Update: What’s happening with Brexit?

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Feeling confused about Brexit?

The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in 2016, but, at the moment, we are still part of the EU. So, what is actually happening, and where are we now?

“Get Brexit done.” You may have heard this phrase in the news, as an election slogan from Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. The Prime Minster is making the process sound simple, describing “an oven-ready deal” and saying it will be a “just add water” process, but leaving the European Union will be complicated: there are a lot of factors affecting the outcome.

What happened in the referendum?

In the 2016 referendum, 52% of those who voted wanted to leave the EU and 48% wanted to remain, meaning the Leave campaign won by a small margin. But most younger people, 70% of the 18 – 24-year-olds who voted in the referendum, wanted to remain, compared with just 40% of those aged 65 and over. However, only 64% of young people voted in the referendum, whereas 90% of those over retirement age did.

The country is divided and new polls suggest that if we were to have a second referendum the Remain vote may well be the winning one, although we cannot be certain about that.

What were the Brexit deadlines?

The first deadline for Britain leaving the EU was on March 29th, 2019. Theresa May, who was then the Prime Minister, had tried to negotiate a deal with European leaders.

A deal would cover the movement of people and goods between Britain and other European countries; the rights of British citizens to live in the EU and the rights of European citizens to live in the UK, how we deal with human rights, standards for food and medicine; and our position on the environment amongst other things. If you’re a European citizen resident in the UK, read our guide here.

The deal Theresa May had drawn up was voted down by the UK parliament. MPs rejected it because they did not agree with the terms set out in the proposed deal, but no alternative plans were offered and the deadline for Britain leaving the EU was extended to October 31st, 2019.

On June 7th, Theresa May resigned as Prime Minister. She was no longer viewed as a capable leader by the Conservative Party because of the lack of a viable Brexit deal. Conservative Party members voted for Boris Johnson to be the new Tory Party leader and, as such, the new Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson promised Britain would leave the EU on October 31st, with or without a deal, saying he would rather “be dead in a ditch” than extend the deadline again.

However, in September, MPs voted the Benn Act (named after Labour MP Hillary Benn) into law, making it unlawful for Johnson to take the UK out of the EU with no deal and without asking for another extension in order to negotiate one. A deal wasn’t agreed by the UK Parliament and the European Council agreed to extend the Brexit deadline until January 31st, 2020.

What will happen next?

It’s still uncertain what will happen next and all Brexit negotiations have been put on hold until after the General Election of December 12th.

If the Conservatives win the General Election, Boris Johnson won’t need to negotiate with the EU on an exit deal –he’ll just need to get the deal through Parliament. This election, all Conservative candidates are standing on a pledge to back the deal already negotiated, so if Boris Johnson wins a majority it’s likely he will be able to take Britain out of the EU by 31 Jan 2020. The next phase is to negotiate the future relationship, which would be a separate deal.

If Labour win the General Election, they plan to renegotiate “a credible leave option,” which they say will be done in three months. Labour then plan to follow this with a referendum. If Britain votes to leave the EU after this referendum, then Labour would start negotiating the future relationship deal.

There is a question around what would happen in a hung parliament and whether Labour would be allowed to negotiate its “credible” option if they were relying on the support of other parties.

What can you do?

If you’re over 18, or will be on December 12th, and you have registered to vote, you can cast your vote in the upcoming general election. Visit The Mix next week for a breakdown of what each political party has promised voters about Brexit, or look here for the BBC’s version.

You can keep yourself up-to-date on events, by reading a variety of newspapers and websites to get a balanced view. You can also visit The Mix for factual breakdowns. If you’re worried about Brexit or find it is making you anxious, read our advice here.

Busting Brexit jargon

No deal: This would mean Britain would leave the European Union overnight without negotiating a withdrawal deal. You can read more about what this would mean in this BBC article.

The Benn Act: This was the nickname given to the European Union Withdrawal Act (No. 2) 2019, an act of parliament requiring the prime minister to seek an extension to the Brexit withdrawal date if a deal had not been agreed by October 31st, 2019.

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Next Steps

  • Here for Good offer free immigration advice to EEA citizens and their non-EEA family
  • Coram's Children's Legal Centre offer legal advice about applying for settled status
  • The EU Londoners Hub is a brilliant resource (not just for people from London!) If you or your family are from the EU you'll find lots of detailed information on their website

  • Find your local Citizens Advice here, for free and independent legal advice. Or call their helpline. 03454 04 05 06
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 29-Nov-2019