General

What is Brexit?

By referendum held on 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and on 29 March 2017 the United Kingdom formally notified the European Council of its intention to leave the European Union. The departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union is colloquially referred to as “Brexit”.

When will the United Kingdom leave the European Union?

The United Kingdom was originally scheduled to leave the European Union with effect from 29 March 2019. However, an extension to this date was agreed between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The earliest effective date for the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union will be 12 April 2019, which departure date will take effect if the United Kingdom House of Commons does not approve the Withdrawal Agreement (see Q.4 below) by 29 March 2019.

In the event that the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons by 29 March 2019, an extension of the departure date until 22 May 2019 will apply.

Can the Brexit decision be reversed?

The United Kingdom can unilaterally revoke its notification of its intention to leave the European Union at any time before 29 March 2019 or before the end of an agreed extension, provided that the decision to do so is “unequivocal and unconditional” (European Court of Justice).

What is the Withdrawal Agreement?

A Withdrawal Agreement has been negotiated by the European Council and the United Kingdom Government and is intended to take effect when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union however, the Withdrawal Agreement will only take effect if it is approved by the House of Commons prior to the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

The Withdrawal Agreement deals with the mutual obligations of the European Union and the United Kingdom once the latter has left the Union. Among other things, the Withdrawal Agreement provides for a transition period that will last from the date on which the United Kingdom departs the European Union until 31 December 2020.

What is the Political Declaration?

The Withdrawal Agreement is accompanied by a declaration that sets out the basis of a framework on which the European Union and United Kingdom intend to reach a future agreement covering trade and other areas. Negotiations to reach such an agreement begin once the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union has taken effect.

What is the backstop and how does it apply?

In the event that no future trade agreement has been approved by the end of the transition period, a single customs territory between the European Union and the United Kingdom will automatically be triggered, so as to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This provision is referred to as the “backstop”.

What if the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved?

To date, the Withdrawal Agreement has not been approved by the United Kingdom’s Parliament. Under the current extension arrangements in place between the United Kingdom and the European Council, if the United Kingdom Parliament does not approve the Withdrawal Agreement prior to 29 March 2019, the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union will take effect from 12 April 2019 without a Withdrawal Agreement (referred to colloquially as a “no deal Brexit”). In this event, the United Kingdom would cease to be a Member State of the European Union immediately and no transition period would apply.

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