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How did we get here? A Recap of all that went wrong with Brexit

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Brexit; the divorce of the decade, an affair which has kept Europe on its toes for more than 2 years. The long process which is constantly re-negotiated, postponed, voted… Brexit has come to a point where the narrative has become so foggy and complicated that retelling it isn’t easy. But here we’ll do our best.


In early 2013 David Cameron, the then UK Prime Minister, gave a speech promising to renegotiate UK’s membership in the EU if his Conservative party won a majority in the following general elections. That promise was kept. After being re-elected, Cameron announced a non-binding referendum on whether to not to stay in the EU, set for 23rd June 2016. At the same time, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) gained more and more support among British voters.

The campaigns for LEAVE or REMAIN started fiercely in the whole kingdom while Europe was facing the issue of the immigrant waves coming from the North of Africa to seek refuge in the EU. UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage took advantage of the the people’s fear of refugees towards refugees as an argument in their campaign, displaying anti-migrant posters in cities, or using the ‘Bus of Common Sense’ that travelled across theUK to convince people to join their side. On 3nd September, the picture of the body of a migrant child lying face down in the waves broke out in all European and British newspapers. The tragic event shuddered Europe and represented a decisive turning-point in the Brexit campaign; the pro ‘Leave’ grew stronger.


Finally, on 23rd June 2016, the people spoke; even though London and Scotland voted to stay in the EU, the ‘Leave’ campaigners won the UK’s exit of the EU with 51,9% of the suffrages. The outcome of the non-binding referendum was nevertheless enforced. The very next day, the consequences were immediate; the pound dropped down 7% against the euro, reaching its lowest rate in 27 years, and Cameron who was in favour of the remaining in the EU, resigned. On the 13th of July, Theresa May became Prime Minister and started the outline of the leave negotiations of a ‘hard’ Brexit. Officially, Brexit started on the 29th of March 2017 when a letter triggering Article 50 of the TEU was presented to the European Council’s president Donald Tusk. The 27 other member states stated to be open to early negotiations concerning the future relations between the UK and the EU.


In the meantime, the UK’s general elections of June 2017 plunged Britain’s exit into further uncertainty. Instead of a majority win for Theresa May, she in fact lost seats, further threatening the UK’s hand in the future negotiations with the EU. These were formally start on 19th of June 2017. It took until 15th December before the EU and the UK proceeded to the second phase of the negotiations after agreements for the “divorce bill” were met, including solutions to long term disputes over the Irish border and the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. After five months, the “Great Repeal Bill” was passed in Parliament to make sure that EU law wouldn’t supersede British law after withdrawing from the EU.


On 7th July 2018, May united her cabinet, in an agreement that would be called the “Chequers Deal”, which was the first time where the government seemingly had a plan for the type of Brexit they wanted. A very soft one where the UK would still have the same rule with the EU for trade in goods but no services. Many analysists argue that the UK would being getting less rather than more from May’s approach, as the UK would simply be surrendering its voice and voting power while remaining under EU influence. This opinion was accepted by many MP’s from all parties, including May’s own Conservative party. On 13th November, May reached a deal with the EU. Finally, there are concrete options for Brexit: Leave the EU on 29th March 2019 on May’s deal, or Brexit collapses and the UK stays in the EU. Only two days later again, another exodus from May’s cabinet. This time with four minsters leaving the cabinet. Thus, proving that May was under significant pressure from her own party to not present this deal to Parliament.

The agreement that May championed was already on the ropes before Parliament had even voted on it. At first glance, it looks like the probability of no Brexit has significantly increased. The proposed vote by Parliament on May’s deal was postponed by the Prime Minister. This was due to the Prime Minister being under the strong impression that the vote would not swing in her favour. Parliament and seemingly much of the public have called for a second referendum. It is safe to say that British politics is in complete disarray. This has been further proved with the outcome of the vote yesterday, with May’s deal rejected by 230 votes. A massive blow to Brexit and May’s government.

An even bigger blow for May, is Jeremy Corbyn’s motion for a vote of no confidence tabled shortly after the rejection of the deal. If the vote of no confidence was achieved, then it would’ve triggered a general election which could’ve put both Brexit in a weak position and Jeremy Corbyn in government. Fortunately for May, her government has survived another challenge. Corbyn’s vote of no confidence was defeated by a vote of 325 supporting the government to 306 against. Theresa May can finally let out a sigh of relief for the moment. However, there is still the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit looming over the country’s head. May has called for a consensus approach from the Parliament. However, as it has been established, Parliament like the rest of the UK is incomprehensively divided.

by Charlotte Pion and Dan Edwards

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