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The road to Brexit

The European Union, which grew out of efforts to unify and stabilize Europe after World War II, currently consists of 28 member states. It has developed a continent-wide system of laws, markets, and currency, and offers a single European citizenship to its members.

In 1973, the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Council (E.E.C.), the precursor to the European Union. As a result of a 2016 referendum, the U.K. is on the brink of departing the European Union, in what is commonly known as Brexit.

Below is a short history of the European Union, and what may be in store for the U.K. after Brexit.

1992

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1992

The European Union is organized from the E.E.C. to remove barriers to free trade and encourage the free movement of capital and labor. The euro is introduced as a common currency among most member states (although it will take almost 10 years to fully implement).

1995

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1995

Borders come down as a result of the Schengen (Luxembourg) Pact relaxing passport controls between 22 European Union member states and seven non-member states.

2000

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Mid-2000s

Several former Communist Bloc countries are added during a controversial period of expansion.

2009

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2009

The Lisbon Treaty of 2009 introduces a method for member states to leave the European Union.

2016

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2016

Amid concerns over immigration and economic disparity, a popular referendum in the U.K. is won by proponents of leaving the European Union British lawmakers approve the motion the next year and set an exit date for March 2019.

2019

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April 2019

After an original deadline extension of April 12, European Union leaders agree to delay the Brexit departure until October 31—with a status review slated for June—in order to continue discussion of the rules for Britain’s relationship with the EU following its departure. Britain could also ratify the existing withdrawal agreement and exit the European Union anytime between now and Halloween.

There are essentially three ways Brexit can proceed from here:

nodeal

“No-Deal” Brexit:

Including (but not limited to):

  • border checks re-introduced
  • trade and transport disrupted (including food and personnel)
  • possible loss of validity of British licenses to drive in European Union countries
  • no transition period

deal

“Deal” Brexit:

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal initiative has already been rejected several times by Parliament, but any deal could involve:

  • setting up specific terms and conditions for the Brexit procedure
  • a two-year transition period

Options can be further divided into “soft Brexit” and “hard Brexit”:

  • ”soft”—keeps Britain more closely aligned with the European Union markets and customs/borders, while relinquishing its role as as a voting member
  • ”hard”—Britain leaves the European Union Single Market and Customs Union; attempts to secure a separate free-trade deal covering goods and services

else

Something Else

Including (but not limited to):

  • renegotiating a deal
  • a referendum on a deal
  • a general election
  • an extension
  • a referendum to cancel Brexit altogether

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