Brexit
January 31, 2020

Three and a half years after narrowly voting to leave the European Union, the United Kingdom is celebrating and mourning its final day of EU membership Friday before leaving the union at 11 p.m., or midnight in Brussels. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation at 10 p.m. to inaugurate what he will call "a moment of real national renewal and change." Britain and the EU have agreed that the U.K. will retain all EU rules for 11 months while the two sides try to hammer out a new trade relationship and other guidelines for their new relationship.

But Britain remains sharply divided on Brexit, with larger cities, Northern Ireland, and especially Scotland still in favor of remaining in the EU. In Edinburgh, where the EU flag will remain raised outside the Scottish Parliament on Friday night and the EU colors blue and yellow will light up two government buildings, Scottish Brexit Secretary Mike Russell urged the EU to "leave a light on for Scotland" so it could return, presumably as an independent country.

EU officials were generally cordial about the divorce, as in this tweet from former European Council president Donald Tusk of Poland.

Current European Council {resident Charles Michel called Brexit Day "an exceptional day for the European Union and today probably we have mixed feelings." He added that "it's never a happy moment when someone leaves but we are opening a new chapter. And we will devote all our energy to building a stronger and more ambitious European Union." How close a relationship the EU has with the U.K. will depend on Britain, he said.

Brexit supporters including Nigel Farage are gathering in London's Parliament Square for a celebratory festival of patriotic songs and speeches.

Embed from Getty Images

Britain joined the European bloc in 1973. Peter Weber

January 29, 2020

And with that, Nigel Farage is on his way out of Brussels.

Farage, a British Member of the European Parliament and leader of the U.K.'s Brexit Party, at long last got to say good bye to the European Union after MEPs ratified U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's withdrawal agreement Wednesday, setting up the country's departure from the governing body at the end of the week. And, boy, did he enjoy it.

Farage and his bellow Brexit Party members stood up and proudly waved the Union Jack as a farewell before getting cut off for breaking parliamentary rules, and he didn't seem to mind one bit. His allies then began a "hip-hip-hooray" chant.

It certainly wasn't a happy day for everyone, though. Some British MEPs expressed their dismay over Brexit, while others said they were determined to one day bring the U.K. back into the fold. MEP Martin Horwood, a Liberal Democrat, received a standing ovation after declaring "We will be back." Tim O'Donnell

October 17, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Brexit will go through on Oct. 31 with or without a deal, but European Union leaders aren't on the same page.

A new agreement was cobbled together on Thursday that would allow Britain to leave the EU, but only after a transition period lasting until the end of 2020. Over the next year, EU and British negotiators would work on a trade deal and other arrangements. "This is a great deal for our country — the U.K. — and our friends in the EU," Johnson said Thursday night. "Now is the moment for our parliamentarians to get this done."

The House of Commons will meet for a vote on Saturday, and already, the revised agreement has been rejected by the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party and dragged by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said it's an "even worse deal" than the one crafted by former Prime Minister Theresa May.

Under U.K. law, Johnson is required to seek a Brexit extension if a deal is not approved by Saturday, but he has been adamant about leaving the EU by the Oct. 31 deadline, deal or not. One EU diplomat told The Guardian they are leaving "the door open to the possibility of an extension," if needed. European Council President Donald Tusk said the "ball is in the court of the U.K. I have no idea what will be the result of the debate in the House of Commons on Saturday." Catherine Garcia

October 17, 2019

British and European Union negotiators reached a preliminary agreement Thursday on Britain's withdrawal from the EU. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted: "We have one! It's a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the U.K." British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it a "great new deal" and urged Parliament to ratify it in a special session on Saturday. The other 27 EU nations, whose leaders are meeting for a summit later Thursday, also have to approve the new Brexit deal.

Juncker said he will recommend the other EU nations back the agreement, but Johnson already saw his narrow passageway to Parliament's approval shrink further when his Conservative Party's Northern Ireland partners, the Democratic Unionist Party, said they "could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues" for the border between Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. The DUP affirmed their opposition after the deal was announced.

Johnson's deal replaces the "backstop" agreement for the Irish border that was negotiated by his predecessor, Theresa May, but officials from Northern Ireland don't like that the new plan treats Northern Ireland differently than the other parts of the U.K. Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, said Thursday that the new deal won't result in a hard border, adding: "We are fully committed to protect peace, to protect stability on the island of Ireland."

Britain's main opposition parties, Labour and Liberal Democrats, both quickly rejected the deal. Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson called Johnson's deal "bad for our economy, bad for our public services and bad for our environment." Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Johnson's Brexit deal is "even worse" than May's, adding "This sell-out deal won't bring the country together and should be rejected." Without the DUP and its 10 votes, "Boris Johnson will not get the numbers to get a deal," said BBC deputy political editor Norman Smith. "That is just an arithmetical fact." Peter Weber

August 20, 2019

The nails seem to be approaching the coffin for Brexit negotiations.

That's because the European Union has rejected U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's latest request to scrap the Irish border backstop from a new withdrawal agreement, The Guardian reports.

Johnson reportedly sent European Council President Donald Tusk a letter detailing alternative methods ahead of the Oct. 31 Article 50 deadline, but Tusk was having none of it, maintaining that the continuation of an open border in Ireland is vital. He said that Johnson offered no viable options for preventing a hard border from arising, while the EU dismissed Johnson's argument that the backstop was anti-democratic.

On the other hand, Johnson said that he felt the EU was being too pessimistic about the matter and that he still believes a deal can be reached before the deadline, though he has not relented on the necessity of the backstop's removal from negotiations, RTE reports. At the same time, Johnson said the U.K. has no intention of implementing any new border checks or infrastructure at the Irish border that could threaten the integrity of the 1998 Good Friday agreement, which has kept the peace on the island for over two decades. The EU described Johnson's claim that two separate legal and economic jurisdictions could exist with an open border as "misleading." Tim O'Donnell

April 10, 2019

British Prime Minister Theresa May has accepted an offer from European Union leaders to extend Brexit until Oct. 31, European Council President Donald Tusk announced late Wednesday.

"This means additional six months for the U.K. to find the best possible solution," Tusk tweeted. The Brexit deadline was set for Friday, and May had requested an extension to June 30. British lawmakers have been unable to pass an exit deal, and May has said if her proposal is accepted, she will step down.

EU leaders expressed their frustration over having to deal with Brexit for so long, with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven saying they have "spent a lot of time, a lot of energy, on this issue, and we have so many important issues on the agenda that we need to get on with." Catherine Garcia

March 25, 2019

British lawmakers voted Monday night to take control of the parliamentary timetable on Wednesday, giving them the opportunity to vote on alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal.

The amendment, put forward by a member of May's Conservative Party, passed 329 to 302, and three ministers resigned from May's government in order to support it. Alternatives to May's plan include leaving the European Union without a deal, extending the country's departure, and revoking Article 50 to remain in the EU, and Parliament will vote on a range of proposals Wednesday. A spokesman for the Department of Exiting the European Union told Reuters the government will "continue to call for realism — any options considered must be deliverable in negotiations with the EU."

The United Kingdom was supposed to leave the bloc on March 29; last week, the EU agreed to postpone Brexit until May 22 if British lawmakers agree to May's withdrawal deal, which has already been rejected twice. Otherwise, the EU will extend the delay only to April 12. Earlier Monday, May, who promised a clean break with the EU, said she did not have enough support to hold a third vote. For her deal to pass, at least 75 members of Parliament who voted against her on March 12 must join her side. Catherine Garcia

March 21, 2019

European Union leaders on Thursday offered the United Kingdom additional time to leave the bloc, delaying Brexit until May 22 if British lawmakers agree to Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal deal.

If not, the EU will accept a delay until April 12. The U.K. was previously set to leave the bloc on March 29.

Britain's Parliament has twice shot down May's EU deal, with lawmakers split on how to leave the EU and whether they should do so at all. "I will make every effort to make sure we can leave with a deal and move our country forward," May said. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads