Brexit Primer

The UK activated Article 50 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union on 29 March 2017. The European Council has agreed to the UK's request for an extension to the Article 50 process to allow for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement by both parties no later than 31 October 2019. Should the UK and EU reach a Brexit agreement sooner, withdrawal would take place on the first day of the month following the completion of the ratification procedures.

This Primer sets out some key facts about the negotiations, including the key dates and principal actors, whilst the latest developments can be found in the BVCA’s monthly
Brexit Bulletin.

Brexit Primer

The Negotiations

Key dates
  • 29 March 2017 – Article 50 Triggered
  • 8 June 2017 - British General Election
  • 29 March 2019 – original Brexit date, now superseded
  • 12 April 2019 – extended Brexit date, now superseded
  • 22 May 2019 – last date the Prime Minister's deal can be approved and ratified if the UK is to avoid having to participating in the European Parliament elections on 23 May
  • 23-26 May 2019 - European Parliament Elections
  • 1 June 2019 - possible Brexit Day, with or without a deal, if the Withdrawal Agreement has not been ratified and the UK did not hold EP elections in May
  • 20-21 June 2019: EU Summit
  • 2 July 2019 - first sitting of the new European Parliament
  • 17-18 October 2019 - EU Summit
  • 31 October 2019 - the date by which the UK must leave the European Union, although a further delay cannot be ruled out
  • 31 December 2020 - transition period due to end (subject to a further extension being agreed)
From Article 50 to Brexit - The Formal Process of Negotiations
  • Article 50 is triggered
    The Prime Minister notifies the European Council of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union.
  • The European Council develops negotiation guidelines
    The European Council formulates and agrees on general guidelines for the negotiations.
  • The European Commission creates a detailed negotiating strategy
    The European Commission develops the Council’s guidelines into a detailed negotiating strategy with policy recommendations.
  • Negotiations between the UK EU commence
    After approval of the negotiating strategy by the Council of the EU, the main body of negotiations between the EU and UK begin.
  • Approval of the withdrawal agreement
    Once negotiations are complete the UK Parliament will vote to approve the UK-EU agreement. The European Parliament will also vote on the settlement before the Council of the EU, which must approve the agreement by a qualified majority.
  • Brexit
    The European Council has agreed to the UK's request for an extension to the Article 50 process. The extension is to last as long as necessary to allow for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement by both parties but no longer than 31 October 2019. The Withdrawal Agreement may enter into force on an earlier date, should the UK and EU reach a Brexit agreement prior to the end date. If this were to happen the withdrawal would take place on the first day of the month following the completion of the ratification procedures. It also confirmed that if the UK fails to pass the Withdrawal Agreement by 23 May 2019 it will be under an obligation to hold the elections to the European Parliament. If these elections do not take place then the extension will end on 31 May 2019.
The 12 Principles

In January 2017, the PM set out 12 principles that will be used to guide the Government’s negotiations as it seeks to develop a new relationship with the European Union. These are:

  • Providing certainty and clarity;
  • Taking control of our own laws;
  • Strengthening the Union;
  • Protecting our strong historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the Common Travel Area;
  • Controlling immigration;
  • Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU;
  • Protecting workers’ rights;
  • Ensuring free trade with European markets;
  • Securing new trade agreements with other countries;
  • Ensuring the United Kingdom remains the best place for science and innovation;
  • Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism; and
  • Delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU.

This was followed in February with the publication of a White Paper that provided more detail on these principles. It clarifies the Government’s willingness establish as early as possible in the negotiations the status of EU nationals currently in the UK and of UK nationals abroad. The White Paper also recommits the Government to seek “the freest possible trade” in financial services as part of a future UK-EU trade deal.

European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018

The House of Commons Library has estimated that 13.2 per cent of UK primary and secondary legislation enacted between 1993 and 2004 was EU related. In order to ensure legal certainty as we leave the European Union, the Government published what was originally called The Great Repeal Bill.

Having completed the Parliamentary legislative process across both Houses, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament on 26 June 2018.

The Act serves three main purposes. To:

  1. Repeal the European Communities Act 1972 – which took us into the institutions that would eventually become the European Union, thereby ending the supremacy of EU law over UK law.
  2. Convert the existing body of EU law into UK law wherever practical and appropriate – to ensure that legal certainty and clarity is maintained immediately after we leave the EU. The UK Government and devolved administrations will then be able to keep, amend or repeal individual laws as they deem appropriate.
  3. Enable changes to be made by secondary legislation to laws that would otherwise not function sensibly once we have left the UK.
  • Green Paper
    Green papers are consultation documents produced by the Government that allow a wide range of stakeholders to provide feedback on policy or legislative proposals.
  • White Paper
    White papers are policy documents setting out Government proposals for future legislation, and may include a draft version of the Bill planned. This provides a basis for further consultation and discussion with interested or affected groups and allows final changes to be made before a Bill is formally presented to Parliament.
  • Secondary Legislation
    Secondary legislation allows the Government to make changes to the law, subject to Parliamentary oversight, using powers conferred by an Act of Parliament, allowing the administration and implementation of requirements of said Act.
Further information


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