voters chose on 23rd June
2016, by a small majority, to take
Britain out of the European Union, some imagined that it
be a quick and simple process. By contrast, experts and politicians
well that extricating the UK from the EU would be long,
difficult and contentious. The word "Brexit" itself meant different
things for different people, even among the leaders of the "Leave"
campaign. For some it just meant liberating the UK from the
Brussels, while continuing a free trade agreement with the EU – the
"soft Brexit" option demanded by industry and the financial sector;
but other Brexiteers were dreaming of a
Brexit", tearing up all agreements with the EU, including those
concerning the "Single market". Since becoming Prime Minister
Theresa May has been trying to satisfy both the hard Brexiteers and the
soft Brexiteers at the same time. It is an impossible task, Brexit
remains undefined, and the Government is divided.
The aim of this page is to provide a clear and
concise chronological record of the main events since the Brexit
June 23rd. This timeline is in reverse-chronological order, with
the latest events at the top of the page.
May - the new British Prime Minister
Supreme Court hears an appeal by the Government against the High
Court's judgement that Parliament must vote on the Government's Brexit
plan before Article 50 can be triggered. If the government loses
its appeal, the start of the Brexit process could be delayed. The
Supreme Court's verdict will be given in January.
a historic by-election result, the Liberal Democrat party, standing on
a resolutely anti-Brexit ticket, overturned a 23,000 Conservative
majority, to take the seat with an 1,800 majority from the former
Conservative and pro-Brexit MP Zac Goldsmith –. a swing of 21.5
points from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats. Goldsmith, a
high-profile and popular MP, had resigned as a Conservative in
protest over plans to expand Heathrow airport, and was standing again
as an independent. He was beaten by the LibDem candidate Sarah
Olney, a complete newcomer to politics.
continues to fall in the UK in spite of the prospect of Brexit. The
jobless rate has fallen to 4.8%, the lowest level since 2005. However
the rate of growth in employment is starting to decline. Figures
from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of people
working in the UK rose by 454,000 in the last 12 months.. but
that less than half of these jobs were taken by people with British
nationality. People in favour of Brexit claim that this shows
how British jobs are being taken by foreign workers; anti-Brexit
campaigners argue that the figures just show that the growth of
Britain's economy is absolutely dependent on the ability of employers
to hire people from the EU and beyond.
Times nespaper publishes a report from the accountancy firm Deloitte
which claims the government is in chaos over Brexit, with major
disagreement in the Cabinet between the "hard" Brexiteers and those
demanding that the UK remains in the European Single Market (which is
more than just the EU).
5th November 2016
Theresa May announces that the British Government will appeal to the
Supreme Court against the ruling by judges in the English High Court of
4th November. The Government claims that it has "sovereign powers" that
allow it to make or break international treaties without first getting
approval from Parliament. The Government's appeal will be
heard in the Supreme Court between 5th and 8th December.
The right-wing British media, and in particular the Daily Mail
newspaper, are vitriolic in their condemnation of the judges
of the High Court. In a full front-page headline, the mail condemns the
judges as "enemies of the people". Theresa May refuses to condemn the
Mail's headlines, claiming "freedom of the press".
Following a very bitter campaign (see Brexit arguments)
The British people vote in a referendum on the question: "Should the
United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the
European Union?". In a result that was totally unexpected, voters
chosose by a small majority, 51.1% to 48.9%, for Britain to leave the
EU. The value of the British Pound loses some 10% on the
currency exchange markets.
A Conservative MP Stephen Phillips resigns from Parliament, saying that
he cannot support Theresa May's position on Brexit. Phillips was
actually one of the minority of Tory (Conservative) MPs who
campaigned in favour of Brexit, but is strongly opposed to the "hard"
Brexit option being envisaged by Mrs. May.
4th November 2016
In one of the most important constitutional conflicts for many years in
Britain, Theresa May's Brexit timetable is put into doubt. Responding
to a complaint lodged by citizens groups, three judges in the English
High Court rule that the government cannot constitutionally trigger
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without being authorised to do so by
3rd October 2016
The Pound falls sharply amid renewed fears that Theresa May could take
the UK out of the European Single Market as well as leaving the EU.
May hastens to reassure the markets that she will obtain the
best possible terms to ensure that Brexit does not damage British
2nd October 2016
Speaking to the party faithful at the annual Conservative Party
Conference, Theresa May announces a timeline for Brexit. She plans to
trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty before the end of March 2017,
and without a vote in Parliament. "Triggering Article 50" is
the formal process by which the UK will officially inform the European
Union that it is planning to leave. Detailed negotiations on the terms
of Britain's exit from the EU cannot start until Article 50 has been
In her speech, Theresa May suggested that she
would go for a "hard" Brexit if that was the only way to stop the free
movement of people between the EU and Britain.
The British Pound, which had stabilised since the intial
post-referendum fall, starts to fall again as businesses and investors
worry that the Government may go for the "hard" Brexit option, which
could be seriously damaging for large parts of British industry,
notably the financial sector.
11th September 2016
Foreign Secretary and prominent "Leave" campaigner Boris
Johnson launches a new pressure group called "Change Britain", whose
aim is to force the government to choose the "hard" option for Brexit,
taking Britain out of the European Union and the single Market as
quickly as possible.
With Theresa May installed as Prime Minister, the new Government sets
to work; but it is the summer holiday period, so the Brexit is put on
hold. Neither Theresa May nor her Government have a clear
idea of exactly what they want, apart from a vague "Brexit".
Before the referendum, Brexit was never clearly defined, and
no preparations were made for implementing it. Asked what Brexit meant,
Theresa May could only say that "Brexit means Brexit", and that she
would obtain (not would
try to obtain) "the best possible terms" for the UK in the
coming years or months of negotiations. As an explanation, that was
little better, since it should be self-evident that the government will
obtain "the best possible terms" for a British exit from the EU; but
the unanswered question remains: "How good will these terms be ?" They
will undoubtedly be the best
but that does not necessarily mean that
they will be good, nor favourable for the UK. In response to May's
"Brexit means Brexit", European leaders repeat that "Out means out."
13th July 2016
Theresa May takes over as British Prime Minister, and makes the key
appointments to her Government. To general surprise, she appoints Boris
Johnson to the post of Foreign Secretary. Johnson thus becomes the key
figure in the UK's Brexit team, in which he is joined by two hard-line
Brexiteers David Davis as Minister for Brexit (officially "Sectretary
of State for Exiting the European Union"), and Liam Fox as Trade
11th July 2016
Under much pressure from Party members and from the media, worried by
her lack of experience, Andrea Leadsom announces that she is
withdrawing from the Conservative leadership race. There now
remains only one contestant, so there will be no need for the vote by
Conservative Party faithful in Spetember. Theresa May will be the next
British Prime Minister.
5th July 2016
In the first round of voting, Conservative MPs eliminate Michael Gove
from the leadership contest. Gove is not pardoned for having betrayed
his partner Boris Johnson. The final round in the race for
leadership of the Conservative Party – to be decided in September by a
vote of Party members – is now a completely unexpected contest, between
two women Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom.
30th June 2016
Michael Gove, former Justice Secretary and key "Leave" campaigner,
unexpectedly announces that he cannot support Boris Johnson in the
Conservative leadership battle, and will be standing himself. Within
hours, and shortly before the deadline for applications, Boris Johnson
announces his decision to quit the race to become the next leader of
the Conservative Party, and next Prime Minister. It looks as though
Johnson's political career is over, for the forseeable future.
leadership race is now down to three candidates, Theresa May, former
Home Secretary under David Cameron, and until now a "remain"
supporter, Andrea Leadsom, former Energy secretary, a "leave"
campaigner, and Gove.
24th June 2016
David Cameron announces his resignation both as Prime Minister and as a
Member of Parliament. Boris Johnson, the populist and
controversial figurehead of the Leave campaign, is tipped to
replace Cameron as Prime Minister. The next Prime Minister will be the
next leader of the Conservative Party, chosen by Party Members in a
national vote. Johnson however has many political enemies.
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