How Brexit came about: The timeline that lead – finally – to British freedom

Brexit: Daily Express projects Union Jack onto Cliffs of Dover

January 1, 1973: The UK, together with Ireland and Denmark, join the EEC, enlarging the community from six nations to nine.

June 5, 1975: Britain approves membership of the EEC in its first referendum on Europe thanks largely to Margaret Thatcher.

1977: Former chancellor and home secretary Roy Jenkins becomes European commission president, a role he holds until 1981.

1979: New prime minister Margaret Thatcher tables a demand for a rebate from the EEC. First European parliamentary elections are held.

September 20, 1988: Mrs Thatcher makes her famous speech at the College of Europe in Bruges in the first clear sign of frustration at the idea of a federal superpower.

November 28, 1990: Mrs Thatcher is ousted from power amid Tory Party splits over Europe and is replaced by Johns Major.

September 16, 1992: Black Wednesday sees interest rates rocket to 15 percent and the devalued pound is forced out of the ERM, the system intended to stabilise currency values ahead of European monetary union.

November 1, 1993: The Maastricht Treaty establishes the EU, signalling ever closer European cooperation. Britain opts out of the social chapter.

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May 6, 1994: Anglo-French cooperation reaches new heights as the Eurotunnel opens.

March 26, 1995: Europe becomes borderless with the opening of the Schengen area of free travel which does away with passport checks but the UK and Ireland opt out.

May 2, 1997: Labour sweep to victory in general election and Chancellor Gordon Brown lays out five tests for Britain to join the euro single currency.

June 10, 1999: An unknown politician called Nigel Farage is elected to the European Parliament.

January 1, 2002: Euro becomes the continental currency for 300 million people, replacing legal tender in 12 EU countries. Sweden, Denmark and the UK opt out.

2004: Britain opens her border to workers from the EU’s new eastern European states, attracting hundreds of thousands from Poland. By 2011 almost 600,000 had settled in the UK.

September 12, 2006: Nigel Farage becomes leader of UKIP.

January 1, 2007: Bulgaria and Romania become EU members.

January 23, 2013: Prime Minister David Cameron says the British people must “have their say” on Europe promising a “simple choice” between staying in or leaving.

May 22, 2014: Ukip led by Nigel Farage wins 26 per cent of the vote in the European elections becoming the UK’s biggest representative at the European Parliament.

May 7, 2015: The Conservative Party wins a general election with a majority of 12 on a manifesto promising an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

June 23, 2016: The UK votes to leave the EU with 17,410,742 people voting in favour in a referendum that had a turnout of 72.2 percent. The morning after David Cameron said would resign as Prime Minister while Mr Farage quits as Ukip leader, saying he has “fulfilled his political ambition”. Theresa May becomes Prime Minister

November 3, 2016: The High Court rules Mrs May does not have the power to trigger Article 50 [of the Lisbon treaty which sets out how an EU country might voluntarily leave the union] without first winning a vote by MPs in parliament.

January 17, 2017: Mrs May delivers her Lancaster House speech which sets out the type of Brexit deal she will be pursuing when negotiations start.

February 14, 2017: Parliament Votes to allow Article 50 to be triggered.

March 29, 2017: Article 50 triggered signalling the start of Brexit. Mrs May signs letter to European Council president Donald Tusk giving notice in a letter is delivered at 12:20pm UK time by the British ambassador to the EU Sir Tim Barrow.

March 30, 2017: EU Withdrawal Bill published ensuring European law will no longer apply in the UK after Brexit.

June 8, 2017: Snap General Election called by Mrs May results in the Tories losing the majority the party won in 2015. It means the Tories had to strike a deal with the DUP, a pro-Union and pro-Brexit party in Northern Ireland.

June 26, 2017: Formal Brexit negotiations start between Britain and the EU.

September 22, 2017: Mrs May, above, delivers her Florence speech in an effort to move Brexit talks forward, saying a transition period to bridge the gap between leaving the EU and starting a new trading relationship could last for two years, and access to the single market would “continue on current terms”.

December 13, 2017: Tory rebels side with Labour and force the Government to guarantee a vote on the final Brexit deal once it is agreed with Brussels. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve tables an amendment calling for parliament to have a meaningful vote on the deal with the EU and was one of 11 Tory MPs to vote for it.

July 7, 2018: Mrs May summons Cabinet Ministers to Chequers to discuss Brexit and the possibility of no-deal scenario. The so-called Chequers Deal means the UK would keep close ties with the EU, creating an EU-UK free-trade area and a common rulebook. There would be no freedom of movement and no paying the EU, but the UK could still strike other trade deals. The day after Brexit Secretary David Davis resigns. The following day Boris Johnson quits as Foreign Secretary.

July 21, 2018: Brexit White Paper published outlining plans for “developing a broad and deep economic relationship with the EU that maximises future prosperity” and “minimises disruption to trade between the UK and EU, protecting jobs and livelihoods” without hindering trade opportunities around the world.

September 20, 2018: EU rejects Mrs May’s Chequers Deal saying it was “unworkable”. French President Emmanuel Macron, above, said Brexit had been sold to the British public by “liars”.

October 20, 2018: More than 500,000 take part in the People’s Vote March calling for a second referendum.

October 22, 2018: Mrs May says 95 percent of a Brexit deal had been agreed with the EU amid speculation she could face a no-confidence triggered by Tory backbenchers.

November 12, 2018: Mrs May says negotiations are “in the endgame”.

November 14, 2018: After a five-hour Cabinet meeting Mrs May said ministers had agreed to back her Draft Brexit Agreement which takes the UK “significantly closer” to delivering on the referendum result.

November 15, 2018: Following the publication of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, above, resigns.

November 20, 2018: The UK Supreme Court refuses the government’s bid to block a court case relating to the revoking of Article 50 from reaching the European Court of Justice.

November 25, 2018: The other 27 EU leaders unanimously back Mrs May’s Brexit deal which had taken 18-months to negotiate. Iain Duncan Smith said he “certainly won’t” support the PM’s deal, saying the UK had given the EU “everything they’ve asked for”.

December 12, 2018: Mrs May wins no confidence vote after at least 48 Conservative MPs called for one to be held.

January 15, 2019: MPs reject Mrs May’s Brexit deal in a historic vote 432 votes to 202 – the biggest government defeat since 1924.

January 16, 2019: Mrs May wins a second no confidence vote.

January 29, 2019: MPs tell Mrs May to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement and replace the backstop with “alternative arrangements” to keep the Irish border open after Brexit.

January 30, 2019: Brexit Party leader Mr Farage delivers a speech in the European Parliament saying no country would have signed Mrs May’s Brexit deal with the EU unless they had just been “defeated in war”.

February 7, 2019: EU rejects changes to the withdrawal agreement.

March 14, 2019: MPs vote against holding a second referendum.

March 27, 2019: Mrs May confirms she will “not lead the UK in the next stage of Brexit negotiations”.

March 29, 2019: The date Britain was meant to leave the EU exactly two years after Article 50 was triggered.

April 10, 2019: Mrs May requests a second extension to the date the UK is to depart from the European Union, with EU leaders agreeing on October 31.

May 24, 2019: Mrs May confirms she will quit as Conservative leader on June 7, paving the way for a contest to decide a new prime minister.

July 24, 2019: Boris Johnson becomes prime minister after beating Jeremy Hunt in the race to become leader of the Conservative Party, above.

December 12, 2019: Mr Johnson and the Tories win a landslide at the General Election and a Commons majority of 80. He reaffirms his commitment to “get Brexit done” by January 31.

December 20, 2019: Mr Johnson’s deal goes before parliament.

January 23, 2020, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act – the legislation that will implement the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the UK and the EU – receives Royal Assent.

January 31, 2020: Brexit Day – the UK leaves the EU.

February 1, 2020: The countdown starts on an 11-month transition period with talks on a new trade deal.

March 2, 2020: EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and UK’s EU adviser David Frost open formal talks in Brussels on Britain’s future relationship with the bloc, including a free trade agreement.

March 12, 2020: The two sides suspend face-to-face talks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

June 12, 2020: Cabinet office minister Michael Gove tells the EU the UK will not sign up to an extension to the transition period.

October 16, 2020: Mr Johnson halts talks on a trade deal accusing EU leaders meeting for a summit in Brussels of seeking to impose “unacceptable” demands.

November 7, 2020: Mr Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen agree to “redouble” their efforts to strike a deal.

December 4, 2020: Lord Frost and Mr Barnier say conditions for an agreement have still not been met and negotiations will be put on “pause” prompting Mr Johnson and Von der Leyen to hold emergency talks.

December 9, 2020: Mr Johnson flies to Brussels for a working dinner with von der Leyen dine at the European Commission. It ends in stalemate.

December 13 2020: Mr Johnson and von der Leyen agree to “go the extra mile” to find a breakthrough. Mr Johnson says there is a “deal to be done” but the two sides are “very far apart”.

December 17, 2020: Another phone call between Mr Johnson and von der Leyen. Mr Gove tells MPs the chances of a deal were “less than 50 percent”. Mr Johnson says negotiations are in a “serious situation”.

December 24, 2020: A deal is agreed between the UK and the EU.

December 31, 2020: We’re out – the transition period ends and Britain is finally a self-governing, sovereign nation once more.

• Additional research by Paul Donnelley.

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