The British people voted for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) in the 2016 referendum. The UK should have left the EU by the end of October 2019. How did the individual negotiations go and what were their results?
The referendum about Brexit
As a member state, it is possible to leave the EU on the basis of a democratic decision, which is approved by the public, as it is governed by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This is exactly what happened in the case of the UK. The referendum took place in June 2016. The official turnout was 72.2 % of possible voters. 51.9 % people voted to withdraw, and conversely, 48.1 % people voted to remain in the EU. David Cameron resigned from his post as Prime Minister after the results went public. He was succeeded in his post by Theresa May.
The beginning of the negotiations between the EU and the UK
The UK officially announced to the European Council that it wanted to withdraw from the EU in March 2017. This activated Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The main negotiator for the EU and British Minister, David Davis, began the first round of negotiations regarding the departure from the EU in June. This negotiation mainly concerned the rights of the citizens, financial arrangements and the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The second round of negotiations began in July 2017 and its purpose was to present the position of both sides. In September 2017, when the fourth round of negotiations began, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, stated during the meeting with Theresa May, that in his opinion, there had been no noticeable advancement.
There was substantial progress regarding the rights of the citizens, financial commitments and Ireland after the sixth round of negotiations. Thanks to this, the negotiations moved to a second phase in December 2017. First phase included round 1 - 6 of negotiations.
During the second phase, they would discuss the transitional period and also the new relationship between the EU and the UK. The seventh round of negotiations officially began in February 2018, during which the EU and the UK focused on three main topics: transitional period, Ireland and the Withdrawal Agreement itself.
Proposal of the Withdrawal Agreement
In late February, the European Commission published a proposal of the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK (hereinafter referred to as Agreement). The Agreement was created on the basis of a joint report of the EU negotiators and the UK, which was translated into the legal provisions. A partial consensus was achieved regarding the Agreement in the following month.
In January 2019, the two chairmen, Tusk and Junker, stated that they were ready to sign the Agreement as soon as it is approved by the British Parliament. However, the UK requested a delay of the withdrawal in March 2019, which was in line with Article 50, until the end of June 2019. The leaders of the 27 member states have agreed to delay the withdrawal until the 22nd of May if the Agreement is not approved by the British Parliament sooner.
The British Parliament rejected all eight proposals of the Agreement in late March. This Agreement concerned the form of withdrawal and the future relationship between the EU and the UK. Following this, Theresa May requested another delay of Brexit.
EU leaders expressed their approval of the delay of Brexit until the end of October 2019 during an extraordinary summit in April 2019. They have also expressed that if both sides ratify the Agreement sooner than that, then the UK will leave the EU on the first day of the following month.
Resignation of Theresa May and revision of the Withdrawal Agreement
Theresa May announced in May 2019 that she will resign as a leader of the Conservative Party in June. Boris Johnson became the new Prime Minister succeeding Theresa May. Furthermore, there has been a revision of the Agreement and the Protocol regarding Ireland and Northern Ireland. The European Council then approved this revised Agreement together with the Protocol.
Boris Johnson declared that he did not want to request another delay and he wanted the UK to leave the EU at the end of October, even though the “hard Brexit” is prohibited by the law, which was passed by the British Parliament in September.
The whole situation has been changed by the fact that there will be early elections in December. The Parliament also halted the discussion about the Agreement and now all await the results of the early elections. For now, a new Brexit date is on the 31st of January 2019.
Generální sekretariát Rady, consilium.europa.eu, Brexit, aktualizováno dne 21. října 2019 (https://www.consilium.europa.eu/cs/policies/eu-uk-after-referendum/).
Electoral Commission, electoralcommission.org.uk, Results and turnout at the EU referendum (https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/elections-and-referendums/past-elections-and-referendums/eu-referendum/results-and-turnout-eu-referendum).
Tolga Akmen, france24.com, Theresa May announces resignation, sparking leadership race, ze dne 24. května 2019 (https://www.france24.com/en/20190524-theresa-may-announces-resignation-sparking-leadership-race).
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Pavla Hosnedlová, euractiv.cz, Brexit: Od osudného referenda až po vyjednané dohody, ze dne 18. října 2019 (https://euractiv.cz/section/all/linksdossier/brexit-od-osudneho-referenda-az-po-vyjednane-dohody/).
Jakub Dulínek, novinky.cz, Brexit, ze dne 25. února 2016 (https://www.novinky.cz/tema/clanek/brexit-40096592).
Novinky.cz, Summit EU podpořil novou brexitovou dohodu, ze dne 17. října 2019 (Novinky.cz, https://www.novinky.cz/zahranicni/evropa/clanek/summit-eu-podporil-novou-brexitovou-dohodu-40300332).
Boris Johnson, author: Paladinum2, datum pořízení: 22 July 2019, source: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.