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. Furthermore, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 which ended conflict in Northern Ireland states that the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will remain open.’ The backstop therefore would be in contravention to this treaty and could end the peace in Northern Ireland.
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.
2019 (29th January)
Members of Parliament voted on a number of amendments to the Brexit deal:
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s amendment to rule out a ‘No Deal’ and allow for parliament to discuss a new Brexit deal keeping a permanent customs union and remaining in the single market and/or the option of a public vote on the deal was rejected by 327 votes to 296
Ian Blackford’s amendment that ruled out a ‘No Deal’ and called for an extension of Article was rejected by 327 to 39 votes.
Dominic Grieve’s amendment for MPs to discuss alternatives to Theresa May’s plan was rejected by 321 to 301 votes.
Yvette Cooper’s amendment to prevent a ‘No Deal’ Brexit by extending the day Britain would leave the EU to 31st December 2019 was rejected by 321 to 298 votes.
Rachel Reeves’ amendment to postpone Brexit indefinitely was rejected by 322 to 290 votes
Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromey’s amendment to prevent a ‘No Deal’ Brexit was passed by 318 to 310 votes but the vote was non-binding on the government.
Graham Brady’s amendment to require the backstop to be replaced with an alternative that avoids a hard border was passed by 317 to 301 votes but the vote was non-binding on the government.
Theresa May agreed to go back to Europe and try to renegotiate the Northern Ireland backstop.
2019 (6th February)
Theresa May flew to Dublin for talks with the Irish Prime Minister over the Irish backstop question. She rejected any move to remove the backstop.
2019 (6th February)
EU President Donald Tusk caused controversy when he said there was a “special place in hell” for “those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it out safely”.
2019 (7th February)
Prime Minister, Theresa May, flew to Brussels to meet with EU leaders but was told again that negotiations would not be re-opened.
2019 (7th February)
Jeremy Corbyn wrote a letter to Theresa May saying that Labour would only support a deal if it included a customs union and Britain remaining in the single market with the EU.
2019 (11th February)
Theresa May replied to Jeremy Corbyn’s letter rejecting his terms for an agreement.
2019 (14th February)
The House of Commons voted on a number of motions and amendments to the Brexit agreement:
A vote to support the government’s approach to negotiations with the EU was defeated by 303 votes to 259.
A Labour amendment to require a vote on the withdrawal agreement by 27th February was defeated by 16 votes with 306 voting for the amendment and 322 against.
An amendment by the Scottish National Party (SNP) to postpone Brexit by at least 3 months was defeated by 315 votes to 93.
2019 (19th February)
Seven Labour MPs resigned from the Labour Party and formed the Independent Group. The Labour Party’s handling of Brexit was one of the reasons for their defection.
2019 (21st February)
Three Conservative MPs resigned and joined the Independent Group.
2019 (24th February)
Theresa May announced that the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement would be held on 12th March.
2019 (26th February)
Prime Minister Theresa May stated that if her Brexit Deal was rejected by the House of Commons then two votes would follow. One on whether or not to accept a No Deal Brexit and if that failed a vote for a three-month extension Article 50.
2019 (27th February)
Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit proposal for the UK to join an EU customs union was defeated by 323 to 240 votes. Following the defeat Corbyn announced that Labour would support a public vote if Theresa May’s Brexit deal was defeated again.
2019 (27th February)
The Spanish government approved a measure to give Britons living in Spain residency rights.
2019 (12th March)
After having secured a small change to her deal regarding the backstop, the House of Commons again voted on the Brexit Deal. Members of Parliament voted against Theresa May’s deal by 391 to 242 votes.
2019 (13th March)
Members of Parliament voted to rule out a No Deal scenario by 321 to 278 votes.
2019 (14th March)
Members of Parliament voted to extend Article 50 by 413 to 202 votes. Following the vote Theresa May stated that if her deal was agreed next week then she would request an extension to June 30th. But if her deal was not agreed to then she would request a longer extension. All 27 member states of the EU would have to agree to the extension.
2019 (14th March)
A vote to hold a second Brexit Referendum was held – 334 MPs voted against, 223 abstained and 85 voted for. A cross-party move to allow MPs to take control of Brexit was narrowly defeated by two votes.
2019 (18th March)
The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, told Theresa May that he would not allow a third vote on her Brexit Deal unless it was significantly changed.
2019 (19th March)
It was announced that Theresa May will formally ask the EU for Brexit to be postponed.
2019 (21st March)
The EU allowed Brexit to be extended until 22nd May on condition that MPs voted to approve Theresa May’s Brexit Deal. The EU stated that if the deal was not approved then they would give the UK until 12th April to consider alternatives. If the UK wanted to delay Brexit beyond 12th April then the country would need to hold European elections in May.