5 keys to know Brexit

The British want to give up being part of the European Union ... how does this affect us? (Justin Tallis / AFP)

The main points about the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union

Here you will find some of the main ideas and concepts in order to understand what Brexit is and what its consequences are.


1. What does Brexit mean? 

Brexit is a play on words: it combines the words British and exit to refer to the United Kingdom’s departure as a European Union member state.

The inhabitants of the United Kingdom are called British because three of the four regions that make up the country are found in Great Britain: England, Scotland and Wales. The fourth region, Northern Ireland, is located on the neighbouring island of Ireland.


2. The British want to leave the European Union

On June 23, 2016, a referendum was held to decide whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union: the so-called Brexit. More than 33 million people voted and the result was very close: Brexit supporters won with 51.9% of the votes, against 48.1% of voters that preferred to stay in the EU.


3. A country divided by two opinions 

The vote was very close: 17.4 million Brits voted in favour of leaving and 16.1 voted against. The results present a clear difference of opinion between the regions: the majority of Scotland and Northern Ireland voted in favour of the European Union, while England and Wales chose Brexit.

And not only that: the voting difference separates cities from the rest of the country. In the capital, London, and in most large cities, citizens wanted to remain within the European Union, while in more rural areas Brexit won by a wide margin.

The majority of Scots do not want to leave the European Union. That’s why, since the Brexit victory, the Scottish government wants to repeat the referendum it held in 2014 to gain independence from the United Kingdom. (Ben Stansall / AFP)


4. What does it mean to stop being a member state?

Once it leaves the European Union, the United Kingdom will no longer be part of the European institutions: the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council. This means that it will not have to comply with the common laws of all member states: these are regulations related to the security of the countries, the environment, or people’s movement. From now on, the United Kingdom will decide its own laws in these areas.

At the same time, the country will not pay taxes or contribute to the Union’s budget, nor will it receive European aid or subsidies. Furthermore, it will leave the European economic zone, the common market where the 28 (soon 27) member states trade, although it could reach an agreement to remain within it. 


5. When will the exit be completed?

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty says that if a country wants to leave the European Union, it has a period of two years to negotiate the terms of its exit. That period will be completed in March 2019.

At the end of March 2019, the disconnection process will begin: for two years, the institutions, companies and citizens involved will have to adapt to the new regulations.

This transition period could be extended for two to three years, until 2022.

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