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Brexit (/ˈbrɛksɪt/ or /ˈbrɛɡzɪt/) is the popular term for the prospective withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU).[1]

In a referendum on 23 June 2016, 51.9% of the participating UK electorate (the turnout was 72.2%[2] of the electorate) voted to leave the EU. On 29 March 2017, the British government invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union. The UK is thus on course to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.[3]

Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the UK would not seek permanent membership of the single market or the customs union after leaving the EU[4][5] and promised to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972 and incorporate existing European Union law into UK domestic law.[6] Negotiations with the EU officially started in June 2017.

The UK joined the European Communities (EC) in 1973,[7][8] with membership confirmed by a referendum in 1975. In the 1970s and 1980s, withdrawal from the EC was advocated mainly by Labour Party members and trade union figures. From the 1990s, the main advocates of withdrawal were the newly founded UK Independence Party (UKIP) and an increasing number of Eurosceptic Conservative Party members.

Contents

Terminology

Brexit (like its early variant, Brixit)[9] is a portmanteau of "British" and "exit". It was derived by analogy from Grexit, referring to a hypothetical withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone (and possibly also the EU).[10][11] The term Brexit may have first been used in reference to a possible UK withdrawal from the EU by Peter Wilding, in a Euractiv blog post on 15 May 2012 (given as the first attestation in the Oxford English Dictionary).[12][13][11]

The terms "hard Brexit" and "soft Brexit" are much used unofficially in terms of the process, but commonly by news media,[14] and are understood to describe the prospective relationship between the UK and the EU after withdrawal, ranging from hard, that could involve the UK trading with the EU like any other non-EU-member country under World Trade Organization rules but with no obligation to accept free movement of people, to soft, that might involve retaining membership of the EU single market for goods and services and at least some free movement of people, according to European Economic Area rules.[15]

Those supporting Brexit are sometimes referred to as "Brexiteers", or "Leavers", whereas those still opposed are referred to as "Remainers". [16] The pejorative term "Remoaners" is used as a derogatory slur by eurosceptics.[17]

Background

In 1951 the "Inner Six" European countries signed the Treaty of Paris establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), followed shortly by 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 applied to join in 1963 and 1967, but was vetoed by the French President, Charles de Gaulle.[18] 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,[19] Parliament passed the European Communities Act later in the year[20] and the UK became a member of the EC on 1 January 1973 with Denmark and Ireland.[21]

The opposition Labour Party contested the October 1974 general election with a commitment to renegotiate Britain's terms of membership of the EC and then hold a referendum on whether to remain in the EC on the new terms.[22] After Labour won the election the United Kingdom held its first ever national referendum on whether the UK should remain in the European Communities in 1975. Despite significant division within the ruling Labour Party[23] all major political parties and the mainstream press supported continuing membership of the EC. On 5 June 1975, 67.2% of the electorate and all but two[24] UK counties and regions voted to stay in[25] and support for the UK to leave the EC in 1975 appears unrelated to the support for Leave in the 2016 referendum.[26]

 
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[27] although after a heavy defeat Labour changed its policy.[27] 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 ("Black Wednesday").[28]

Under the Maastricht Treaty, the European Communities became the European Union on 1 November 1993,[29] reflecting the evolution of the organisation from an economic union into a political union.[30]

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 whether the EU should be a "superstate" or "association of nations".[31] It fielded candidates in 547 constituencies at that election, and won 810,860 votes or 2.6% of the total votes cast,[32] although it failed to win a single parliamentary seat due to its 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% of the total vote. This was the first time since the 1910 general election that any party other than the Labour or Conservative parties had taken the largest share of the vote in a nationwide election.[33] UKIP's electoral success in the 2014 European election has been documented as the strongest correlate of the support for the leave campaign in the 2016 referendum.[34]

In 2014 UKIP won two by-elections, triggered by defecting Conservative MPs, and in the 2015 general election took 12.6% of the total vote and held one of the two seats won in 2014.[35]

Opinion polls 1977–2015

Since 1977 both pro- and anti-European views have had majority support at different times.[36] In the United Kingdom 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 show an increase in euroscepticism from 38% (1993) to 65% (2015). Euroscepticism should however not be confused with the wish to leave the EU: the BSA survey for the period July–November 2015 shows that 60% backed the option "continue as an EU member", and only 30% backed the option to "withdraw".[37]

Referendum of 2016

Negotiations for EU reform

In 2012 Prime Minister David Cameron rejected calls for a referendum on the UK's EU membership, but suggested the possibility of a future referendum to gauge public support.[38][39] According to the BBC, "The prime minister acknowledged the need to ensure the UK's position within the European Union had 'the full-hearted support of the British people' but they needed to show 'tactical and strategic patience'."[40]

Under pressure from many of his MPs and from the rise of UKIP, in January 2013, Cameron announced that a Conservative government would hold an in–out referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017, on a renegotiated package, if elected in 2015.[41]

The Conservative Party unexpectedly won the 2015 general 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.[42]

In December 2015 opinion polls showed a clear majority in favour of remaining in the EU, although support would drop if David Cameron did not negotiate adequate safeguards for non-eurozone member states and restriction on benefits for EU citizens.[43]

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.[44]

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.[45] 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."[46]

Campaign groups

The official campaign group for leaving the EU was Vote Leave[47] after a contest for the designation with Leave.EU.[48][49]

 
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 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,[50] Labour in for Britain,[51] #INtogether (Liberal Democrats),[52] Greens for a Better Europe,[53] Scientists for EU,[54] Environmentalists For Europe,[55] Universities for Europe[56] and Another Europe is Possible.[57]

Referendum result

The result was announced on the morning of 24 June: 51.9% voted in favour of leaving the European Union, and 48.1% voted in favour of remaining a member of the European Union.[58][59] 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,[60][61] but was rejected by the government on 9 July.[62]

United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016
National result
Choice Votes  %
Leave the European Union 17,410,742 51.89%
Remain a member of the European Union 16,141,241 48.11%
Valid votes 33,551,983 99.92%
Invalid or blank votes 25,359 0.08%
Total votes 33,577,342 100.00%
Registered voters and turnout 46,500,001 72.21%
Voting age population and turnout 51,356,768 65.38%
Source: Electoral Commission
Referendum results (without spoiled ballots)
Leave:
17,410,742 (51.9%)
Remain:
16,141,241 (48.1%)
Results by region (left) and by local council district (GB) & UK Parliament constituency (NI) (right)
  Leave
  Remain

Political effects

After the result was declared, Cameron announced that he would resign by October.[63] 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.[64]

Outside the UK many Eurosceptic leaders celebrated the result and expected others to follow the UK's example. The right-wing Dutch populist Geert Wilders said that the Netherlands should follow Britain's example and hold a referendum on whether the Netherlands should stay in the European Union.[65] However, opinion polls in the fortnight following the British referendum show that the immediate reaction in the Netherlands and other European countries was a decline in support for Eurosceptic movements.[66]

Multiple allegations of Russian interference in the Brexit referendum, as well as unlawful donations by Saudi Arabia, have been made since the vote.[67]

Procedure for leaving the EU

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 and there is a negotiation period of up to two years, after which the treaties cease to apply. Thus, the UK is set to leave by April 2019.[68] Although terms of leaving may be agreed,[69] aspects such as trade may be difficult to negotiate until the UK has left the EU.[70]

Although the 2015 Referendum Act did not expressly require Article 50 to be invoked,[71] the UK government stated that it would expect a leave vote to be followed by withdrawal[72][73] despite government refusal to make contingency plans.[74] Following the referendum result, Cameron resigned and said that it would be for the incoming Prime Minister to invoke Article 50.[75][76]

 
Letter from Theresa May invoking Article 50

The Supreme Court ruled in the Miller case in January 2017 that the government needed parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50.[77][78] After the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted, on 1 February 2017, for the government's bill authorising the prime minister to invoke Article 50,[79] the bill passed into law as the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017. Theresa May signed the 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.[80][81][82]

Constitutional validity/sufficiency of the notification

A view has been expressed by some legal thinkers, political actors and journalists that the triggering of Article 50 was on a legal basis technically flawed, with legislation failing to explicitly seek a decision of the UK Parliament.[83][84] However, on 1st February 2017 four hundred and ninety eight MP's, (the vast majority) voted in favour to give the British Prime Minister the power to trigger Article 50.[85][86]

Reversibility

Whilst most leading politicians and legal experts agree that the Article 50 withdrawal process can be halted, it is unclear whether this may be done unilaterally by the UK government. The EU Commission[87] and the European Parliament Brexit committee[88] have said that reversal has to be agreed by the other EU countries while its author Lord Kerr has asserted that the Article 50 notification is reversible unilaterally.[89]

Date of Brexit

Both parties to the withdrawal negotiation are bound by Article 50 (3), 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. The European Union's Directives for the negotiation of an agreement notes that "The Agreement should set a withdrawal date which is at the latest 30 March 2019 at 00:00 (Brussels time)," —i.e. Central European Time— "unless the European Council, in agreement with the United Kingdom, unanimously decides to extend this period in accordance with Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union."[90] The UK government does not mention a date, but states in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill that " 'exit day' means such day as a Minister of the Crown may by regulations appoint".[91] If no time is specified, it is "the beginning of that day".[92]

Negotiations

Timing

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).[93][94][95] The first day of talks was 19 June.[94]

History

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.[96][97] 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.[98][99]

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.[100] Despite initial approval from a majority of EU states, May's proposal was blocked by Tusk and Merkel.[101]

In January 2017 the Prime Minister presented 12 negotiating objectives and confirmed that the UK government would not seek permanent single market membership.[102] The European Parliament's lead negotiator Guy Verhofstadt responded that there could be no "cherry-picking" by the UK in the talks.[103]

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 Organisation terms, and a weakening of the UK's cooperation 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.[104] In response, Merkel insisted that the EU would not discuss future cooperation 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 block was a "choice they will regret one day".[105]

On 29 April 2017, immediately after the first round of French presidential elections, the EU27 heads of state accepted negotiating guidelines prepared by Tusk.[106] 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.[107] In the first phase, the EU27 would demand the UK pay a "divorce bill", initially estimated as amounting to £52bn and then, after additional financial demands from Germany, France, and Poland, to £92bn.[108] 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.[109]

On 22 May 2017, the European Council authorised its negotiators to start the Brexit talks and it adopted its negotiating directives.[110] The first day of talks took place on 19 June, where Davis and Barnier 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.[111]

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 living in the UK for more than 5 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.[112] The Prime Minister detailed her residency proposals on 26 June, but drew no concessions from EU negotiators,[113] who had declined to expedite agreement on expatriates by the end of June 2017,[114] 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.[115][116]

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.[117] 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,[118] rejecting the compromise proposal of a new international body made up of British and EU judges.[119]

On 16 August 2017, the UK government disclosed the first of several papers detailing British ambitions following Brexit, discussing trade and customs arrangements.[120] 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.[121] 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.[122]

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.[123] 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. [124]

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.[125] 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.[126]

On 22 September 2017, May announced further details of her Brexit proposal.[127][128] In addition to offering 20 billion euros over a two-year transition period and continued acceptance of European immigrants,[129] 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.[128][127] She also confirmed that the UK would not "stand in the way" of Juncker's proposals for further EU integration.[128][127] Barnier welcomed May's proposal as "constructive,"[130] but that it also "must be translated into negotiating positions to make meaningful progress".[130] 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.[131]

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.[132][133]

At the forthcoming European Council meeting on 19/20 October 2017, the 27 leaders of the EU states will decide whether or not to start trade negotiations with the UK.[134] 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.[135]

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.[130]

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.[136]

Post-Article 50 legislation

European Union (Withdrawal) bill

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.[137] The bill will not come into force until the date of exit, and aims to smooth the transition by ensuring that all laws remain in force until specifically repealed.[138] The bill has raised constitutional issues regarding the devolution settlements with the UK nations, particularly in Scotland.[139]

On 12 September, the bill passed its first vote and second reading by a margin of 326 votes to 290 votes in the House of Commons.[140]

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.[141] 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.[142]

The House of Lords continued to publish a series of reports on Brexit related subjects including:

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.[143]

Consequences of withdrawal for the United Kingdom

Immigration

Long term

Immigration was cited as the second-most important reason for those voting to Leave. However, some forecasts indicate that immigration flows to the UK will remain relatively high after Brexit.[144] KPMG - based on a survey of 2,000 EU workers in UK - estimates that about a million of EU citizens working in the UK, see their future in Britain as over or hanging in the balance[145].

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.[146] The number of EU nurses registering with the NHS fell from 1,304 in July 2016 to 46 in April 2017.[147]

Economic effects

During the referendum, the economic arguments were a major area of debate. Most economists, including the UK Treasury, argued 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.[148][149] Others argued for the benefits of being free of EU "red tape" regulations and from going the full route of complete free trade. Additionally, not contributing to the EU budget would improve the budget and allowing tax cuts or higher government spending.[150]

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 didn't retain Single Market membership, with new trade deals unable to make up the difference.[151] One of these areas is financial services, which are helped by EU-wide "passporting" for financial products, which the Financial Times estimates indirectly accounts for up to 71,000 jobs and 10 billion pounds of tax annually,[152] and some banks have announced plans to relocate some of their operations outside the UK.[153]

On 5 January 2017, Andy Haldane, the Chief Economist and the Executive Director of Monetary Analysis and Statistics at the Bank of England, admitted that forecasts predicting an economic downturn due to the referendum were inaccurate and noted strong market performance after the referendum,[154][155][156] although some have pointed to prices rising faster than wages.[157]

Brexit requires relocating the offices and staff of the European Medicines Agency and European Banking Authority, currently based in London.[158] The EU is also investigating the feasibility of restricting the clearing of euro-denominated trades to eurozone jurisdictions, attempting to end London's dominance in this sector.[159]

Effect on academic research

The UK received more from the EU for research than it contributed[160] with universities getting just over 10% of their research income from the EU.[161] All funding for net beneficiaries from the EU, including universities, was guaranteed by the government in August 2016.[162] Before the funding announcement, a newspaper investigation reported that some research projects were reluctant to include British researchers due to uncertainties over funding.[163]

Currently the UK is part of the European Research Area and the UK is likely to wish to remain an associated member.[164]

Scotland

As predicted before the referendum,[165] the Scottish Government announced that officials were planning a second independence referendum on the day after the UK voted to leave and Scotland voted to stay.[166] In March 2017, the SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon requested a second Scottish independence referendum for 2018 to 2019 (before Brexit is expected to take effect).[167] The Prime Minister immediately rejected the requested timing (although not the referendum itself).[168] The referendum was approved by the Scottish Parliament on 28 March 2017. Sturgeon is calling for a "phased return" of an independent Scotland back to the EU.[169]

After the referendum, Nicola Sturgeon also stated that Scotland might refuse consent for legislation required to leave the EU,[170] though some lawyers argue that Scotland cannot block Brexit.[171]

International agreements

The Financial Times approximates there to be 759 international agreements, spanning 168 non-EU countries, that the UK would no longer be a party to upon leaving the EU.[172] This figure does not include World Trade Organisation or United Nations opt-in accords, and excludes "narrow agreements", which may have to be renegotiated as well.[172]

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,[173] negotiating deep bilateral agreements on the Swiss model,[173] 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.

Relations with the Republic of Ireland

 
The UK/Republic of Ireland border at Killeen marked only by a speed sign marked in km/h

The Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom as a whole share, since the 1920s, a Common Travel Area without border controls. According to statements by Theresa May and Enda Kenny, it is intended to maintain this arrangement.[174] After Brexit, in order to prevent illegal migration across the open Northern Irish land border into the United Kingdom, the UK and Irish governments suggested in October 2016 a plan whereby British border controls would be applied to Irish ports and airports. This would prevent a "hard border" arising between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.[175] However, this agreement was never official and was met by opposition from political parties in the Republic of Ireland,[176] and there is still great uncertainty in relation to a "hard border" between the Republic and Northern Ireland.[177]

On 23 March 2017, it was confirmed that British immigration officials would not be allowed to use Irish ports and airports in order to combat immigration concerns following Brexit.[178] A referendum for the reunification of Ireland was suggested by Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness immediately after the UK EU referendum results were announced.[179] Creating a border control system between Ireland and Northern Ireland could jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement established in 1998.[180] In April 2017 the European Council agreed that, in the event of Irish reunification, Northern Ireland would rejoin the EU.[181]

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.[182] 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.[183]

After the Brexit vote, Xavier Bertrand asked François Hollande to renegotiate the Touquet agreement,[184] which can be terminated by either party with two years' notice.[185] 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."[186]

Gibraltar and Spain

During the campaign leading up to the referendum[187] the Chief Minister of Gibraltar warned that Brexit posed a threat to Gibraltar's safety.[188] Gibraltar overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU. After the result Spain's Foreign Minister renewed calls for joint Spanish–British control of the peninsula.[189] These calls were strongly rebuffed by Gibraltar's Chief Minister[190] and questions were raised over the future of free-flowing traffic at the Gibraltar–Spain border.[191] The UK government states it will only negotiate on the sovereignty of Gibraltar with the consent of its people.[192]

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.[193] 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.

According to the Lisbon Treaty (2009), Council of the EU decisions made by qualified majority voting can only be blocked if at least four members of the Council form a blocking minority. This rule was originally developed to prevent the three most populous members (Germany, France, Britain) from dominating the Council of the EU.[194] However, after a Brexit of the economically liberal British, the Germans and like-minded northern European countries (the Irish, Dutch, Scandinavians and Baltic states) would lose an ally and therefore also their blocking minority.[195] Without this blocking minority, other EU states could overrule Germany and its allies in questions of EU budget discipline or the recruitment of German banks to guarantee deposits in troubled southern European banks.[196]

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.[197] 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).[198]

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.[199]

Council of the European Union

The departure of the UK is expected to have a major effect on the EU. In many policy votes Britain had allied with the relatively more economically liberal Germany who together with other northern EU allies had a blocking minority of 35% in the Council of the European Union. The exit of the UK from the European Union means that this blocking minority can no longer be assembled leading to speculation that it could enable the other EU countries to enforce specific proposals such as relaxing EU budget discipline or providing EU-wide deposit guarantees within the banking union.[200][196]

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.[201]

The EU will need to decide on the revised apportionment of seats in the European Parliament in time for the next European Parliament election, expected to be held in June 2019, 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.[202][203]

Legal system

The UK's exit from the European Union will leave the Republic of 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.[204] 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.[205]

Fishing

The combined EU fishing fleets land about 6 million tonnes of fish per year,[206] of which about 3 million tonnes are from UK waters.[207] The UK’s share of the overall EU fishing catch is only 750,000 tonnes (830,000 tons).[208] 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.[209]

Public opinion and comment

Public comment up to February 2017 UK white paper

Various EU leaders have said that they will 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.[210] 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.[211] 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."[212] 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."[213]

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".[214]

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."[215]

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 has plans to recruit more people. Nick Clegg said the figures showed the Civil Service was unprepared for the very complex negotiations ahead.[216]

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.[217] It employs about 200 trade negotiators[218] 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 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.[219]

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.[220]

Public comment pre- and post-Article 50 notification

EU negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament's chief negotiator has 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”.[221]

An EU meeting to discuss Brexit has been called for 29 April, Donald Tusk stating that the "priority would be giving "clarity" to EU residents, business and member states about the talks ahead". Michel Barnier, European Chief Negotiator for Brexit, has 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.[222]

Sinn Féin has called for a referendum to create a united Ireland, following the Northern Ireland majority decision (56% to 44%) to vote no to Brexit and the 2 March election to the Northern Ireland Assembly wherein Sinn Féin increased its number of seats.[223]

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.[224][225]

Post-referendum opinion polling

Following the EU referendum, there have been several 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
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.[226]
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.[227]
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.[228]
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.[229]
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.[102]
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.[230]


There have also been opinion polls on the question of how people would vote in a second referendum on the same question. The results of these polls are shown in the table below.

Date(s) conducted Remain Leave Neither Lead Sample Conducted by Polling type Notes
19-22 Sep 2017 45% 44% 12% 1% 2,004 Opinium Online
12-15 Sep 2017 47% 43% 10% 4% 1,447 BMG Research Online
12-15 Sep 2017 45% 45% 10% 0% 2,009 Opinium Online
15-18 Aug 2017 47% 44% 9% 3% 2,006 Opinium Online
23-24 Jul 2017 46% 43% 11% 3% 1,609 YouGov Online
14-15 Jul 2017 47% 48% 5% 1% 1,024 Survation Online
28-30 Jun 2017 51% 44% 6% 8% 1,017 Survation Telephone
23-30 Jun 2017 46% 42% 13% 4% 1,661 YouGov Online
16-21 Jun 2017 46% 50% 4% 4% 5,481 Panelbase Online
19 Jun 2017 Brexit negotiations begin.[231]
17 Jun 2017 50% 47% 3% 3% 1,005 Survation Online
10 Jun 2017 47% 46% 7% 1% 1,036 Survation Online
8 Jun 2017 United Kingdom general election, 2017
2-7 Jun 2017 46% 51% 3% 5% 3,018 Panelbase Online
26 May-1 Jun 2017 47% 49% 4% 2% 1,224 Panelbase Online
25-30 May 2017 35% 38% 27% 3% 1,199 Kantar TNS Online
12-15 May 2017 47% 50% 3% 3% 1,026 Panelbase Online
5-9 May 2017 47% 49% 4% 2% 1,027 Panelbase Online
28 Apr-2 May 2017 48% 49% 3% 1% 1,034 Panelbase Online
20-24 Apr 2017 46% 50% 4% 4% 1,026 Panelbase Online
23-30 Mar 2017 44% 43% 14% 1% 1,643 YouGov Online
29 Mar 2017 The United Kingdom invokes Article 50.[232]
19-24 Jan 2017 43% 44% 13% 1% 1,643 YouGov Online
17 Jan 2017 Theresa May makes Lancaster House speech, setting out the UK Government's negotiating priorities.[233]
14-21 Dec 2016 44% 43% 13% 1% 1,569 YouGov Online
25-27 Nov 2016 46% 47% 6% 1% 2,035 ComRes Online
20-25 Oct 2016 44% 43% 13% 1% 1,631 YouGov Online
19-24 Oct 2016 45% 43% 12% 2% 1,546 BMG Research Online
10-12 Oct 2016 44% 44% 12% 0% 1,002 Survation Online
2 Oct 2016 Theresa May makes Conservative Party Conference speech, announcing her intention to invoke Article 50 by 31 March 2017.[102]
16-20 Sep 2016 42% 46% 11% 4% 1,601 YouGov Online
31 Aug-9 Sep 2016 43% 45% 13% 2% 1,711 YouGov Online
20-27 Jul 2016 43% 44% 13% 1% 1,673 YouGov Online
13 Jul 2016 Theresa May becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.[234]
3-4 Jul 2016 45% 45% 10% 0% 1,820 YouGov Online
29-30 Jun 2016 48% 42% 9% 6% 2,006 Opinium Online
29-30 Jun 2016 45% 37% 19% 8% 1,017 BMG Research Online
23 Jun 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016


In July 2017, LSE/Opinium research indicated that 60% of Britons wanted to retain EU citizenship after Brexit.[235]

Cultural responses to the referendum vote

Brexit in the visual arts

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.[236]

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.[237]

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."[238]

Brexit in novels

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.[239]

Mark Billingham’s Love Like Blood (published 1 June 2017) is a crime thriller in which Brexit sees a rise in xenophobic hate crime.[240] 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.[241]

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.[242]

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.[243]

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."[244]

Brexit in theatre

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.[245] 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".[246]

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Further reading

External links