economic doom regarding leaving the EU were overstated and that the UK should leave the single market and probably the customs union in order to gain more opportunities, which would lead to improved British economic performance.[272]

Short-term economic analyses

Short-term macroeconomic forecasts by the Bank of England and other banks of what would happen immediately after the Brexit referendum proved to be too pessimistic.[253][273] The assessments assumed that the referendum results would create greater uncertainty on financial markets and in business and reduce consumer confidence more than it did.[273] According to Oxford University economist Simon Wren-Lewis, "short term unconditional macroeconomic forecasts are extremely unreliable" and they are something that academic economists do not do, unlike banks.[274] Wren-Lewis notes that long-term projections of the impact of Brexit, on the other hand, have a strong empirical foundation.[274] University of California, Berkeley, economist Barry Eichengreen wrote that economists "have had little success at reliably predicting when and why uncertainty arises" and that it is unclear how severe the impact of uncertainty actually is.[240]

King's College London economist Jonathan Portes said that "short-term economic forecasting is very unreliable". He compared short-term economic forecasts to weather forecasts and the long-term economic forecasts to climate forecasts: the methodologies used in long-term forecasts are "well-established and robust".[273] Other economists note that central bank forecasts are not intended for pinpoint accuracy.[273] London School of Economics economist Thomas Sampson notes that it is harder to assess the short-term impact that the transition process to Brexit will have, but that long-term assessments of the post-Brexit period are more reliable.[14] According to the Financial Times, economists are in agreement that the short-term effects are uncertain.[253]

On 5 January 2017, Andy Haldane, the Chief Economist and the Executive Director of Monetary Analysis and Statistics at the Bank of England, said that the BoE's own forecast predicting an immediate economic downturn due to the referendum result was inaccurate and said there was strong market performance immediately after the referendum,[275][276][277] although some have pointed to prices rising faster than wages.[278] Haldane said that the field of economics was "to some degree in crisis" because of its failure to predict the financial crisis of 2007–2008, and added that the Brexit economic forecast was only inaccurate in its near-term assessment, and that over time, the Bank still expected that Brexit would harm economic growth.[276] Imperial College London economist David Miles responded to Haldane, saying that there was no crisis in economics, and that economists did not purport to be able to forecast with full certainty or predict the precise timing of events.[279] Miles said that it was widely acknowledged among economists that short-term forecasts, such as the BoE's, are unreliable.[279]

Financial sector

According to economist Barry Eichengreen of the University of California, Berkeley, London’s future as an international financial centre depends on whether the UK will obtain passporting rights for British banks from the European Union. If banks located in the UK cannot obtain passporting rights, they have strong incentives to relocate to financial centres within the EU.[280]

Loss of agencies

Brexit requires relocating the offices and staff of the European Medicines Agency and European Banking Authority, currently based in London.[281] The agencies together employ more than 1,000 people and will respectively relocate to Amsterdam and Paris.[282] The EU is also considering restricting the clearing of euro-denominated trades to eurozone jurisdictions, which would end London's dominance in this sector.[283]


According to a 2017 study by University of Exeter and Chatham House researchers, there are considerable benefits for the UK to be integrated into the European energy market. The study notes, "if the UK wants to enjoy the economic benefits of remaining part of what is an increasingly integrated European electricity market then, as European legislation is currently drafted, it will not only have to forgo an element of autonomy through accepting legislation and regulations made collectively at the EU level, but it will also lose much of its voice in that decision making process, effectively becoming a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker."[284]


The combined EU fishing fleets land about 6 million tonnes of fish per year,[285] of which about 3 million tonnes are from UK waters.[286] The UK's share of the overall EU fishing catch is only 750,000 tonnes (830,000 tons).[287] This proportion is determined by the London Fisheries Convention of 1964 and by the EU's Common Fisheries Policy. The UK government announced in July 2017 that it would end the 1964 convention in 2019. Loss of access to UK waters will particularly affect the Irish fishing industry which obtains a third of its catch there.[288]

According to an analysis by researchers at Wageningen University and Research, Brexit would lead to higher prices in seafood for consumers (because the UK imports most of its seafood). British fishermen would be able to catch more fish, but the price for UK fish would decline. As a result, the analysis found that Brexit would result in a "lose-lose situation" for both the UK and the EU, and for both British consumers and the fishing industry.[289] According to a 2018 study, "Brexit poses a major challenge to the stability of European fisheries management. Until now, neighbouring EU Member States have shared the bounty of the living resources of the seas around Britain. Taking full responsibility for the regulation of fisheries within the UK's Exclusive Economic Zone will cut across longstanding relationships, potentially putting at risk recent recovery and future sustainability of shared fish stocks."[290]

Higher education and academic research

According to a 2016 study by Ken Mayhew, Emeritus Professor of Education and Economic Performance at Oxford University, Brexit poses the following threats to higher education: "loss of research funding from EU sources; loss of students from other EU countries; the impact on the ability of the sector to hire academic staff from EU countries; and the impact on the ability of UK students to study abroad."[20]

The UK received more from the EU for research than it contributed[291][292] with universities getting just over 10% of their research income from the EU.[293] All funding for net beneficiaries from the EU, including universities, was guaranteed by the government in August 2016.[294] Before the funding announcement, a newspaper investigation reported that some research projects were reluctant to include British researchers due to uncertainties over funding.[295] Currently the UK is part of the European Research Area and the UK is likely to wish to remain an associated member.[296]

Sports and culture

Brexit will have an effect on sports and culture. Before Brexit, people from EU/EEA countries need minimal bureaucracy to play or perform in the UK. After Brexit, any foreigner wanting to do so more than temporarily will need a work permit. At present, before Brexit, such work permits for non-EU team players can be tricky to get, especially for young or lower ranked players.[297][298]


First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon addresses journalists over Brexit and Scotland's place within Europe at Bute House.

As suggested by the Scottish Government before the referendum,[299] the First Minister of Scotland announced that officials were planning an independence referendum due to the result of Scotland voting to remain in the European Union when England and Wales voted to leave.[300] In March 2017, the SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon requested a second Scottish independence referendum in 2018 or 2019 (before Britain's formal exit from the EU).[301] The UK Prime Minister immediately rejected the requested timing, but not the referendum itself.[302] The referendum was approved by the Scottish Parliament on 28 March 2017. Sturgeon called for a "phased return" of an independent Scotland back to the EU.[303]

After the referendum, First Minister Sturgeon suggested that Scotland might refuse consent for legislation required to leave the EU,[304] though some lawyers argue that Scotland cannot block Brexit.[305]

On 21 March 2018, the Scottish Parliament passed the Scottish Continuity Bill.[306] This was passed due to stalling negotiations between the Scottish Government and the British Government on where powers within devolved policy areas should lie after exit day from the European Union. This Act allows for all devolved policy areas to remain within the remit of the Scottish Parliament and reduces the executive power upon exit day that the UK Withdrawal Bill provides for Ministers of the Crown.[307] The Bill gained Royal Assent on 28 April 2018.[306]



The United Kingdom Government issued a guidance document on aviation in September 2018.[308] The nature of the United Kingdom's aviation agreements can be divided into three main categories:

Flights between the UK and EU are enshrined into the European Common Aviation Area. The UK Government's aviation guidance document states that post-Brexit: "UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission. This would mean that airlines operating between the UK and the EU would need to seek individual permissions to operate".[308] In the event that no agreement can be made between the UK and EU, it is the intention of the UK Government to allow permission for existing flights to the UK to remain unimpeded in the expectation this will be reciprocated by EU countries.[308] The loss of automatic access to the European Common Aviation Area will affect airlines; for instance a British registered airline cannot operate intra-EU flights, nor can a European registered airline operate domestic UK flights. Some British airlines have created European divisions to resolve the issue such as Easyjet which formed easyJet Europe in July 2017.

The UK has sought to replace the existing partnerships the EU has with the 17 non-EU countries. By the end of 2018, the UK had concluded individual air service agreements (ASA) with the United States,[309] Canada[309] Switzerland,[310] Albania, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Kosovo, Montenegro and Morocco. Such agreements supersede EU agreements made on behalf of the United Kingdom (by virtue of its EU membership) and mean flights to and from these countries will continue as scheduled post-Brexit.[308]

Lastly, most countries have separate bilateral air service agreements (ASA) with the United Kingdom which permit flights to and from the country. The UK has such agreements with 111 countries around the world, including Brazil, China and India. These bilateral agreements are independent of the EU and are not dependent on the UK's membership of the EU. As stated in guidance document on aviation issued by the United Kingdom Government in September 2018, "for airlines from one of the 111 countries with whom the UK has a bilateral ASA, including China, India and Brazil, there will be no change [post Brexit]."[308]

The European Aviation Safety Agency will no longer cover UK airlines.[311]


The French minister for European Affairs, Nathalie Loiseau, said in September 2018 that trains in the Channel Tunnel may no longer be allowed into France in the event of a no-deal Brexit.[312] Discussions were carried out in October between the British Department for Transport and the rail transport authorities of France, Belgium and the Netherlands.[313] A temporary authorisation for three months was eventually agreed in February 2019, in order to ensure transport continuity in the event of a no-deal Brexit.[314]

Road traffic

The Vienna Convention on Road Traffic is written by the UN, not the EU, allowing road traffic between the UK and EU even without a deal.

The UK will remain in the European Common Transit Convention (CTC) after Brexit.[315] This would apply to any new trading relationship with the EU, including after exit with no Withdrawal Agreement treaty.[316] The CTC applies to moving goods between the EU member states, the EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) as well as Turkey, Macedonia and Serbia. The CTC, with its supplementary Convention on the Simplification of Formalities in the Trade of Goods, reduces administrative burdens on traders by removing the need for additional import/export declarations when transiting customs territories, and provides cashflow benefits by allowing the movement of goods across a customs territory without the payment of duties until the final destination.[317]

In the event of a "no-deal" Brexit, the number of permits available to haulage drivers will be "severely limited": the Department for Transport proposes to allocate these by lottery.[318] Even with a customs union, the experience of Turkish hauliers suggests that significant difficulties and delays will occur both at the border and within some countries.[319]


Ferries will continue, but with obstacles such as customs checks.[320] New ferry departures between Ireland and the continent will emerge.[320]

Impact of Brexit on bilateral UK relations

International agreements

The Financial Times said that there were approximately 759 international agreements, spanning 168 non-EU countries, that the UK would no longer be a party to upon leaving the EU.[321] This figure does not include World Trade Organization or United Nations opt-in accords, and excludes "narrow agreements", which may also have to be renegotiated.[321]


Concerns have been raised that Brexit might create security problems for the UK. In particular in law enforcement and counterterrorism where the UK could use the European Union's databases on individuals crossing the British border. Security experts have credited the EU's information-sharing databases with helping to foil terrorist plots. British leaders have expressed support for retaining access to those information-sharing databases, but it could be complicated to obtain that access as a non-member of the EU. Brexit would also complicate extradition requests. Under a hard Brexit scenario, the UK would lose access to basic law enforcement tools, such as databases comprising European plane travel records, vehicle registrations, fingerprints and DNA profiles.[322] In December 2018, Conservative MEPs approved a new plan to fight terrorism that calls for the EU to have a close security partnership with the UK post-Brexit. [323]

Options for continuing relationship with the EU

The UK's post-Brexit relationship with the remaining EU members could take several forms. A research paper presented to the UK Parliament in July 2013 proposed a number of alternatives to membership which would continue to allow access to the EU internal market. These include remaining in the European Economic Area,[324] negotiating deep bilateral agreements on the Swiss model,[324] or exit from the EU without EEA membership or a trade agreement under the WTO Option. There may be an interim deal between the time the UK leaves the EU and when the final relationship comes in force.

Border with the Republic of Ireland

The UK/Republic of Ireland border crosses this road at Killeen (near Newry), marked only by a speed limit in km/h. (Northern Ireland uses mph.)

There is concern about whether the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland becomes a "hard border" with customs and passport checks on the border,[325] and whether this could affect the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland.[326][327][328] In order to forestall this the European Union proposed a "backstop agreement" within the Withdrawal Agreement that would put Northern Ireland under a range of EU rules in order to forestall the need for border checks. Although the UK government has signed off on proposals including the backstop, it regards the idea of having EU rules applying in Northern Ireland only as a threat to the integrity of the UK, and also does not want the UK as a whole to be subject to EU rules and the customs union indefinitely.[329] In late October 2018, the National Audit Office warned that it was already too late to prepare the necessary Irish border security checks in the event of a no-deal Brexit – a weakness that organised crime would be quick to exploit.[330]

Until March 2019, both the UK and Ireland will be members of the EU, and therefore both are in the Customs Union and the Single Market. There is freedom of movement for all EU nationals within the Common Travel Area and there are no customs or fixed immigration controls at the border. Since 2005, the border has been essentially invisible.[331] Following Brexit, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will become a land border between the EU and a non-EU state which may entail checks on goods at the border, depending on the co-operation and alignment of regulations between the two sides. It is therefore possible that the border will return to being a "hard" one, with fewer, controlled, crossing posts and a customs infrastructure. Both the EU and the UK have agreed this should be avoided.[332] Research published on 18 February 2019 by Irish Senator Mark Daly and two UNESCO chairmen indicated that reinstating a hard border would result in the return of violence.[333][334][335][336]

Border with France

The President of the Regional Council of Hauts-de-France, Xavier Bertrand, stated in February 2016 that "If Britain leaves Europe, right away the border will leave Calais and go to Dover. We will not continue to guard the border for Britain if it's no longer in the European Union," indicating that the juxtaposed controls would end with a leave vote. French Finance Minister Emmanuel Macron also suggested the agreement would be "threatened" by a leave vote.[337] These claims have been disputed, as the Le Touquet 2003 treaty enabling juxtaposed controls was not an EU treaty, and would not be legally void upon leaving.[338]

After the Brexit vote, Xavier Bertrand asked François Hollande to renegotiate the Touquet agreement,[339] which can be terminated by either party with two years' notice.[340] Hollande rejected the suggestion, and said: "Calling into question the Touquet deal on the pretext that Britain has voted for Brexit and will have to start negotiations to leave the Union doesn't make sense." Bernard Cazeneuve, the French Interior Minister, confirmed there would be "no changes to the accord". He said: "The border at Calais is closed and will remain so."[341]

Gibraltar and Spain

Cars crossing into Gibraltar clearing customs formalities. Gibraltar is outside the customs union, VAT area and Schengen Zone.

Gibraltar is outside the European Union's common customs area and common commercial policy and so has a customs border with Spain. Nevertheless, the territory remains within the European Union until Brexit is complete.

During the campaign leading up to the referendum[342] the Chief Minister of Gibraltar warned that Brexit posed a threat to Gibraltar's safety.[343] Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly (96%) to remain in the EU. After the result Spain's Foreign Minister renewed calls for joint Spanish–British control of the peninsula.[344] These calls were strongly rebuffed by Gibraltar's Chief Minister[345] and questions were raised over the future of free-flowing traffic at the Gibraltar–Spain border.[346] The UK government states it will only negotiate on the sovereignty of Gibraltar with the consent of its people.[347]

In February 2018, Sir Joe Bossano, Gibraltar's Minister for Enterprise, Training, Employment and Health and Safety (and former Chief Minister) expressed frustration at the EU's attitude, suggesting that Spain was being offered a veto, adding "It's enough to convert me from a supporter of the European Union into a Brexiteer".[348]

In April 2018, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis announced that Spain hopes to sign off on a bilateral agreement with Britain over Gibraltar before October so as not to hinder a Brexit transition deal. Talks between London and Madrid had progressed well. While reiterating the Spanish long-term aim of "recovering" Gibraltar, he said that Spain would not hold Gibraltar as a "hostage" to the EU negotiations.[349] The predecessor of Dastis, José Manuel García-Margallo (who had been very combative in the Gibraltar dispute during his ministerial spell) had asked Dastis during the later's inauguration to not waste the chance to advance in the Spanish claim for the territory.[350] After the successful 2018 vote of no confidence in the government of Mariano Rajoy and Josep Borrell becoming the new Foreign minister, the later assured the diplomatic stance of Spain remained the same as with Dastis, "with the same negotiating team and the same approach".[351]

Relations with CANZUK countries

Pro-Brexit activists and politicians have argued that for negotiating trade and migration agreements with the "CANZUK" countries – those of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.[352][353] Numerous academics have criticised this alternative for EU membership as "post-imperial nostalgia".[354][355][356] Economists note that distance reduces trade, a key aspect of the gravity model of trade, which means that even if the UK could obtain similar trade terms with the CANZUK countries as it had as part of the Single Market, it would be far less valuable to the UK.[357][358][359]

Consequences of withdrawal for the EU

Structure and budget

Shortly after the referendum, the German parliament published an analysis on the consequences of a Brexit on the EU and specifically on the economic and political situation of Germany.[360] According to this, Britain is, after the United States and France, the third-most important export market for German products. In total Germany exports goods and services to Britain worth about 120 billion annually, which is about 8% of German exports, with Germany achieving a trade surplus with Britain worth €36.3 billion (2014). Should there be a "hard Brexit", exports would be subject to WTO customs and tariffs. The trade weighted average tariff is 2.4%, but the tariff on automobiles, for instance, is 9.7%, so trade in automobiles would be particularly affected; this would also affect German automobile manufacturers with production plants in the United Kingdom. In total, 750,000 jobs in Germany depend upon export to Britain, while on the British side about three million jobs depend on export to the EU. The study emphasises however that the predictions on the economic effects of a Brexit are subject to significant uncertainty.

With Brexit, the EU would lose its second-largest economy, the country with the third-largest population and "the financial capital of the world", as the German newspaper Münchner Merkur put it.[361] Furthermore, the EU would lose its second-largest net contributor to the EU budget (2015: Germany €14.3 billion, United Kingdom €11.5 billion, France €5.5 billion).[362]

Thus, the departure of Britain would result in an additional financial burden for the remaining net contributors, unless the budget is reduced accordingly: Germany, for example, would have to pay an additional €4.5 billion for 2019 and again for 2020; in addition, the UK would no longer be a shareholder in the European Investment Bank, in which only EU members can participate. Britain's share amounts to 16%, €39.2 billion (2013), which Britain would withdraw unless there is an EU treaty change.[363]

Council of the European Union

Analyses indicate that the departure of the relatively economically liberal UK will reduce the ability of remaining economically liberal countries to block measures in the Council of the European Union.[364][365] According to the Lisbon Treaty (2009), decisions of the Council are made by qualified majority voting, which means that a majority view can be blocked should at least four members of the Council, representing at least 35% of the population of the Union, choose to do so. In many policy votes, Britain, allied with other northern EU allies (Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian and the Baltic states), had a blocking minority of 35%. The exit of the UK from the European Union means that this blocking minority can no longer be assembled without support from other countries, leading to speculation that it could enable the more protectionist EU countries to achieve specific proposals such as relaxing EU budget discipline or providing EU-wide deposit guarantees within the banking union.[366][367]

European Parliament

UK MEPs are expected to retain full rights to participate in the European Parliament up to the Article 50 deadline. However, there have been discussions about excluding UK MEPs from key committee positions.[368]

The EU will need to decide on the revised apportionment of seats in the European Parliament in time for the next European Parliament election to be held in May 2019 (with the parliamentary term starting in June), when the United Kingdom's 73 MEPs will have vacated their seats. In April 2017, a group of European lawmakers discussed what should be done about the vacated seats. One plan, supported by Gianni Pittella and Emmanuel Macron, is to replace the 73 seats with a pan-European constituency list; other options which were considered include dropping the British seats without replacement, and reassigning some or all of the existing seats from other countries to reduce inequality of representation.[369][370]

The UK's exit from the European Union will leave Ireland and Cyprus as the only two remaining common law jurisdictions in the EU. Paul Gallagher, a former Attorney General of Ireland, has suggested this will isolate those countries and deprive them of a powerful partner that shared a common interest in ensuring that EU legislation was not drafted or interpreted in a way that would be contrary to the principles of the common law.[371] Lucinda Creighton, a former Irish government minister for legal affairs, has said that Ireland relies on the "bureaucratic capacity of the UK" to understand, influence and implement EU legislation.[372]

World Trade Organization

Questions have arisen over how existing international arrangements with the EU under World Trade Organization (WTO) terms should evolve. Some countries  such as Australia and the United States  wish to challenge the basis for division (i.e., division between the UK and the continuing EU) of the trade schedules previously agreed between them and the EU, because it reduces their flexibility.[373]

Public opinion and comment

Public comment up to February 2017 UK white paper

Various EU leaders said that they would not start any negotiation before the UK formally invokes Article 50. Jean-Claude Juncker ordered all members of the EU Commission not to engage in any kind of contact with UK parties regarding Brexit.[374] In October 2016, he stated that he was agitated that the British had not developed a sense of community with Europeans during 40 years of membership; Juncker denied that Brexit was a warning for the EU, envisaged developing an EU defence policy without the British after Brexit, and rejected a suggestion that the EU should negotiate in such a way that Britain would be able to hold a second referendum.[375] On 5 November 2016, Juncker reacted to reports of some European businesses seeking to make agreements with the UK government, and warned: "I am telling them [companies] that they should not interfere in the debate, as they will find that I will block their path."[376] Juncker stated in February 2017 that the UK would be expected to pay outstanding commitments to EU projects and pensions as part of the withdrawal process, suggesting such bills would be "very hefty."[377]

German foreign secretary Frank-Walter Steinmeier met Britain's foreign secretary Boris Johnson on 4 November 2016; Johnson stressed the importance of British-German relationships, whereas Steinmeier responded that the German view was that the UK should have voted to stay in the EU and that the German priority now was to preserve the remaining union of 27 members. There could be no negotiations before the UK formally gives notice. A long delay before beginning negotiations would be detrimental. Britain could not keep the advantages of the single market but at the same time cancel the "less pleasant rules".[378]

Newly appointed prime minister Theresa May made clear that negotiations with the EU required a "UK-wide approach". On 15 July 2016, she said: "I have already said that I won't be triggering article 50 until I think that we have a UK approach and objectives for negotiations – I think it is important that we establish that before we trigger article 50."[379]

According to The Daily Telegraph, the Department for Exiting the European Union spent over £250,000 on legal advice from top Government lawyers in two months, and had plans to recruit more people. Nick Clegg said the figures showed the Civil Service was unprepared for the very complex negotiations ahead.[380]

In the wake of the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union, the Department for International Trade (DIT) for striking and extending trade agreements between the UK and non-EU states was created by Prime Minister Theresa May, shortly after she took office on 13 July 2016.[381] It employs about 200 trade negotiators[382] and is overseen by the Secretary of State for International Trade, currently Liam Fox.

On 17 January 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May announced a series of 12 negotiating objectives in a speech at Lancaster House. These consist of an end to European Court of Justice jurisdiction, withdrawal from the single market with a "comprehensive free-trade agreement" replacing this, a new customs agreement excluding the common external tariff and the EU's common commercial policy, an end to free movement of people, co-operation in crime and terrorism, collaboration in areas of science and technology, engagement with devolved administrations, maintaining the Common Travel Area with Ireland, and preserving existing workers' rights. She also confirmed, "that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a [meaningful] vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force."[383]

The Government has stated its intention to "secure the specific interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as those of all parts of England". Through the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations (JMC(EN)), the Government intends to involve the views of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly in the process of negotiating the UK's exit from the EU. For instance, at the January 2017 meeting of the JMC(EN), the Scottish Government's proposal to remain in the European Economic Area was considered.[384]

Public comment pre- and post-Article 50 notification

EU negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament's chief negotiator, said that: "All British citizens today have also EU citizenship. That means a number of things: the possibility to participate in the European elections, the freedom of travel without problem inside the union. We need to have an arrangement in which this arrangement can continue for those citizens who on an individual basis are requesting it." The suggestion being an “associate citizenship”.[385]

An EU meeting to discuss Brexit was called for 29 April 2017, Donald Tusk stating that the "priority would be giving "clarity" to EU residents, business and member states about the talks ahead". Barnier called for talks to be completed by October 2018 to give time for any agreement to be ratified before the UK leaves in March 2019.[386]

Sinn Féin called for a referendum to create a united Ireland, following the Northern Ireland majority decision (56% to 44%) to vote no to Brexit and 2 March election to the Northern Ireland Assembly wherein Sinn Féin increased its number of seats.[387]

In early May, Jean-Claude Juncker said that the UK leaving the EU was a "tragedy" and that it is partly the responsibility of the EU. "The EU, in many respects has done too much, especially the Commission", including "too much regulation and too many interferences in the lives of our fellow citizens". The European Commission has, following the "Better regulation" initiative, in place since before Brexit, reduced the number of legislative proposals from 130 to 23 per year.[388][389]

Post-referendum opinion polling

Following the EU referendum, there have been many opinion polls on the question of whether the UK was "right" or "wrong" to vote to leave the EU. The results of these polls are shown in the table below.

Date(s) conducted Right Wrong Undecided Lead Sample Conducted by Polling type Notes
18 Jan 2019 41% 43% 16% 2% 1,021 SkyData Online
16 Jan 2019 40% 50% 10% 10% 1,070 YouGov Online
15 Jan 2019 The House of Commons votes to reject the government's proposed withdrawal agreement.[390]
6-7 Jan 2019 39% 48% 12% 9% 1,656 YouGov Online
21 Dec 2018-4 Jan 2019 40% 48% 12% 8% 25,537 YouGov Online
12-14 Dec 2018 41% 47% 12% 6% 5,043 YouGov Online
3-4 Dec 2018 38% 49% 13% 11% 1,624 YouGov Online
9-30 Nov 2018 Ministers including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey resign in protest to the government's proposed withdrawal agreement (or to plans preceding it).[391]
26-27 Nov 2018 42% 48% 11% 6% 1,737 YouGov Online
19-20 Nov 2018 41% 47% 12% 6% 1,647 YouGov Online
15 Nov 2018 40% 47% 12% 7% 1,311 YouGov Online
14 Nov 2018 The UK Cabinet approves a new draft withdrawal agreement.[392]
4-5 Nov 2018 41% 45% 14% 4% 1,637 YouGov Online
22-23 Oct 2018 41% 47% 12% 6% 1,802 YouGov Online
18-19 Oct 2018 41% 47% 12% 6% 2,158 YouGov Online
8-9 Oct 2018 40% 47% 13% 7% 1,647 YouGov Online
3-4 Oct 2018 42% 46% 12% 4% 1,746 YouGov Online
30 Sep-1 Oct 2018 42% 47% 11% 5% 1,607 YouGov Online
21-22 Sep 2018 42% 46% 12% 4% 1,643 YouGov Online
18-19 Sep 2018 40% 47% 12% 7% 2,509 YouGov Online
4-5 Sep 2018 43% 46% 11% 3% 1,628 YouGov Online
3-4 Sep 2018 42% 48% 11% 6% 1,883 YouGov Online
28-29 Aug 2018 42% 47% 11% 5% 1,664 YouGov Online
20-21 Aug 2018 41% 47% 12% 6% 1,697 YouGov Online
13-14 Aug 2018 43% 45% 12% 2% 1,660 YouGov Online
8-9 Aug 2018 42% 45% 13% 3% 1,675 YouGov Online
22-23 Jul 2018 42% 46% 12% 4% 1,650 YouGov Online
16-17 Jul 2018 42% 47% 12% 5% 1,657 YouGov Online
10-11 Jul 2018 41% 46% 12% 5% 1,732 YouGov Online
8-9 Jul 2018 Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resign.[393]
8-9 Jul 2018 42% 46% 12% 4% 1,669 YouGov Online
5-8 Jul 2018 76% 21% 2% 55% 966 YouGov Online Conservative Party members
6 Jul 2018 The UK Cabinet agrees the Chequers statement, setting out a proposal on the future UK-EU relationship.[394]
3-4 Jul 2018 41% 46% 13% 5% 1,641 YouGov Online
25-26 Jun 2018 43% 46% 11% 3% 1,645 YouGov Online
19-20 Jun 2018 44% 45% 11% 1% 1,663 YouGov Online
18-19 Jun 2018 43% 44% 13% 1% 1,606 YouGov Online
11-12 Jun 2018 43% 46% 12% 3% 1,638 YouGov Online
4-5 Jun 2018 44% 44% 13% 0% 1,619 YouGov Online
28-29 May 2018 40% 47% 13% 7% 1,670 YouGov Online
20-21 May 2018 43% 44% 13% 1% 1,660 YouGov Online
13-14 May 2018 44% 45% 12% 1% 1,634 YouGov Online
8-9 May 2018 43% 45% 12% 2% 1,648 YouGov Online
30 Apr-1 May 2018 42% 47% 11% 5% 1,585 YouGov Online
24-25 Apr 2018 42% 45% 13% 3% 1,668 YouGov Online
16-17 Apr 2018 42% 45% 13% 3% 1,631 YouGov Online
9-10 Apr 2018 42% 46% 12% 4% 1,639 YouGov Online
26-27 Mar 2018 42% 45% 13% 3% 1,659 YouGov Online
5-6 Mar 2018 43% 45% 12% 2% 1,641 YouGov Online
2 Mar 2018 Theresa May makes Mansion House speech, outlining the UK Government's policy on the future UK-EU relationship.[395]
26-27 Feb 2018 44% 45% 11% 1% 1,622 YouGov Online
19-20 Feb 2018 42% 45% 12% 3% 1,650 YouGov Online
12-13 Feb 2018 42% 46% 12% 4% 1,639 YouGov Online
5-6 Feb 2018 43% 44% 13% 1% 2,000 YouGov Online
28-29 Jan 2018 40% 46% 14% 6% 1,669 YouGov Online
16-17 Jan 2018 45% 44% 12% 1% 1,672 YouGov Online
7-8 Jan 2018 42% 46% 12% 4% 1,663 YouGov Online
19-20 Dec 2017 42% 45% 12% 3% 1,610 YouGov Online
15 Dec 2017 The European Council decides to proceed to the second phase of the Brexit negotiations.[396]
10-11 Dec 2017 44% 45% 11% 1% 1,680 YouGov Online
4-5 Dec 2017 42% 45% 13% 3% 1,638 YouGov Online
7-8 Nov 2017 42% 46% 12% 4% 2,012 YouGov Online
23-24 Oct 2017 43% 45% 12% 2% 1,637 YouGov Online
18-19 Oct 2017 42% 45% 14% 3% 1,648 YouGov Online
10-11 Oct 2017 42% 47% 11% 5% 1,680 YouGov Online
22-24 Sep 2017 44% 45% 11% 1% 1,716 YouGov Online
22 Sep 2017 Theresa May makes Florence speech, in an attempt to 'unblock' the Brexit negotiations.[397]
30-31 Aug 2017 44% 44% 12% 0% 1,658 YouGov Online
21-22 Aug 2017 43% 45% 11% 2% 1,664 YouGov Online
31 Jul-1 Aug 2017 45% 45% 10% 0% 1,665 YouGov Online
18-19 Jul 2017 43% 43% 14% 0% 1,593 YouGov Online
10-11 Jul 2017 45% 43% 12% 2% 1,700 YouGov Online
21-22 Jun 2017 44% 45% 11% 1% 1,670 YouGov Online
19 Jun 2017 Brexit negotiations begin.[398]
12-13 Jun 2017 44% 45% 11% 1% 1,651 YouGov Online
8 Jun 2017 United Kingdom general election, 2017
5-7 Jun 2017 45% 45% 10% 0% 2,130 YouGov Online
30-31 May 2017 44% 45% 11% 1% 1,875 YouGov Online
24-25 May 2017 46% 43% 11% 3% 2,052 YouGov Online
16-17 May 2017 46% 43% 11% 3% 1,861 YouGov Online
3-14 May 2017 45% 41% 14% 4% 1,952 GfK Online
9-10 May 2017 44% 45% 11% 1% 1,651 YouGov Online
2-3 May 2017 46% 43% 11% 3% 2,066 YouGov Online
25-26 Apr 2017 43% 45% 12% 2% 1,590 YouGov Online
20-21 Apr 2017 44% 44% 12% 0% 1,590 YouGov Online
18-19 Apr 2017 46% 43% 11% 3% 1,727 YouGov Online
12-13 Apr 2017 45% 43% 12% 2% 2,069 YouGov Online
5-6 Apr 2017 46% 42% 11% 4% 1,651 YouGov Online
29 Mar 2017 The United Kingdom invokes Article 50.[399]
26-27 Mar 2017 44% 43% 13% 1% 1,957 YouGov Online
20-21 Mar 2017 44% 44% 12% 0% 1,627 YouGov Online
1-15 Mar 2017 46% 41% 13% 5% 1,938 GfK Online
13-14 Mar 2017 44% 42% 15% 2% 1,631 YouGov Online
10-14 Mar 2017 49% 41% 10% 8% 2,003 Opinium Online
27-28 Feb 2017 45% 44% 11% 1% 1,666 YouGov Online
21-22 Feb 2017 45% 45% 10% 0% 2,060 YouGov Online
12-13 Feb 2017 46% 42% 12% 4% 2,052 YouGov Online
30-31 Jan 2017 45% 42% 12% 3% 1,705 YouGov Online
17-18 Jan 2017 46% 42% 12% 4% 1,654 YouGov Online
17 Jan 2017 Theresa May makes Lancaster House speech, setting out the UK Government's negotiating priorities.[400]
9-12 Jan 2017 52% 39% 9% 13% 2,005 Opinium Online
9-10 Jan 2017 46% 42% 12% 4% 1,660 YouGov Online
3-4 Jan 2017 45% 44% 11% 1% 1,740 YouGov Online
18-19 Dec 2016 44% 44% 12% 0% 1,595 YouGov Online
4-5 Dec 2016 44% 42% 14% 2% 1,667 YouGov Online
28-29 Nov 2016 44% 45% 11% 1% 1,624 YouGov Online
14-15 Nov 2016 46% 43% 11% 3% 1,717 YouGov Online
19-20 Oct 2016 45% 44% 11% 1% 1,608 YouGov Online
11-12 Oct 2016 45% 44% 11% 1% 1,669 YouGov Online
2 Oct 2016 Theresa May makes Conservative Party Conference speech, announcing her intention to invoke Article 50 by 31 March 2017.[401]
13-14 Sep 2016 46% 44% 10% 2% 1,732 YouGov Online
30-31 Aug 2016 47% 44% 9% 3% 1,687 YouGov Online
22-23 Aug 2016 45% 43% 12% 2% 1,660 YouGov Online
16-17 Aug 2016 46% 43% 11% 3% 1,677 YouGov Online
8-9 Aug 2016 45% 44% 12% 1% 1,692 YouGov Online
1-2 Aug 2016 46% 42% 12% 4% 1,722 YouGov Online
13 Jul 2016 Theresa May becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.[402]

Cultural references

Visual arts

Anti-Brexit protesters in Manchester
Düsseldorf carnival parade in February 2018

The response of artists and writers to Brexit has in general been negative, reflecting a reported overwhelming percentage of people involved in Britain's creative industries voting against leaving the European Union.[403]

Responses by visual artists to Brexit include a mural, painted in May 2017, by the secretive graffiti artist Banksy near the ferry port at Dover in southern England. It shows a workman using a chisel to chip off one of the stars on the European Union Flag.[404]

In his 2017 art exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London, the artist Grayson Perry showed a series of ceramic, tapestry and other works of art dealing with the divisions in Britain during the Brexit campaign and in its aftermath. This included two large ceramic pots, Perry called his Brexit Vases, standing on plinths ten feet apart, on the first of which were scenes involving pro-European British citizens, and on the second scenes involving anti-European British citizens. These were derived from what Perry called his "Brexit tour of Britain."[405]


In Daphne du Maurier's 1972 novel Rule Britannia the UK is brought to the brink of bankruptcy after withdrawal from the EEC.[406]

Ali Smith's 2016 novel Autumn has been described by the Financial Times as the first serious Brexit novel.[407]

One of the first novels to engage with a post-Brexit Britain was Rabbitman by Michael Paraskos (published 9 March 2017). Rabbitman is a dark comic fantasy in which the events that lead to the election of a right-wing populist American president, who happens also to be a rabbit, and Britain's vote to leave the European Union, were the result of a series of Faustian pacts with the Devil. As a result, Rabbitman is set partly in a post-Brexit Britain in which society has collapsed and people are dependent on European Union food aid.[408]

Mark Billingham's Love Like Blood (published 1 June 2017) is a crime thriller in which Brexit sees a rise in xenophobic hate crime.[409] In the novel The Remains of the Way (published 6 June 2017), David Boyle imagines Brexit was a conspiracy led by a forgotten government quango, still working away in Whitehall, originally set up by Thomas Cromwell in the sixteenth century during the reign of King Henry VIII, and now dedicated to a Protestant Brexit.[410]

Post-Brexit Britain is also the setting for Amanda Craig's The Lie of the Land (published 13 June 2017), a satirical novel set ten years after the vote to leave the European Union, in which an impoverished middle class couple from Islington in north London are forced to move from the heart of the pro-European Union capital, to the heart of the pro-Brexit countryside in Devon.[411]

Brexit is also the baseline for Douglas Board's comic political thriller Time of Lies (published 23 June 2017). In this novel, the first post-Brexit general election in 2020 is won by a violent right-wing former football hooligan called Bob Grant. Board charts the response to this of the hitherto pro-European Union metropolitan political elite.[412]

Stanley Johnson's Kompromat (scheduled for July 2017) is a political thriller that suggests the vote to leave the European Union was a result of Russian influence on the referendum, although Johnson has insisted his book is not intended to point the finger at Russia's secret services, but is "just meant to be fun."[413]


In June 2017, the National Theatre in London presented a play by Carol Ann Duffy, entitled My Country; a work in progress. An allegorical work, the play uses the device of a convention called by the goddess Britannia, who is concerned about the future of the British people.[414] The play differs from some artistic responses in that Duffy and the National Theatre-based the attitudes of the characters in part on the responses of ordinary people in interviews that were conducted by the regional offices of the UK Arts Councils, but excluding responses from London and the south-east of England, where most people voted not to leave the EU. As a result, according to Dominic Cavendish, writing in The Daily Telegraph, "the bias is towards the Leave camp".[415]


In 2016, the television director Martin Durkin wrote and directed an 81-minute long documentary film titled Brexit: The Movie, which advocated with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The film was produced by the production company Wag TV with a budget of £300,000.[416] The production costs were sourced primarily through crowdfunding via Kickstarter alongside a £50,000 contribution from the hedge fund Spitfire Capital. In May 2016 the film premiered in Leicester Square, with notable figures such as Nigel Farage and David Davis (who later became Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union) in attendance.

A documentary film was released in 2018, called Postcards from the 48%, which is described on the film's website as: "A documentary film made by and featuring those who voted Remain, the 48%, to show the other 27 EU Member States that it was far from a landslide victory and just why we are fighting to stay part of the EU."[417] A review on Shadows on the Wall[418] wrote: "This is a comprehensive, factual exploration of the issue, grappling with the referendum, its ramifications and the way the split vote has fractured British society."[419]

A television drama film written by James Graham and directed by Toby Haynes, named Brexit: The Uncivil War (simply Brexit in the US), was released in January 2019.[420] It depicts the lead-up to the 2016 referendum through the activities of the strategists behind the Vote Leave campaign, that prompted the United Kingdom to exit the European Union.[421] It aired on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom on 7 January, and aired on HBO in the United States on 19 January.[422] Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Dominic Cummings, the Campaign Director of the official designated Brexit-supporting group, Vote Leave.[423]

Establishment of pro-European political organisations

Following the Brexit vote, there have been several attempts to set up a new pro-European political party.[424][425] Examples include 'The Democrats' (a proposal by former Daily Mail political editor James Chapman), 'The Radicals' (proposed by Jeremy Cliffe, former Berlin bureau chief of The Economist), the Renew Britain party,[425] the Advance Together party and United for Change. So far, none of these parties have had any candidates elected.

In 2017, newly elected Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable criticised 'pop up' anti-Brexit parties formed following the 2016 referendum, saying of those groups' policies " is the kind of ideology-free, technocratic, authoritarian centrism that would be more at home in, say, Singapore" and "Voters beware."[426]

See also



  1. Gifford, Chris. The Making of Eurosceptic Britain. Ashgate Publishing, 2014. pp.55, 68
  2. 1 2 3 Foster, Anthony. Euroscepticism in Contemporary British Politics: Opposition to Europe in the Conservative and Labour Parties since 1945. Routledge, 2003. pp.68-69
  3. Taylor, Graham. Understanding Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union. Emerald Group Publishing, 2017. p.91. Quote: "The coalition that came together to secure Brexit, however, included a diverse range of individuals, groups and interests. […] There were also supporters of Brexit on the left..."
  4. European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, section 20. This will be midnight Central European Time.
  5. "Brexit countdown".
  6. "UK government's preparations for a 'no deal' scenario". Department for Exiting the European Union. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  7. "UK confirms it will leave customs union". 2 February 2017.
  8. Wilkinson, Michael (17 January 2017). "Theresa May confirms Britain will leave Single Market as she sets out 12-point Brexit plan". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  9. "Brexit: PM to trigger Article 50 by end of March". BBC News. 2 October 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
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