This Commons Library research briefing contains a list of commonly-used terms and acronyms that have needed clarification since the United Kingdom voted in the June 2016 EU referendum.

It is not a comprehensive list but will be expanded and updated periodically.

Example term: Article 50 TEU

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union was inserted into the European Union (EU) Treaty by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. It allows a Member State to leave the EU and sets out a procedure for doing so.

Example term: Brexit

Brexit is the abbreviation for ‘British exit’ from the EU. It was used before the referendum on 23 June 2016 in which a majority of the UK electorate voted to leave the EU, and has been used ever since in the media and by commentators and experts on the subject of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Brexit has not happened yet, although many reports suggest that it has. The UK voted for Brexit in the referendum but the UK will remain in the EU for up to two years after notifying the EU of its intention to leave the EU, or until a withdrawal agreement comes into force. The exit negotiations have not yet started. They can be extended beyond two years if all EU Member States agree.

Hard Brexit

A situation in which the UK leaves the EU swiftly and probably with a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU. A very hard Brexit would involve resorting to WTO rules.

Soft Brexit

A situation in which the UK leaves the EU but negotiates continued membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) and largely staying in the single market while giving up influence over single market rules.

Smooth Brexit

An orderly, negotiated, prepared Brexit.

Red, white and blue Brexit

The Prime Minister used this to describe the kind of Brexit she hopes to achieve, continuing: “the right Brexit for the UK, the right deal for the UK”. But its precise meaning has been debated.

The Guardian, 6 December 2016, said that this kind of Brexit was “midway between a ‘black Brexit‘, a cliff-edge scenario for businesses and financial services in which the government left the article 50 talks without a future deal with the EU, and a ‘white Brexit‘, which would see the UK attempt to remain in the single market”.

Example term: The ‘Great Repeal Bill’

The ‘Great Repeal Bill’ is the Bill the Prime Minister announced on 2 October 2016 that it planned to introduce in the next Queen’s Speech, which will repeal the ECA and convert EU law into domestic law “wherever practical”.

The Government has indicated that these legal changes within the Bill would take effect on ‘Brexit Day’, i.e. the day the UK officially leaves the EU.

Download the full report here: Brexit glossary


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