United Kingdom

This information is from our Brexit archives, documenting what different countries thought of the Brexit negotiations.

This page was last updated in 2020.

Head of State

Prime Minister

Queen Elizabeth II (since February 1952)

Boris Johnson (Conservative Party, since July 2019)

Population 66,647,112 (2019)
Size 242,495 km² (93,628 sq. miles)
Next legislative election 2024
What Mr Johnson has said on Brexit The EU would negotiate a new deal with the UK because “they’ve got the Brexit MEPs they don’t particularly want; they want us out; they’ve got the incentive of the money . . . but you have the extra incentive of course that the UK will be ready to come out, as you know, on WTO terms.”

“So we are getting ready to come out on October the 31st. Come what may . . . Do or die. Come what may.”

“I think that MPs on both sides of the House also understand that they will face mortal retribution from the electorate unless we get on and do it.”

Brexit priorities The UK Government set out its objectives for the talks in a White Paper in February 2017, a month before Article 50 was triggered. Here former PM Theresa May announced that she aimed to withdraw the UK from the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union, also known as a “hard Brexit”.

In the “Chequers agreement” published in July 2018 there is a proposal to establish a free trade area for goods, including agree-food, through a common rule-book. It also proposes to set up a facilitated customs arrangement where the UK would apply EU tariffs to goods going to the EU. This was the point where severe fractures in the governing Conservative Party started show, and Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigned over the plans.

In November 2018, Theresa May’s government and the EU concluded the Withdrawal Agreement. It includes:

  • A transition period until 31 December 2020, which can be prolonged by one or two years once.
  • A financial settlement the UK will have to pay the EU. This is estimated to be around £39bn.
  • A guarantee that UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK will retain their residency and social security rights after Brexit.
  • A backstop ensuring that the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland remains open. This backstop would kick in if no trade arrangements are agreed by the end of the transition period and would trigger “a single customs territory between the EU and the UK”.

The House of Commons rejected this Withdrawal Agreement three times in January – March 2019. Eurosceptic MPs felt the backstop would keep the UK too close to the EU, while others thought that it did not provide enough certainty over the future relationship.

As a result of this deadlock, Theresa May asked for an extension of the Brexit negotiations. The EU granted an extension of Article 50 until 31 October 2019. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to take the UK out of the EU, with or without a deal, by this date.

As a result of Mr Johnson’s no deal Brexit approach, a number of MPs have resigned or left the party. This has resulted in the government losing its majority in the House of Commons. It is likely a general election will be held before the end of 2019.

Preparations for no deal scenario

The UK Government has released a series of technical notices which aim to prepare the specific industries with the changes in case of no deal. The technical notices also explain the government’s overarching approach to preparing the UK for the no deal outcome in order to minimise disruption and ensure a smooth and orderly exit in all scenarios.