Brexit Terms Explained

Article 50
– Article 50 relates to a brief section of the Treaty of Lisbon, which outlines the procedure a member of the European Union (EU) must follow should they want to leave. Triggering Article 50 formally symbolises a country’s departure from the EU. 


Backstop – An assurance based on the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border and what will happen to it post Brexit. It would become relevant should no deal be agreed between the UK and the EU, ensuring there would be no hard border and Northern Ireland would remain part of the customs union.


Blind Brexit – The situation of the UK leaving the EU before any agreement for the long-term future relationship between the two parties is struck.

– A term used to describe those who are in favour of the UK leaving the EU.


Brexodus – An amalgamation of the terms ‘Brexit’ and ‘Exodus,’ which refers to people or companies leaving the UK as a result of Brexit.


Canada model – At present, Canada benefits from the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which is a deal that allows for free trade with the EU – although some restrictions do apply. Canada and its citizens don’t have the right to freely travel or live in the EU, but they also don’t have to contribute to the EU budget. The Canada model refers to this arrangement.


Common Agricultural Policy – A policy set by the EU, which was initially brought in to protect farmers and ensure enough food was being supplied. It has been the centre of a lot of criticism, with some feeling that it was a waste of money and time.


Divorce bill – The amount of money the UK will pay the EU when it leaves in March. With membership being signed up for seven years in advance, the UK will owe unpaid EU bills, estimated to be around £37 billion that will need to be paid.


European council – An EU government consisting of nationally-elected representatives from the 28 member states.


European Court of Justice (ECJ) – The most authoritative level of the EU, where all laws and disputes are set.


European Economic Area – The nations that make up the European Single Market. These are all EU states as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, which allow for free movement and allow the European Single Market to dictate certain rules to them. However, this additional trio are not bound by some of the EU’s other policies.


Eurosceptic – Also known as a Brexiteer, a Eurosceptic is a person who does not believe the UK being a part of the EU is beneficial. In a more general sense, it is any person who does not believe EU inclusion of any country is justified.


EU (European Union) – A political, economic and geographical union between 28 members (including the UK), all of which are bound by common laws for, for example, trading.


Four freedoms – The ability for capital, goods, people and services to move freely within the European Single Market.


Hard border – A border that is not open and either controlled or protected by officials of some capacity.


Hard Brexit – A situation where the UK gets unfavourable terms from the EU as a Brexit deal.


Irish border – The border currently separating Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) is soft, meaning no physical checks or infrastructure hinders travel from one to the other. Within Theresa May’s Brexit deal agreed with the EU is an agreement to keep the Irish border soft, but worries come over the ‘no deal’ situation, in which this agreement would not apply. Both the UK and Ireland are in the European Single Market and customs union, meaning trade is very easy and with few limitations. Post-Brexit, ROI and Northern Ireland may be part of different customs regimes, meaning far more border limitations.


Meaningful vote – A vote by MPs in the House of Commons on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The deal has been agreed with the EU and the UK Government, but it’s faced opposition by many of those outside the Tory party (and even rebels within), and must pass through Parliament in order for the deal to be officially ratified.

The first meaningful vote saw May’s initial deal rejected, but she will return after discussions with fellow MPs, company leaders and the EU itself with an improved deal mid-February, when another vote will take place.


MEP (Member of European Parliament) – An elected politician who has been voted into the European Parliament.


No deal – Referring to the departure deal that the EU will offer the UK. The UK does have a choice to not accept the terms put forward by the EU, in which case future relations in terms of trading and free movement etc. may be hindered.


Norway model – Norway is not part of the EU, but operates in many ways as if it were. This is relevant to the UK as emulating the Norway model would mean remaining a part of the European Single Market, but would have to allow free movement, meaning still not have full control of immigration. Payments to the EU would continue, but they would be considerably smaller than what is currently paid. But the UK would be bound still by a lot of EU rules.


People’s vote – This would be a second referendum asking the public whether the UK should leave the EU. Campaigners are calling for it to give ‘the people’ another chance to vote; now knowing in with more clarity what exactly Brexit would entail. Those against a second referendum claim it undermines democratic credibility.


Schengen area – A collection of countries that have abolished passport control at borders. There are 26 countries in total within the area, most of which are in the EU. A handful are not in the EU, and equally some EU members are not in the Schengen Area such as the UK.


Single market – Referring to the European Single Market, this is the largest single market in the world. It consists of all EU member states as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.


Soft Brexit – A situation where the UK leaves the EU, but still enjoys a lot of the benefits that come with being a member. For example, the UK and EU citizens would still have free movement and stay in the European Single Market.


Tariff – A tax that is applied to imports or exports.


Transition period – The period that will be entered immediately after the UK has left the EU, where terms for future relations will be negotiated. This will end and the transition period will be over on the 31 December, 2019 – assuming Brexit happens on 29 March 2019.


Withdrawal agreement – An agreement between the EU and the UK proposing the exact procedure that will be taken when the departure takes place, and the months after Brexit.


World Trade Organisation (WTO)The WTO is an international regulator of trade. It currently has 164 member states who have all signed an agreement to abide by common trading practices. As well as enforcing their own regulation, the WTO also helps to resolve disputes among members. Were the UK to leave the EU without an agreement on the future of trade, the WTO’s rules would apply for the UK when trading with the EU. This would significantly increase the cost of trading.