This timeline shows the key events in Brexit – the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
2013 (23rd January)
Prime Minister David Cameron made a speech promising the people of the United Kingdom a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union if his Conservative Party won the next General Election.
2015 (7th May)
The Conservative Party won a majority of the votes in the General Election which meant they were committed to holding a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.
2015 (17th December)
The European Union Referendum Act was passed by Parliament. This legally allowed a Referendum to be held.
David Cameron tried to renegotiate the UK’s terms of membership of the European Union in the hopes that the people of Britain would look more favourably on the European Union but concessions were very limited.
2016 (13th April)
The Electoral Commission declared that ‘Vote Leave’, a group that had been founded in October 2015, was to be the official campaign group to leave the EU. ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ also founded in October 2015, was to be the official campaign group to remain in the EU. Other unofficial groups were also founded.
2016 (23rd June)
A referendum was held with the question ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ The two possible answers were ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ and ‘Leave the European Union’. The results were announced in the early hours of 24th June. The UK had voted to leave by 51.9% (17,410,742 votes) to 48.1% (16,141,241 votes).
2016 (24th June)
David Cameron, as a champion of Britain remaining in the EU, announced that he would step down as Prime Minister by October 2016 at the latest.
2016 (27th June)
An EU unit was established in Whitehall to deal with Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit).
2016 (28th June)
The European Council President, Donald Tusk, announced that the United Kingdom would only be able to remain in the Single Market if it accepted freedom of movement for goods, money, services and labour.
Theresa May became Prime Minister of Britain after winning a leadership election and David Cameron stood down.
2016 (13th July)
David Davis was appointed Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.
Theresa May announced that the terms of the Brexit agreement had to include an end to EU law and freedom of movement of people.
Theresa May suggested that Britain and the other EU countries should mutually guarantee the rights of those EU and British citizens living in other countries. Although many countries agreed the proposition was blocked by Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany.
2017 (24th January)
The United Kingdom Supreme Court ruled that the government could not invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union without an Act of Parliament being passed allowing them to do so.
2017 (26th January)
The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was put before parliament.
2017 (16th March)
The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was passed by parliament.
2017 (29th March)
Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union which officially notified the European Union that Britain would be leaving the EU in two years.
2017 (29th April)
The heads of the 27 member states of the EU agreed terms for the negotiation of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. It also agreed that the UK would pay ‘divorce bill’. In the event of no deal with the EU the UK would pay nothing.
2017 (8th June)
Theresa May called a snap General Election. She hoped to increase her majority in the House of Commons and thereby strengthen her position for Brexit negotiations. However, she did not win a clear majority and had to make an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party to form a government.
2017 (19th June)
Brexit Secretary, David Davis, went to Brussels to begin negotiations with the EU.
2017 (22nd June)
British Prime Minister, Theresa May, stated that no EU citizen legally living in the UK would be forced to leave the country. Furthermore any EU citizen who had lived in the UK for more than 5 years would have the same rights as UK citizens on condition that other EU countries provided the same rights to UK citizens living in EU countries. However, the UK did not receive any guarantee from the EU.
Negotiations with the EU continued but little was achieved.
2017 (16th August)
The Conservative government published papers setting out what Britain wanted from Brexit. The papers included proposed trade and customs arrangements.
2017 (28th August)
Another round of negotiations with the EU began but there was no agreement on the financial settlement.
2017 (5th September)
Brexit Secretary, David Davis, announced that some progress in negotiations had been made particularly with regard to British expats living in EU countries. However no progress had been made over the ‘divorce bill’.
2017 (9th September)
The EU Commission decreed that it was the UK’s responsibility to suggest options for the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
2017 (22nd September)
Brexit negotiations continued but the EU and some member country leaders wanted negotiations blocked until the UK agreed a financial settlement and details of the Irish border.
EU negotiators stated that an agreement had to be reached by October 2018 in order for there to be time for individual countries to ratify Brexit by 29th March 2019.
Brexit Secretary, David Davis, announced that negotiations with the EU were proving difficult.
Steve Baker, a minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union, apologised after making an incorrect claim that civil servants had produced poor economic forecasts in order to influence policy.
2018 (11th May)
The Electoral Commission found unofficial leave campaign group, ‘LeaveEU’ guilty of spending in excess of its limit during the campaign prior to the 2016 referendum.
2018 (10th June)
The Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, agreed to postpone settlement of the Irish border until October 2018.
2018 (19th June)
It was announced by negotiators that progress had been made on customs, VAT and the European nuclear agreement.
2018 (7th July)
The Cabinet reached an agreement on the type of deal that they were seeking with the European Union.
2018 (8th July)
Brexit Secretary, David Davis, resigned his position stating that he was not happy with the Prime Minister’s plan for Brexit. Steve Baker, a junior minister, also resigned. Davis was replaced by Dominic Raab.
2018 (9th July)
Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, resigned his position over the Chequers Plan.
2018 (12th July)
This blueprint for a future relationship with the European Union was published.
2018 (22nd October)
Junior Minister Steve Baker posted a letter of no confidence in Theresa May’s leadership of the Conservative Party.
2018 (14th November)
A meeting of the Cabinet agreed a Draft Withdrawal Agreement.
2018 (15th November)
Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey and a number of junior ministers resigned their posts to register their disagreement with the Withdrawal Agreement.
2018 (22nd November)
Theresa May concluded Brexit negotiations with the EU and the Draft Withdrawal Agrement and Outline Political Declaration was published. She announced that the deal would be put to the House of Commons in December for a meaningful vote.
2018 (4th December)
It was ruled that the government was in contempt of parliament for refusing to publish the full legal advice it had been given on the withdraw agreement.
2018 (5th December)
The government published the full legal advice it had been given on the withdraw agreement. The key point in the legal advice concerned the ‘backstop’ agreement (an agreement that the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland would remain open) and how it would affect the United Kingdom. Under the ‘backstop’ agreement if there were no formal trade agreement between the UK and the EU, Northern Ireland would remain under EU jurisdiction and stay in the customs union. This would lead to a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Theresa May has argued that the ‘backstop’ could apply to the whole UK but this is not favoured by the EU and has angered many MPs.
2018 (10th December)
Knowing that she would be defeated in parliament, Theresa May decided to postpone the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement. She stated that it would take place by January 21st.
2018 (10th December)
The European Court of Justice ruled that a country could cancel its withdrawal from the EU provided it was done prior to departure.
2018 (12th December)
It was announced that at least 48 MPs had written letters to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee stating they had no confidence in Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party. This triggered a vote on Theresa May’s leadership. A secret ballot of all Conservative MPs was held and May won 200 of the possible 317 votes.
2018 (13th December)
Theresa May announced that she would not fight another election as Conservative Party leader. She then returned to Brussels to try to gain further clarification from the EU. The EU stated that there could be no renegotiation of the terms of Brexit.
2018 (18th December)
The government announced that it had increased resources for planning for a no-deal Brexit.
2018 (19th December)
The EU revealed that it had begun to put plans in place in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
2019 (8th January)
The House of Commons passed a motion tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper to stop ministers from introducing new tax rises if there is a no-deal Brexit unless MPs have specifically voted for that no deal Brexit.
2019 (8th January)
It was announced that the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, postponed from December, would be held on 15th January 2019.
2019 (9th January)
MP Dominic Grieve requested that a motion be added to the business of the house stating that if Theresa May loses the vote on her Brexit plan on 15th January then she would have to report a Plan B to the house of parliament in 3 working days. Despite being advised not to allow the motion to be voted on, the Speaker of the Commons allowed it to go ahead and it was passed by 11 votes.
2019 (15th January)
Theresa May lost the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement by 432 votes to 202 votes. The defeat was the largest in the history of the British government. Following the defeat Labour leader, Jeremy Corbin, tabled a vote of no confidence in the government.
2019 (16th January)
Theresa May and the Conservative government survived the vote of no confidence by 325 votes to 306. After winning the vote Theresa May stated she would hold talks with party leaders to try to find a way forward.