The UK Government invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on Wednesday 29th March 2017, beginning a two year period in which it will negotiate the terms of exit from the European Union. Here we provide you with a glossary of the main ‘Brexit’ terms and a timeline of events since the 2016 Referendum.


23rd June 2016

Date of UK Referendum on EU Membership

24th January 2017

UK Supreme Court ruling on ‘Miller’ case

29th March 2017

UK Government invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty

8th June 2017

UK General Election

19th June 2017

Date on which Brexit negotiations began

29th March 2019

Time limit by which Brexit negotiations must finish under Article 50

Article 50

This article of the Lisbon Treaty gives any Member State the right to decide to withdraw from the EU. Once it has notified the European Council of its intention to do so, the member and the EU must negotiate and conclude an agreement on withdrawal within two years. The European Council can, however, in the agreement with the Member State, unanimously decide to extend that period.

Common Agricultural Policy

The CAP is the agricultural policy of the EU. It implements a system of agricultural subsidies to farmers across EU Member States. The CAP aims to allow farmers to compete on a level playing field while protecting against volatility and providing food security.

Common Fisheries Policy

The CFP is a set of EU rules for managing European fishing fleets and for conserving fishing stocks. It aims to give all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and aims to allow fishermen to compete fairly across Member States.

Council of Europe

This is an international organisation entirely separate to the EU which aims to uphold human rights, democracy, rule of law and to promote culture in Europe. It has 47 Member States and was founded in 1949.

Court of Justice of European Union

The Court of Justice of the European Union sits in Luxembourg and encompasses three distinct courts (the Court of Justice, General Court and Civil Service Tribunal) that exercise the judicial functions of the EU and oversee the uniform application and interpretation of EU law. It is entirely separate to the European Court of Human Rights.

Customs Union

The EU Customs Union includes both EU Member States and non-EU Member States. Customs duties are not imposed on goods moving within the Customs Union area, and members of the Customs Union impose a common external tariff on all goods entering it. Members are unable to negotiate trade agreements separately from the EU, which has exclusive competence over a common commercial policy.

Department for Exiting the EU

The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) is a UK Government Department responsible for overseeing negotiations to leave the EU and establishing the future relationship between the UK and the EU. The objectives of DExEU are to lead the Brexit negotiations, work with devolved administrations, Parliament and other interested parties, lead and coordinate cross-government work to seize opportunities and ensure a smooth Brexit, ensure collective government on European business, and exercise the UK’s rights and responsibilities as a Member State until it formally leaves the EU.

Department for International Trade

The Department for International Trade is a UK Government Department responsible for developing, coordinating and delivering a new trade and investment policy to promote UK business across the globe, post-Brexit; negotiating free trade agreements and market access deals with non-EU countries, negotiating plurilateral trade deals; providing operational support for export and facilitating inward and outward investment.

European Communities Act 1972

The European Communities Act 1972 is an Act of the UK Parliament which legislated the accession of the United Kingdom to the European Communities (European Coal and Steel Communities), the European Economic Community (this became the EU following the Maastricht Treaty on 1992), and the European Atomic Energy Community. It also legislated for the incorporation of EU law into the domestic law of the UK. The Act, in some circumstances, gives EU law supremacy over UK domestic law. When the interpretation of EU law is in doubt, the Act requires the UK courts to refer judgement to the European Court of Justice.

European Economic Area

The European Economic Area (EEA) unites the EU Member States and three EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) into an Internal Market governed by the same basic rules. The rules broadly aim to enable goods, services, capital and people to move freely about the EEA in an open and competitive environment. The EEA does not cover the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies, the Customs Union, the Common Trade Policy, Common Foreign and Security Policy, Justice and Home Affairs or the Monetary Union. Switzerland (an EFTA member) is not part of the EEA Agreement, but has a set of bilateral agreements with the EU.

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights is an international court established by the European Convention on Human Rights, and is entirely separate to the EU. The court hears applications alleging that a state contracting to the Convention has breached one or more of the human rights provisions concerning civil and political rights set out in the convention. All 47 Member States of the Council of Europe are contracting parties to the Convention.

European Free Trade Association

This is a European Free Trade Organisation and Area (EFTA) consists of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. EFTA was established as an alternative trade bloc in 1960 for states that did not join the EU. EFTA states, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway participate in the EU Single Market but can also enter into trade arrangements with other countries without EU involvement.

Four Freedoms

This term refers to the free movement of goods, people, services and capital within the EU, enshrined in law under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which established the then European Economic Community in 1957. The aim of the Four Freedoms was to create an EU without internal frontiers and with a functioning Single Market.

Great Repeal Bill

This is legislation proposed by the UK Government intended to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK. The Bill aims to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, translating all EU law into UK statute, so that laws passed in the five decades of UK membership of the EU will continue to apply after Brexit. Once enacted, the Bill will allow the UK Parliament to amend, repeal and improve the EU laws which have been translated into UK statute as it thinks fit.

“Miller” Case

Gina Miller and other applicants took the UK Government to court over the manner in which the result of the UK’s EU Referendum was to be taken forward. The UK Supreme Court held that an Act of Parliament was required to authorise UK Government Ministers to give notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the EU.

Schengen Agreement and Area

The Schengen Agreement was signed on 14th June 1985 and led to the creation of the Schengen Area. The Agreement, which did not take effect until 1995, abolished many of the EU’s internal borders, enabling passport-free movement across most of the Area. There are presently 26 Schengen countries – 22 EU members and four non-EU members (Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and Liechtenstein). The UK and Ireland are not in the Schengen Area.

Single Market

The European Single Market refers to the EU (and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) as one territory without internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods, capital, services and labour – the so-called Four Freedoms.