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Great Britain’s turbulent farewell from the EU

Brexit will continue to be on top of the European Parliament’s agenda because there is a lot to talk about. First, the EU and Great Britain have to negotiate an orderly exit, then a transitional understanding, and finally a future agreement. These negotiations are very complex. Consequently, Brexit remains an important topic, also in private discussions with my colleagues.


Trading with Great Britain is very important for the German economy. Exports alone to Great Britain amounted to €116 billion in 2016, which corresponds to 3.7% of the total Gross National Product. Industries concerned are mainly the automotive and mechanical engineering sectors as well as the pharmaceutical industry. Consequently, this trade creates a lot of jobs.

Brexit and Brandenburg

In Brandenburg, we will also notice the consequences of Brexit. In 2016 alone, companies based in Brandenburg exported goods worth half a billion Euros to the UK. As a result, Great Britain is in 9th place on the list of all of Brandenburg’s export partners. In addition, British companies like Rolls Royce create important jobs locally.

Our science and research sectors are closely linked, as are our universities. Students from Brandenburg who dream of going to London or Oxford within the framework of an Erasmus programme might be very disappointed, since it seems that such a stay will not be supported for much longer. Unfortunately, this also means that British payments into the EU Structural Fund might no longer happen: payments Brandenburg has been benefiting from extensively up until this day.



June 23, 2016 – Referendum in the United Kingdom on whether to leave the European Union  


Remain: 48.1%

Leave: 51.9%


England: 53.4% Leave

Northern Ireland: 55.8% Remain

Scotland: 62% Remain

Wales: 52.5% Leave


Turnout: 71.8%



Invocation of Art. 50:

March 20, 2017 – The UK Government triggered Art. 50 of the Treaty on the European Union. This started the two years lasting period of negotiations.

Therefore, the scheduled Brexit date was March 29, 2019.

Brexit negotiations: 

Phase 1 – Disentangling past ties and commitments

Phase 2 – Setting goals for future relations

Phase 3 – Arranging transition terms to avoid unnecessary disruption



November 2018 – Under Prime Minister Theresa May the UK reaches a deal with the European Union. This deal included:

  1. Financial matters, particularly the division of liabilities and assets as well as payments of outstanding debts.


  1. Rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice-versa.


  1. Law, including the mechanisms for resolving disputes, which at the moment are vested with the European Court of Justice.


  1. Border and customs arrangements, in particular along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The so-called „backstop“.

This section includes the Ireland/ Northern Ireland Protocol and the so-called “backstop”.

The backstop targets at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland in parts of the common market as long as there is no alternative arrangement. Furthermore, the United Kingdom would remain in the customs area until then, even if there was no trade agreement at the end of the transition period.

  1. A transition period until December 31, 2020.

During this transition period the United Kingdom would remain in the European Economic Area, in the common market and in the customs union. Furthermore, EU law would continue to apply in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom would continue to pay contributions.

The House of Commons rejected the deal three times. Consequently, Theresa May resigned as Prime Minister and leader of the conservative party.

The MPs were in particular sceptical about the backstop, which at its core remained part of the deal despite renegotiations.



In order to extend the length of the negotiation period, the government of the United Kingdom has to request an extension and all EU 27 members have to agree to it.

1st extension

The House of Commons did not approve the deal until March 29.

Therefore, the UK would have left the EU on April 12.

Otherwise, the United Kingdom would have left the EU with a deal on May 22.

2nd extension

The UK and the EU agree on an extension until October 31 at the latest.

The United Kingdom has to take part in the EU elections in May 2019 or leave the EU without a deal on June 1.



October 2019 – Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson the UK negotiated a new deal with the EU.


  1. Amendments on the movement of goods and over the customs area of the United Kingdom


  1. The Ireland/ Northern Ireland protocol on the backstop is replaced by an arrangement over a continued regulatory alignment in Northern Ireland.

EU rules and regulations would continue to apply in Northern Ireland. This arrangement targets at avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The entire United Kingdom would leave the customs union in legal terms. However, there would only be customs checks between Great Britain and the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland would de facto remain a member of the customs union and the common market for at least four years after the transition period. Afterwards the Northern Ireland Assembly would need to vote on whether they want this arrangement to continue.

In October 2019, the House of Commons for the first time approves a deal in principle.

However, the House of Commons does not approve the schedule of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and therefore does not approve Brexit to happen on October 31.

3rd extension

Johnson by law is required to request an extension beyond October 31.



The European Union allows for an extension of three months until January 31.

On December 12 there will be an early general election will in the United Kingdom.