Brexit is a word that is used as a shorthand way of saying the UK leaving the EU – merging the words Britain and exit to get Brexit.
A referendum is a vote in which everyone of voting age can take part – was held on Thursday 23 June, 2016, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. Leave won by 51.9% to 48.1%. The referendum turnout was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting.
England voted for Brexit, by 53.4% to 46.6%. Wales also voted for Brexit, with Leave getting 52.5% of the vote and Remain 47.5%. Scotland and Northern Ireland both backed staying in the EU. Scotland backed Remain by 62% to 38%, while 55.8% in Northern Ireland voted Remain and 44.2% Leave.For the UK to leave the EU it had to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which gives the two sides two years to agree the terms of the split. Theresa May triggered this process on 29 March, 2017, meaning the UK is scheduled to leave at 11pm UK time on Friday, 29 March 2019. It can be extended if all 28 EU members agree, but at the moment all sides are focusing on that date as being the key one, and Theresa May has now put it into British law.
The UK government and the main UK opposition party both say Brexit will happen. Some groups have been campaigning for Brexit to be halted, but the focus among the UK’s elected politicians has been on what relationship the UK has with the EU after Brexit, rather than whether Brexit will happen at all. Nothing is ever certain, but as things stand Britain is leaving the European Union.
After months of negotiation, the UK and EU have come up with a draft withdrawal agreement. This covers how much money the UK owes the EU – an estimated £39bn – what happens to the Northern Ireland border and what happens to UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK.
It additionally proposes a method of avoiding the return of a physical Northern Ireland border. A separate and much shorter draft statement on future relations has also been agreed. To buy more time, the two sides have agreed on a 21-month “transition” period to smooth the way to post-Brexit relations.
The UK cabinet agreed the text on 14 November, but there were two resignations, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and there has been talk of Brexiteer MPs hoping to force a confidence vote on Theresa May. Assuming that doesn’t happen, there is an EU summit planned for Sunday 25 November to agree a final version. It would then be up to the UK parliament and EU member states to each ratify the agreement, before Brexit day next which will be in March next year.