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What is Brexit?

Defined by, The word Brexit denotes Britain's exit from the European Union. We have summarized the most important things for you and answered some questions.


Brexit facts and figures

Brexit is a compound word from Britain (German: Great Britain) and Exit (German: Ausstieg).

  • June 23, 2016: referendum

All citizens of Great Britain were asked to vote on whether their country should remain in the European Union ( EU ) or exit. The word for this is called a referendum. What many did not expect: Most people chose to leave. The country was and still is very divided. The majority were very narrow, 51.9% of the people voted for Brexit.

  • July 13, 2016: Theresa May becomes new Prime Minister

After the vote, Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation. The latter had promoted staying in the EU. Theresa May became his successor. She has the task of negotiating the exit with the EU. It introduced several laws and a minister for leaving the EU.

  • March 29, 2017: Application to leave the EU

Theresa May has submitted a written application to leave the EU to President Donald Tusk. Now the withdrawal must take place within two years. It won't be that easy.

  • June 19, 2017: First negotiations

In Brussels, the EU Commission starts negotiations on the exit for the first time. However, the first successes did not follow until December 2017. According to Theresa May, fundamental problems have now been clarified.

  • March 2018: The "backstop" should solve problems

The situation on the Irish island is considered the biggest crux of the negotiations. A solution will be announced for the first time in March 2018. Northern Ireland and Ireland are two different countries, of which only one will belong to the EU after Brexit. An EU external border would thus run between the two countries, which would result in border fences and customs controls. However, the Irish Peace Treaty of 1998 stipulates that the country's border must not affect the peaceful coexistence of the islanders. Border conflicts are to be prevented with the "backstop". Accordingly, Great Britain is to form a customs union with the EU for at least two more years and Northern Ireland remains in the EU's internal market (a delimited economic area). This regulation applies until it succeeds

  • July 6, 2018: Dispute in the British Parliament

Theresa May finally presents a concrete exit concept. Meanwhile, the British government is becoming more and more controversial. Many disagree with the "backstop" and call for new negotiations. The EU Commission is also irritable. It is criticized that the UK has still not set clear targets nine months before the planned exit.

  • November 25, 2018: The agreement is signed

After endless negotiations and much argument, the Brexit agreement is finally signed by all 27 EU member states. However, the British Parliament still has to approve this agreement.

  • December 12, 2018: vote of no confidenceagainst May

However, many politicians from Parliament are not satisfied with the contract. Above all, the "backstop" annoys them very much. Therefore critics of Theresa May called for a vote of no confidence. The members of the party had to vote if they wanted to keep May as chair. It received 117 votes against, but another 200 politicians said they continue to trust May. So she survived the vote and remains prime minister.

  • January 2019: vote is postponed

The vote in Parliament on the agreement with the EU should actually take place in December. However, because Theresa May was certain that the contract would not win an absolute majority, she postponed the vote until mid-January. How the vote will turn out is still unclear. An unregulated Brexit in spring 2019, i.e. without clear agreements, is becoming more and more likely.

  • January and March 2019: British Parliament votes against May's deal

Theresa May has negotiated a contract with the EU. The EU makes it clear that it will not make any further changes. May presents the Brexit contract three times to the British House of Commons. Parliament always votes against the deal. Theresa May postpones the vote and tries to win over British politicians to the contract, but to no avail. In between there was also a vote of no confidence that May survived. She also worked on a "Plan B": The "hard Brexit", that is, the unregulated exit of the UK is becoming more and more likely.

Shortly before the 3rd vote in the lower house, the EU extended the deadline from March 29 to April 12, 2019.

  • April: EU decides to postpone Brexit deadline

At a special summit, the European Union decides to extend the deadline for Britain's exit from the EU. The new date is October 31, 2019.

  • July 24, 2019: Theresa May resigns and Boris Johnson becomes the new Prime Minister

After Theresa May failed three times in the Brexit vote in the British Parliament, she resigns. Parliament elected Boris Johnson, who is considered a Brexit hardliner. That means: He is likely to pull through Brexit - with and without a contract with the EU.

  • August 28, 2019: Johnson gives Parliament a mandatory break

Boris Johnson orders the UK Parliament to close from September 10th to October 14th, 2019. The break in the session does not suit many politicians so shortly before the Brexit date.

  • EU agrees: New date for Brexit is January 31, 2020
  • December 12, 2019: General election - Boris Johnson remains prime minister

The prime minister announced new elections. His plan worked: the British chose him and his party and thus also Brexit - and that very clearly. The opposing party, the Liberals, have lost seats in parliament.

  • December 2019 and January 2020: Parliament and EU vote in favor of draft exit

In December Boris Johnson submitted a new draft EU treaty to the House of Commons. The contract has over 500 pages. They voted for it. In January the upper house also voted for it. On January 29, 2020, EU politicians also confirmed the treaty.

  • January 31, 2020: Brexit Day

Great Britain officially leaves the European Union at midnight. There is a transitional solution until the end of 2020, so not much will change for now.

How did Brexit come about?

The British never wanted to go along with everything the EU decided. For example, they have the pound as their currency, in most other EU member states you pay with the euro. Many do not like the fact that so many EU citizens from other countries are allowed to come and work and live in their country. Many also fear that their country will lose sovereignty, i.e. self-determination. In her opinion, the UK should be able to determine many things that are decided in the EU. The financial crisis was also an important point. British politicians did not want to pay money for Greece at the time. But there are more reasons why the British criticize the EU.


Prime Minister David Cameron tried to negotiate individual matters with the EU and give his country more freedom. That didn't work. He got a lot of pressure from other British politicians here. That's why he brought out his own law called the EU referendum. United Kingdom citizens should be able to vote whether their country should remain in the EU or not.

Maybe not a Brexit after all?

This question has been around for a long time. The referendum was also very short: 51.9% voted to leave. Younger British in particular are critical of Brexit. But there was not a second referendum (i.e. a vote of the population), as many suspected.

How long has Great Britain been in the EU?

The country joined in 1973 the predecessor of the EU, the European Economic Community (EEC).

Isn't Britain a monarchy?

You might think: Great Britain has the Queen! Why is Theresa May or Boris Johnson in the media all the time? Of course you are right. Britain has a so-called parliamentary monarchy. Queen Elisabeth II is the head of state.

The Queen has various "representative" tasks, such as receiving other politicians, hiring ministers or confirming laws. She actually has similar tasks to our Federal President, only she is not elected, but born into her position.

The Prime Minister, on the other hand, is responsible for politics, similar to our Chancellor. Theresa May initially took on the job when the population decided to exit the EU. Her job was not that easy, she failed because of it. The successor is Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister's job is to negotiate a deal with the European Union and have it signed by the British Parliament.

There are many EU agreements signed by British politicians. All of them now have to be looked at and the EU has to negotiate new contracts with the British.

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