Breaking down Brexit: What’s happening?

If, like us, you’ve spent the majority of 2019 so far wondering what’s actually going on with Brexit, don’t panic. We’re answering the main questions surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union. 

No one would blame you for being confused about Brexit, or just completely giving up on trying to understand. Before you start bulk-buying imported foods because of something you read on Twitter, we’ve written a simple guide to Brexit.

What is Brexit?

Brexit is the shortened term for Great Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU).

The British public voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016 with 51.9% voting to leave the EU and 48.1% to remain in the EU.

More than 30 million people voted.

Effectively, Brexit is a bit like a divorce after 46 years of marriage and right now we’re in negotiations.

What is the European Union?

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political partnership between 28 countries, called member states, most of which are in Europe.

This partnership means that goods, capital, services and people can move freely across the national borders of the member states.

When do we leave?

Britain is due to leave the EU on Friday 29 March 2019. The current Prime Minister, Theresa May, has put this into British law, but a European court has ruled that Brexit can be extended or stopped if the UK decides this.

What’s happening now?

Theresa May and the government have been working on a Brexit plan for nearly two years now. On Tuesday (15 January) MPs voted against this plan in a historic defeat.

The vote saw Theresa May lose by 230 votes.

After this happened Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled a vote of no confidence in the government. If this went through it would mean Theresa May would be replaced as PM.

Theresa May won this vote and is now in talks with MPs to come up with another Brexit plan.

Is there a plan B?

Not yet, but Theresa May is working on amendments to her current plan with MPs. She will publish this plan to parliament next Monday (21 January) and MPs will vote on the plan the following Tuesday (29 January).

What is a no deal Brexit?

A no deal Brexit would mean we leave the EU in March with no agreement in place and no transition period.

We would be severing all ties with the EU overnight.

If we leave the EU with a plan we will have a transition period before all new laws come into play. This transition period would end in December 2020.

What is the backstop?

The backstop is the plan in place to make sure there is no physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit.

It will mean that Northern Ireland will keep some EU rules on things like food products and goods standards.

Neither side wants the return of customs checks, cameras and watch towers at this border.

The backstop is only meant to be temporary but would mean the whole of the UK would stay in the EU customs union. This would mean adhering to EU customs rules for a short period after we leave the EU.

Can Brexit be cancelled?

A European court has ruled that the UK can vote to stop Brexit, but this is unlikely.

Cancelling Brexit would go against what the people voted for and would most likely result in a lack of trust in the government.

Do we get a say in all of this?

Some MPs want the public to make the final decision for their country, but this is not confirmed to be happening.

Dubbed the people’s vote, this would include the option to remain in the EU.

What could happen next?

What could happen next depends on many different factors and there isn’t one answer.

If MPs vote for Theresa May’s plan B we will leave the EU on 29 March 2019 as scheduled.

If they vote against this plan there are multiple possible outcomes:

  • We could leave the EU with no deal.
  • There could be another referendum, aka a people’s vote.
  • There could be a vote of no confidence in Theresa May and the conservative government.
  • A new deal could be re-negotiated.
  • Or, there could be a general election to elect a new government. In this case Brexit would likely be extended.

How much longer will Brexit take?

Britain is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, but a European court has ruled that this deadline can be extended if this is decided by the UK.

If Brexit is extended it will likely only be for a few months to finalise a plan B and leave with a deal.

Will Theresa May resign as PM?

Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed she will resign before the next general election, but she hasn’t said when this will likely be once the Brexit process is over.

During the Brexit process she has survived two no confidence votes and remained PM.

How will this all effect me?

The effect of Brexit on Britain’s economy, laws and people is unpredictable until Brexit is complete. A plan B, a no deal or even stopping Brexit will all produce different outcomes and consequences.

Conditions attached to the amount of time you need on your passport to enter another country, driving in other countries with a UK license and travelling to EU countries could change. Unless there is a no deal Brexit this won’t happen straight away.

The price of some imported goods could also rise after Brexit.

Can we rejoin the EU after Brexit?

After Britain leaves the EU it can apply to rejoin, but this process would start from the beginning. We would have to apply to join and be accepted by the 27 other member states along with adhering to EU laws again.

One thing about Brexit is set in stone – it won’t get any less confusing anytime soon.

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