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BREXIT: Sources of Information

In June 2016, British citizens voted to leave the European Union (EU) - this became known as BREXIT. This research guide provides sources for those doing research on the history of Great Britain's relationship with the EU and following current events.


The Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben. Palace of Westminster, London. Courtesy of Ellen Terrell. 2019.

The EU Referendum in June 2016 was a vote by British citizens on whether the country should stay or leave the European Union. External It is often referred to as BREXIT which is shorthand for “British Exit.” The history behind the word BREXIT seems to reference GREXIT when there was talk about Greece exiting the EU and several sources seem to feel that the word BREXIT originated with Peter Wilding’s post "Stumbling towards the Brexit" (May 15, 2012). Below a few key dates in the history of the EU/Great Britain relationship (for more information see the complete timeline External ).

  • 1957: The European Economic Community (EEC) was created with the Treaty of Rome. External
  • 1973: The United Kingdom joined External the EEC.
  • 1975: The EEC/EU – UK relationship External was never easy. The Referendum kept the country in the EEC but Euroscepticism never went away.
  • November 1, 1993: The Maastricht Treaty External changed the name of the EEC to European Community (EC) and created the European Union (EU).
  • February 2016: Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a Referendum was to be held so that voters could decide whether to remain in the EU or to leave it.
  • June 23, 2016: The Referendum was held and 52% of voters voted to leave the EU. That vote was just about What to do. The How is heavily focused on Article 50 External of the Lisbon Treaty External which when invoked, is when the negotiations between the EU and the UK on the terms of the exit begin.
  • February 8, 2017: The House of Commons passed legislation Wednesday to allow the government to officially begin the Brexit process.
  • March 14, 2017: The British Parliament passed a bill that will allow Prime Minister Theresa May to start talks to leave the European Union.
  • March 28, 2017: The UK signed the letter that triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which is the beginning of the 2-year legal process for Britain to leave The EU.
  • June 19, 2017: The formal negotiations began for the UK to leave the European Union.
  • November 14, 2018: It was announced that UK cabinet ministers had agreed to a draft agreement on the terms of the United Kingdom’s exit but this was followed by a series of ministerial resignations and it still has to be voted on in Parliament though the EU has tentatively scheduled an emergency summit for the end of November.
  • November 25, 2018: European leaders endorsed the BREXIT agreement announced earlier in November.

  • December 10, 2018: The vote in Parliament scheduled for December 11 was canceled. The European Court of Justice agreed with the advice of its top legal officer (PDF, 345 KB) External, who declared that the UK has the power to withdraw its notification to leave the EU under Article 50 without the agreement of other member states.

  • January 15, 2019: The BREXIT vote on the government's plan was rejected by Parliament 432 to 202.

  • March 12, 2019: The BREXIT vote on the government's plan was rejected by Parliament for a second time 391 votes to 242.

  • March 13, 2019: Parliament voted to reject leaving the European Union without a deal.

  • March 14, 2019: Parliament voted for a delay in BREXIT but rejected a second referendum.

  • March 22, 2019: The British Prime Minister was able to secure a delay of BREXIT. The new date is April 12 (with a possible extension to May 22) if Parliament approves the delay by the end of the following week.

  • March 29, 2019: The BREXIT vote on the government's plan was rejected by Parliament for a third time 344 votes to 286.

  • April 10, 2019: A new deadline of October 31 was approved but if a plan is approved prior to that date, the extension would be terminated.

  • May 24, 2019: Prime Minister Theresa May announces her resignation.

  • September 4, 2019: Parliament rejects the Prime Minister’s call for new elections but did pass a bill forcing the Prime Minister to ask the E.U. to delay BREXIT until January if there is no exit agreement.

  • September 10, 2019: Parliament is suspended (prorogation) for 5 weeks until October 14. On September 24th the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom deemed (PDF, 345 KB) External the Order in Council ordering the prorogation "null and of no effect".

  • October 16, 2019: It was announced that a deal between the EU and the UK had been reached, now but it still has to be ratified by European leaders and the British Parliament.

  • October 19, 2019: Sitting in a special Saturday session, Parliament withheld support for the Prime Ministers plan until related supporting legislation was passed.

  • October 28, 2019: The EU approved the UK's request for a three-month extension to the Brexit process.

  • December 27, 2019: British lawmakers gave preliminary approval to the Prime Minister's Withdrawal Agreement Bill that clears the way for the U.K. to leave the European Union on January 31.

  • January 9, 2020: British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Prime Minister's Brexit deal, which means the path is clear for the country to leave the European Union later this month. It now goes to the House of Lords.

  • January 22, 2020: The House of Parliament rejected the House of Lords Amendments and the Lords relented and agreed to accept the legislation without tweaks.

  • January 23, 2020: The legislation received the royal assent.

  • January 29, 2020: The withdrawal agreement was approved by the European Parliament 621 votes in favor, 49 against and 13 abstentions.

  • January 31, 2020: BREXIT. The next phase is an 11-month transition period, during which time the UK will continue to follow most EU rules but will not have any decision-making power in the EU.

  • December 24, 2020: The UK and the EU reach a trade deal.

  • January 1, 2021: The final split between the UK and EU. Other issues may need to be ironed out and add dates to the timeline. The date when the North Ireland Protocol became active.

  • May 1, 2021: The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement External entered into force (signed on December 30, 2020 and applied provisionally as of January 1, 2021).

  • February 27, 2023: Windsor Framework announced. This is a post-BREXIT legal agreement related to address trade problems between the European Single Market and the United Kingdom in the current Northern Ireland Protocol.

  • August 2023: The announcement of the Border Target Operating Model which are the final plans or standards control for importing goods into Great Britain, that will be progressively introduced from the end of January 2024. The second phase is May to November.

For more about the history and development of the EEC / EU and to trace the key events that have changed the Common Market from the UK perspective, see Parliament's Living Heritage page. External

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