A Very Simple History of Brexit in the UK

I’m not going to get in to the politics of Brexit – far too busy for that. Like it or not though this is history in the making and it’s very likely to have an impact on your small business. I thought it would be interesting to put together a consolidated timeline of events. An impartial version of the story of Brexit… so far.

This is a completely non-political, totally on-the-fence web site. For posterity reasons I thought it would be interesting to keep track of what’s been going on. So here’s a list of everything EU-related that’s happened since World War 2. Key moments of history shown in red:

A Brief History of Brexit

  • 2 Sept 1945:  World War 2 ends
  • 1947:  Dunkirk Treaty
  • 1948:  Brussels Treaty
  • 1952:  Paris Treaty
  • 1957:  Treaty of Rome signed, the EEC now exists.
  • 1 Jan 1973:  UK joins the EEC.
  • 1 Jan 1981:  Greece joins the EEC.
  • 1 Jan 1986:  Spain joins the EEC.
  • 5 June 1975:  UK referendum takes place with the question “The Government has announced the results of the renegotiation of the United Kingdom’s terms of membership of the European Community. Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?”
  • 6 June 1975:  Results of the referendum were announced – 67.2% say YES and 32.8% say NO. 25,848,654 votes with 64.6% turnout. 17,378,581 ‘remain’ votes and 8,470,073 ‘leave’ votes.
  • 7 Feb 1992:  Maastricht Treaty
  • 2012:  David Cameron initially rejected calls for an EU referendum.
  • 23 Jan 2013:  Cameron confirmed there would be an in-or-out referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017. This was included in the Conservative Party manifesto.
  • 7 May 2015:  The Conservative party won the general election with a majority and the EU Referendum Act of 2015 was introduced into Parliament. Cameron wanted to stay in the EU.
  • 22 Feb 2016:  Cameron announced the date of the EU referendum, to take place on 23 June 2016.
  • 23 June 2016:  Referendum takes place with the simple question “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”
  • 24 June 2016:  Results of the referendum were announced – 51.9% to LEAVE the EU and 48.1% to REMAIN. 33,551,983 votes with 72.2% turnout. 17,410,742 ‘leave’ votes and 16,141,241 ‘remain’ votes. Cameron resigned, stepping down on 13 July 2016. Brexit is now a thing.
  • 13 July 2016:  Teresa May became the UK’s second female Prime Minister after an internal leadership election within the Conservative Party. May’s only competitor, Andrea Leadsom, withdrew from the race on 11 July 2016, leaving the position open for May.
  • 7 December 2016:  The House of Commons voted 461 to 89 in favour of triggering Article 50 by the end of March 2017.
  • 29 March 2017:  Article 50 is triggered setting a leave date of 29 March 2019.
  • 18 April 2017:  May decided to have a general election.
  • 8 June 2017:  General election takes place, Conservative Party no longer have a majority. Minority government formed with the DUP.
  • 19 June 2017:  Brexit negotiations start.
  • 6 July 2018:  The UK’s white paper about leaving the EU is finalised (Chequers Plan).
  • 8 July 2018:  David Davis resigns as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, replaced by Dominic Raab. Boris Johnson also resigned as Foreign Secretary in opposition of the plan.
  • 21 Sept 2018:  The EU reject the Chequers Plan.
  • 15 Nov 2018:  Raab resigns as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, replaced by Stephen Barclay.
  • 25 Nov 2018:  The EU endorse the Withdrawal Agreement.
  • 15 Jan 2019:  The House of Commons reject the Withdrawal Agreement, 432 votes to 202. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, tables a vote of no confidence.
  • 16 Jan 2019:  May won the vote of no confidence 325 votes to 306.
  • 12 March 2019:  The House of Commons reject the Withdrawal Agreement, 391 votes to 242.
  • 21 March 2019:  The EU offers to extend the Article 50 deadline (twice).
  • 29 March 2019:  The House of Commons reject the Withdrawal Agreement, 344 votes to 286.
  • 24 May 2019:  May resigns, continuing as Prime Minister until a replacement is found. Conservative leadership elections to take place.
  • 27 May 2019:  The Brexit Party, led by Nigel Farage, won 29 seats in the 2019 European Parliament Elections, becoming the biggest single party of the 9th European Parliament.
  • 24 July 2019: Boris Johnson is appointed as Prime Minister.
  • 31 Oct 2019: Article 50 deadline comes and goes. Extended again to 31 Jan 2020.
  • 12 Dec 2019: General election takes place, Conservative Party win with a substantial majority. Labour had worst defeat since 1935.
  • 20 Dec 2019: The House of Commons passes the Withdrawal Agreement, 358 votes to 234.
  • 29 Jan 2020: European Parliament passes the Withdrawal Agreement, 621 votes to 49.
  • 31 Jan 2020: The UK formally leaves the EU. Transition period begins.
  • 31 Dec 2020: Scheduled end of transition period, deadline for trade deal with the EU.

Obviously a lot of detail has been missed out here… otherwise it wouldn’t be a ‘brief’ history of Brexit. What do you think? Will Brexit benefit or hinder your business? Have I missed something important or got my dates wrong?

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Originally published: 24th July 2019
Last updated: 12th February 2020

Photo credit:  Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

Andy Mac