Brexit timeline of key events from referendum to EU exit

On January 31 2020, Brexit finally became reality as the United Kingdom officially left the European Union – more than three and a half years since the Brexit referendum. 2020 will be a transition period with most arrangements remaining the same and virtually nothing will change for businesses or for the public during this time. However, on June 15 2020, the UK and the EU announced in a joint statement that the UK will not seek an extension to the transition period meaning that the clock is ticking for the two to agree on their future relationship by the end of this year.

Below is a summary of the key events since the referendum 2016 as well as the important deadlines to look out for in 2020.

23 June 2016

EU referendum

UK holds referendum on its membership of the EU, commonly known as the Brexit referendum. It results in 51.9 per cent of votes being in favour of leaving.

Invocation of article 50

The at-the-time Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, which begins the UK’s withdrawal.

29 March 2017
29 March 2019

Original Brexit day

The UK was originally set to leave the EU on this day. However, the process is delayed as the Withdrawal Agreement drafted and negotiated by the then Prime Minister Theresa May was not approved in the British Parliament and the EU agreed to grant an extension.

Theresa May resigns

Theresa May announces she will resign as Prime Minister.

7 June 2019
23 July 2019

Boris Johnson wins the leadership race

Boris Johnson is elected new leader of the Conservative party with almost twice as many votes as his opponent Jeremy Hunt.

Boris Johnson becomes the new Prime Minister

Following an audience with HM The Queen, Boris Johnson formally becomes the new Prime Minister of the UK and commits to taking the UK out of the EU on 31 October.

24 July 2019
31 October 2019

Brexit deadline

The UK is supposed to leave the EU, but the departure is yet again delayed despite Boris Johnson earlier vowing that Brexit will happen on this day, ‘no ifs or buts’.

General election in the UK

Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party wins a landslide victory taking 365 seats, with the Labour Party second on 202 seats.

12 December 2019
31 January 2020

Brexit day (for real) & Transition period begins

At 11 pm UK time, Brexit finally becomes reality as Britain officially leaves the European Union and enters a transition period that is due to run until the end of the year.

UK-EU future relationship negotiations in 2020

The UK-EU negotiations in 2020 will take place over several negotiation rounds. Areas of discussion include a new trade deal and the terms of the future relationship on a wide range of matters such as good and services, fishing and farming, security cooperation, data policy, education and science.

The transition period
2-5 March 2020

The first round of negotiations takes place

The first rounds of negotiations between the UK and the EU are formally launched in Brussels by the UK’s Chief Negotiator, David Frost, and by the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier. Barnier warns of serious differences after the first round. The second round, due to take place in mid-March, is postponed due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Europe.

The second round of negotiations takes place

Due to COVID-19, the second round of negotiations takes place via video conference. After the talks, both the UK and the EU issue a similar statement, expressing that limited and disappointing progress has been made so far. The pain points relate especially to fisheries matters, governance and “level playing field” for businesses.

20-24 April 2020
11-15 May 2020

The third round of negotiations takes place.

The third round ends in a similar mood as the second round. Both sides report that little progress has been made on the most significant outstanding issues, with only one scheduled negotiating round left before the crucial June summit.

The fourth round of negotiations takes place

The negotiations end yet again without any major breakthroughs, putting the pressure now on a high-level political meeting between Boris Johnson and the EU’s top official Ursula Von der Leyen, who will meet later this month.

2-5 June 2020
15 June 2020

UK and EU agree not to extend transition period beyond December 2020

A high-level video conference takes place between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and top EU officials, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Following the call, the UK and EU confirm that Britain will not seek an extension to the transition period. However, both parties agree to intensify talks in July.

Further negotiations

July – October 2020
31 October 2020

Deadline for the “legal text” of the agreement to be in place

Taking into account the time needed to ratify a deal, the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier has stated that a full “legal text” must be in place by this date – at the latest.

Ratification of agreement?

November – December 2020
31 December 2020

Transition period ends

If a trade deal is not in place by this date, the UK will fall back on to WTO rules.

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The HR implications of Brexit: What changes for employers and individuals?

Brexit is a word that has not been heard in a while given the headlines which have dominated the Global press of late. However, 31 December 2020 is the end of the transition period and from 1 January 2021 we will be ringing in the end of free-movement for the UK. We blogged about Brexit and People considerations in August 2019, but there have been many changes since then.

For Employers and Individuals alike, there have been a range of messages given over the past year concerning actions to be taken. We hope to provide some clarity in this article.

For individuals

As stated in our previous article, for EU citizens who are resident in the UK by the end of the transition period, they will be able to continue to live, work and study in the UK provided that they take certain actions. The options for these residents will be to apply for Pre-Settled Status or Settled Status depending on certain qualifying conditions.

EU citizens who arrive in the UK by 31 Dec 2020, but have not lived in the UK previously for 5 continuous years can apply for Pre-Settled Status. EU citizens who arrive in the UK by 31 Dec 2020 and do have a record of living in the UK continuously for 5 years can apply for Settled Status. There are regulations around what is considered as living in the country continuously.  As applications are taking longer than expected, applicants have an extended period until 30 June 2021 to make the application.

Pre-Settled status will be granted for five years, but will be lost if the individual leaves the UK for a period of two consecutive years. An individual granted Pre-Settled status may apply for Settled Status once five years continuous residence is met. Individuals granted Settled Status will lose this if they leave the UK for a period of five continuous years.

EU citizens who apply for Pre-Settled Status or Settled Status will be able to access healthcare in the UK, however other benefits such as support for ill health or unemployment are only able to be accessed by those granted Settled Status at the time of writing.

EU Nationals who are not residing in the UK by/on exit day will be subject to the UK new points-based immigration system from 1 January 2021. The new system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. From 1 January 2021, anyone coming to the UK to work will need to have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor. Points are assigned for specific skills, qualifications, salaries and shortage occupations, Visas are then awarded to those who gain enough points.

For employers

It is key at this time to understand the composition of your existing workforce. If you do currently employ EU citizens, then you should understand what their plans are by way of remaining in the UK; and if they desire to apply for Pre-Settled Status/Settled Status. It is however entirely probable that you will need to hire employees again in future, whether this be for a new vacancy or a replacement hire.

Employers who want to recruit workers from outside the UK’s resident labour market from 1 January 2021 will need to apply to become an approved sponsor in the UK. Therefore, in order to maintain a skilled and diverse workforce, then this is something to consider. As an employer, you can apply online and the standard processing time for an application is usually 8 weeks. EU citizen staff who are already in the UK or arrive before 1 January 2021 can continue to work without needing to show settlement status until 1 July 2021.

Irish and UK citizens will be able continue to travel freely for business travel and to live and work between both countries under the Common Travel Agreement (CTA). Irish nationals currently working in the UK will not need to apply for settled status in the UK.

As highlighted in our previous article, when carrying out pre-employment screening, HR will also need to be mindful of changing data protection laws.

In terms of whether an employer may place an EU employee on secondment to the UK, until now the UK has enjoyed favourable agreements with most EU countries for taxation and social security purposes. Negotiations are still underway of whether such favourable arrangements may continue in future.

Brexit implications for European nationals living in the UK, by Helen Smith of North Star Law

Around 930,000 European nationals currently call London their home and many have lived for years in the UK without needing any immigration permission. For those of us born into the European Union, free movement is not just an abstract concept that politicians argue about, it is a daily reality that has shaped the course of our lives. Whether we have spent time studying abroad under the Erasmus program, own a second home in another EU country or have based our lives and careers in a different member state, our lives are intertwined with the European project.

While views may differ on the Brexit issue, it’s obvious that those European nationals who live in the UK now will be able to stay if the UK chooses to leave the EU, isn’t it? Actually, it’s not at all clear.

There is a distinct lack of clarity from the politicians on what will happen if the UK votes to leave the EU in June 2016, partly because it’s impossible to tell in advance how the remaining 27 EU states will react. Nobody knows what impact a Brexit would have on the immigration status of EU nationals living in the UK because there is no precedent.
At one extreme are those who warn that if the UK were to leave the EU, British nationals could be asked to apply for visas before travelling to mainland Europe. This would enable the UK politically to retaliate by imposing visa restrictions on EU nationals. From a legal perspective, if the UK pulls out of Europe, the legal basis for European nationals’ stay in the UK, the EU treaties, could no longer apply. Some experts argue that a principle of vested or acquired rights would protect free movement at least for a transitional period, but that is currently an untested theory.

At the other end of the spectrum, many assume that the UK would enter into some kind of free trade agreement with the EU that would protect the free movement of workers, goods, services and capital that has been so fundamental to the European Union.

The truth is, we just don’t know at this stage how it will pan out.

What we do know is that the UK government has already made it harder for European nationals to get British passports. In November 2015, they introduced the requirement for EEA citizens resident in the UK to acquire a permanent residence document before they can naturalise as British citizens. This adds another hoop, and a not altogether straightforward one, to the process of becoming British. There are no special measures for European nationals who have been here for more than the requisite minimum period – no matter whether you have been here for 30 years or 5 years, the path towards a British passport is now longer than it used to be.

Even if the UK votes to remain in the EU, the immigration landscape for Europeans in Britain will change if the UK-EU deal takes effect. This summary of the impact of the deal by Professor Steve Peers is excellent and very thorough.  In a nutshell, it will get harder for European nationals to bring their non-European family members to the UK.

European nationals living in the UK are increasingly becoming interested in the options surrounding British citizenship for them and their children born here. They need to bear in mind that it is much easier to bring non-European family members to the UK as an EU national than it would be as a British national.

It would be great to have a crystal ball and see what the outcome of the referendum will be. Whichever way it goes, the status quo is unlikely to remain for long.

Helen Smith, Immigration Lawyer, North Star Law
Helen.smith@northstarlaw.co.uk
@NorthStarImmig
2 March 2016


This update is for general guidance only. Specific legal advice should be obtained in all cases. This material is the copyright of Goodwille Limited (unless otherwise stipulated) and is not to be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent.