From the shock Brexit referendum result to this week’s crunch votes in parliament, here are the milestones on the UK’s rocky road out of the European Union after 46 years.
– Britain votes to leave – In a referendum on June 23, 2016, Britons choose to end their membership of the 28-nation EU by a narrow 52 percent to 48 percent. Conservative prime minister David Cameron, who called the referendum and led the remain campaign, resigns.
– May becomes prime minister –
Theresa May, the remain-backing interior minister, becomes prime minister
on July 13.
On January 17, 2017, May sets out her Brexit strategy, saying Britain will
leave Europe’s single market to allow it to control EU immigration.
“No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal,” she insists.
– Exit process triggered –
On March 13, Britain’s parliament approves a bill empowering May to
trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty which lays out the process for
leaving the union.
With a letter to EU President Donald Tusk formally announcing Britain’s
intention to leave, the government starts a two-year timetable for withdrawal
on March 29, 2019.
– Lost majority –
In a bid to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations, May calls a snap
election for June 8, 2017.
Her gamble backfires, with her Conservatives losing their parliamentary
majority. They are forced to strike a deal for support from Northern
Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.
– First terms agreed –
London and the EU reach an outline agreement on December 8, 2017 on three
key areas: Britain’s financial settlement to the union, citizens’ rights and
the Irish border. EU leaders green-light the next stage of Brexit talks,
including on trade relations after the split.
A bill enacting the decision to leave the EU becomes law on June 26, 2018.
– Top ministers quit –
On July 6, 2018, May wins agreement from her warring cabinet to pursue “a
UK-EU free trade area” and strong alignment with the EU after Brexit.
Two days later, eurosceptic Brexit minister David Davis quits, saying May
is giving “too much away too easily”.
Foreign minister Boris Johnson, another key Brexiteer, follows suit on
– Draft deal agreed –
In November, May’s office says negotiators have reached a draft divorce
agreement with the EU and, after hours of heated debate, her cabinet backs
But four ministers, including new Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, quit in
EU leaders approve the accord within a few weeks. “This is the only deal
possible,” says European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
– Renegotiation attempt –
May’s deal faces intense criticism in parliament over the “backstop”
provision to prevent checks on the Irish border.
On December 10, May postpones a parliament vote on the deal due the
following day, fearing a heavy defeat, but EU leaders reject substantive
– Leadership vote –
On December 12, enough Conservative MPs are unhappy with May’s party
leadership to trigger a confidence vote, but she wins by 200 to 117.
– British MPs reject deal –
Parliament finally votes on the withdrawal agreement on January 15.
With opposition parties and scores of Conservatives opposing it for
various reasons, MPs vote by 432 to 202 against the deal — the worst defeat
for a government in modern British political history.
– Government survives vote –
Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn calls a vote of no confidence
in the government on January 16.
The government wins by 325 to 306 votes, as May’s Conservatives rally
round. She pledges to work with opposition leaders to find a Brexit
– MPs rally behind amended deal –
On January 29, British MPs vote to send May back to Brussels to
renegotiate the backstop but the EU immediately says the deal is not open to
– Week of decisive votes –
On March 12, British MPs vote by an overwhelming 391 to 242 against the
deal, even after May and Juncker said they agreed “legally binding changes”
to some of the most contentious issues.
A day later, MPs vote to reject a no-deal Brexit. MPs will again vote on
March 14 on whether to ask the EU for an extension to the planned departure
date of March 29.