UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and former PM Theresa May (right) chat away. [Courtesy]

The word Brexit has been thrown around for quite some time.

It is a combination of “Britain” and “Exit”, meaning the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU). Britain is set to leave the European Union on January 31, 2020.

Below is a guide of what Brexit is and its significant events.

The turning point

A referendum was held on June 23, 2016 to decide whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union.

17.4 million people (52 per cent) voted for the UK to leave the EU while 48 per cent voted no. Then-Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the referendum resigned immediately after the referendum.

Pro Brexit

Members of the UK Government and the public are arguing that Britain’s participation in the EU was a restrictive element for the country. Brexit supporters are also saying that the high EU membership fees can be used to benefit the country. 


The argument against Brexit is mainly all about business benefits. By being in EU, the UK can benefit by being part of the single market system.  Additionally, ‘anti-Brexiters’ believe that immigrants help develop a vibrant job market.

Brexit leaders:

David Cameron recognised that the majority wanted to leave the EU. He stepped down as Prime Minister because Britain needed “fresh leadership” to take the country in a new direction.

Theresa May was then appointed Prime Minister.

May triggered Article 50 in March 2017, setting the exit date of March 29, 2019 for Britain to leave with or without a proper deal.

She then bowed to pressure from her own party and resigned in June after MPs rejected her deal three times.

Boris Johnson then became prime minister in July.

So, why hasn't Brexit happened yet?

Brexit was originally due to happen on March 29, 2019. That was two years after then UK Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 - the formal process to leave - and kicked off negotiations.

Under May, the deadline was delayed twice after MPs rejected her Brexit deal, eventually pushing it to October 31, 2019.

Despite negotiating a revised deal, Mr Johnson missed the latest deadline, after MPs failed to pass it into law.

The EU then agreed to a further extension until January 31, 2020.

Why is it taking the UK long to leave?

The referendum was a simple yes or no vote. It left lawmakers to grapple with the mechanics of how to leave the EU. In order to leave, the UK had to invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty, which outlines the steps for a member state to withdraw.

Cameron’s successor Theresa May formally triggered Article 50 in March 2017 which set the clock ticking for the UK to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal by March 29, 2019.

The deadline was extended three times, to October 31 after parliament rejected the deal May had struck with the EU.

What is the new Brexit deal?

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson succeeded in replacing the backstop with new customs arrangements.

According to the BBC, unlike the previous deal, the revised one will allow the UK to sign and implement its own trade agreements with countries all over.

However, the revised deal effectively creates a customs and regulatory border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. This means that some goods entering the Northern Ireland from Great Britain would be subject to checks and pay EU import taxes (also known as tariffs).

What happens next?

If the Brexit deal is passed, then the new Parliament is likely to move quickly to pass the withdrawal agreement that the prime minister reached with European Union leaders.

If this happens, Britain will no longer belong to the EU come January 31, 2020.

In the event the Brexit deal is not passed, it could prompt a recession in Britain.