Six years of disconnection

Although negotiations are going forward, the Brits who are opposed to Brexit continue to protest against the government of Theresa May. (Toby Melville / Reuters)

From the 2016 referendum until the end of the separation process, it could take up to six years

The Brexit referendum was announced in June 2015 and took place one year later, on June 26, 2016. However, Brexit began much earlier and will not fully become a reality until 2020, at least.

We review the dates and key stages of an event that has never occurred before in the history of the European Union. 

 

The ‘cooking’ of Brexit 

The economic crisis of 2008 spread all over the globe and affected millions of people. Many people lost their jobs and even their homes, national economies stagnated and, as a result, there were cuts to public services and many types of social assistance were no longer offered.

This bad economic moment explains, in part, the appearance of populist discourses, which take advantage of society’s discontent in order to manipulate public opinion and offer simple solutions to very complex problems.

That is what happened in the years prior to the Brexit referendum. Populist movements and political parties such as UKIP, led by Nigel Farage, appealed to British emotions to convince them that leaving the European Union was the solution.

Historically, the United Kingdom has been a Eurosceptic country, which means that its governments often prioritise national interests over community policies (common policies of member states).

 

Call for the referendum 

The movement for to Brexit was growing and the British government could not ignore it.

On June 26, 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron announced the call for a referendum so the British could express their opinions on the issue: to stay within the European Union or leave?

Cameron belonged to the Conservative Party, in favour of Brexit, although he himself campaigned in favour of staying in the European Union.

On June 23, 2016, the referendum took place and more than 30 million Brits went to vote. It was a close victory: Brexit supporters won with 51.9% of the vote.

Cameron accepted his defeat and resigned. He was succeeded by Theresa May, also from the Conservative Party, who has led the process since then.

Three months after the referendum, on September 16, 2016, the heads of government of the other 27 member states met in Bratislava (Slovakia) to analyse the situation: How would the UK leave the EU? How would the two parties keep collaborating? What regulations and laws will govern from now on?

 

Article 50: disconnection begins

On March 29, 2017, British Prime Minister Theresa May initiates the disconnection process from the EU through Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This step marks the beginning of the negotiations.

For months, negotiators from both sides debate over the new rights and responsibilities of the United Kingdom: the conditions for trading in the single market (the common market of the member states), the rights of European citizens living in British territory, international cooperation…

On November 25, 2018, the leaders of the 27 member states validate the agreement reached between European and British negotiators. Theresa May still needs to have the agreement approved by the British Parliament, but she doesn’t have enough support yet.

If she gets it, on March 29, 2019, a transition period of 21 months will begin (until December 31, 2020). It will finish defining the agreement and the most controversial issues, like the situation of Northern Ireland or Gibraltar (territories under British sovereignty that are beyond Great Britain).

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