Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Five pivotal moments behind Brexit chaos

Britain’s decision to hold a referendum on leaving the European Union three years ago has ended up in political chaos that few could have predicted then.

Here are five pivotal moments that led to this:

January 23 2013

Then prime minister David Cameron promises a referendum on EU membership — if the Conservatives win the next general election in 2015.

According to EU Council President Donald Tusk, the Tory leader calculated that the next election would likely result in another power-sharing deal with the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, and he could dodge the pledge.

But Cameron instead wins a surprise outright majority and goes on to hold the referendum in 2016.

September 12 2015

A lifelong eurosceptic from the far left of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn becomes the improbable winner of his party’s leadership election thanks to a surge in grassroots support from younger members.

The issue of leaving or staying in the EU is highly divisive among Labour voters and Corbyn’s campaigning for Remain in the 2016 poll is lukewarm.

March 29 2017 

Under enormous political pressure to kickstart its departure following the referendum, the British government formally notifies the EU of its intention to leave, starting a two-year countdown to Brexit.

But critics said it did so too early and should have first built a consensus in Britain — particularly in parliament — over what kind of future relationship it wants with the bloc.

Early on, Prime Minister Theresa May sets out rigid red lines — leaving the customs union and ending free movement — which shape the negotiation.

June 8 2017 

In perhaps the biggest miscalculation of all, May calls a snap general election and loses her party’s parliamentary majority after a lacklustre campaign.

This forces her into a deal with Northern Ireland’s hardline Democratic Unionist Party — just as the issue of the Irish border emerges as the main point of contention in negotiations with the EU.

January 29, March 12, March 29 

May refuses to change course as Brexit hardliners in her party reject the deal she struck with the EU three times, in the hope of a better offer from Brussels or a “no-deal” break with the EU.

The gamble ends up delaying Brexit and raising the possibility of closer future economic ties with the EU, as May belatedly reaches out to opposition Labour MPs for help in passing her agreement.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

External source

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

R270m ‘housing heist’ bid deprives people of decent homes

After alleged attempts to loot Eastern Cape housing funds, 39 200 people in the province will continue to live in atrocious conditions

Cabinet reshuffle not on cards yet

There are calls for the president to act against ministers said to be responsible for the state’s slow response to the unrest, but his hands are tied

More top stories

R270m ‘housing heist’ bid deprives people of decent homes

After alleged attempts to loot Eastern Cape housing funds, 39 200 people in the province will continue to live in atrocious conditions

Stolen ammo poses security threat amid failure to protect high-risk...

A Durban depot container with 1.5-million rounds of ammunition may have been targeted, as others in the vicinity were left untouched, say security sources

Sierra Leoneans want a share of mining profits, or they...

The arrival of a Chinese gold mining company in Kono, a diamond-rich district in the east of Sierra Leone, had a devastating impact on the local community, cutting its water supply and threatening farmers’ livelihoods – and their attempts to seek justice have been frustrated at every turn

IEC to ask the courts to postpone local elections

The chairperson of the Electoral Commission of South Africa said the Moseneke inquiry found that the elections would not be free and fair if held in October

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…