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Information about the UK leaving the EU

To help keep people informed about our work, we have compiled answers to the questions we get asked most about the UK's departure from the European Union.


The Referendum

Will there be a second referendum or an alternative to leaving the EU?

No. The country voted to leave the EU and it is the duty of the Government and Parliament to make sure we do just that.

How will you take into account the views of those who did not vote to leave the EU?

Our priority is to build a national consensus around our exit from the EU. We have already started a wide-ranging programme of engagement and are listening to organisations, institutions and companies in as many sectors as possible to establish their priorities, understand their concerns and to hear what they think the opportunities are.

We are going to make the most of the opportunities that leaving the EU presents - getting out into the world and doing business right across the globe, while at home building a Britain that works for everyone.

Exiting the European Union

What is Article 50 and why do we need to trigger it?

The rules for exiting the EU are set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This is the only lawful route for withdrawal from the EU under the Treaties.

When will Article 50 be triggered?

Article 50 will be triggered on 29 March, 2017.

What is the effect of the Supreme Court decision?

At every stage of this process, the Government has been clear that Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March 2017. The decision by the Supreme Court does not change that commitment.

We have now introduced the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which is necessary to implement the referendum result and respect the judgment of the Supreme Court.

The British people voted to leave the EU and the Government will get on with the job of delivering on that mandate. As we do so, we will work with Parliament and stakeholders to ensure a smooth and successful exit.

What is the Government doing ahead of triggering article 50?

The Department for Exiting the European Union is responsible for overseeing negotiations to leave the EU and establishing the future relationship between the UK and EU. The Department now has over 300 staff in London and a further 120 people working in the UK Representation in Brussels.

We are currently undertaking two broad areas of work:

  • We are listening to as many organisations, companies and institutions as possible – from the large PLCs to small business, from the devolved administrations through to councils, local government and the major metropolitan bodies – to build a national consensus around our negotiating position. We are doing this through meetings, visits and a series of sector roundtables, led by the Secretary of State. You can read more about the work of each roundtable, as well as future roundtables and Ministerial visits here.
  • We are carrying out a programme of sectoral and regulatory analysis, which will identify the key factors for British businesses and the labour force that will affect our negotiations with the EU. This will help inform our negotiating position and build a detailed understanding of how withdrawing from the EU will affect our domestic policies, to seize the opportunities and ensure a smooth process of exit.

Will the Government publish its plan for exiting the EU?

The Government has published a White Paper on the United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union. This provides Parliament and the country with a comprehensive vision of what we are seeking to achieve. It also provides the information to allow debate and scrutiny of our approach.

The White Paper builds on the 12 negotiating objectives set out by the Prime Minister. It sets out a serious and ambitious vision of a new partnership between the UK and the EU that is positive and constructive, a partnership that will be good for the UK and good for the rest of Europe.

How involved will Parliament be in the process of exit?

We have always been committed to parliamentary scrutiny of our withdrawal from the EU, and we have always said that we will observe the constitutional and legal precedents that apply to the final deal agreed between the UK and the EU.

Indeed, the Prime Minister has confirmed that Parliament will have a say on the final deal we achieve with the European Union by putting that deal to a vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force. We will, of course, continue to support Parliament in its scrutiny role as we enter the negotiating stage.

We have now introduced the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which is necessary to implement the referendum result and respect the judgment of the Supreme Court. We are committed to giving Parliament sufficient time to consider and debate this Bill.

What will happen after we leave the EU?

The European Communities Act will be repealed on the day we leave the EU – meaning that the authority of EU law in the UK will end. We will convert the body of existing EU law into domestic law and then Parliament will be free to amend, repeal and improve any law it chooses. More information on the Great Repeal Bill is below.


What will you be doing about immigration / freedom of movement?

DExEU is working closely with the Home Office and other Government departments to identify and develop options to shape our future immigration system, including considering the best way to control the number of people coming to the UK following our exit from the EU.

At every step of these negotiations we will work to ensure the best possible outcome for the British people. Rights and status of EU nationals and UK nationals

The rights and status of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU is unchanged as we approach our exit.

We want to seek the earliest agreement to protect the status of EU nationals who are already living in the UK, and the status of UK nationals already living in other Member States, following our exit. The Prime Minister has made clear that we stand ready to reach a deal on this right now. It remains an important priority for the UK and many other Member States to provide certainty to these groups as soon as possible.

You can find more advice for EU nationals living in the UK here.

You can find more advice for UK nationals in the EU here.

What will our future immigration system for EU nationals look like?

We will remain an open and tolerant country, and one that recognises the valuable contribution migrants make to our society. However, the message from the public before and during the referendum campaign has been clear: leaving the EU must mean control of the number of people who come to the UK from Europe. We want to see net migration to the UK fall to sustainable levels.

DExEU is working closely with the Home Office and other Government departments to identify and develop options to shape our future immigration system.

Has the decision to leave the EU increased intolerance in the UK?

The Government will not tolerate hate crime or any kind of attacks against people in our country because of their ethnic origin. We are a proud multi-faith, multi-ethnic society and we will stay that way.

The Government is committed to tackling hate crime, which is why we have published a Hate Crime Action Plan which focuses on reducing hate crime, increasing reporting and improving support for victims. We have also launched a new funding scheme to help protect places of worship.

Trade and the Single Market

Now we have a Department for International Trade and for Exiting the EU, who is responsible for what?

The Department for Exiting the European Union oversees negotiations to leave the EU and leads on establishing a new strategic partnership with the EU as part of the overall negotiation.

The Department for International Trade leads on boosting UK trade: promoting the UK as a place to do business and trade with; driving inward investment; and, in time, negotiating trade deals and free trade agreements.

How will exiting the EU affect trade?

Leaving the EU offers us an opportunity to forge a new role for ourselves in the world: to negotiate our own trade agreements and to be a positive and powerful force for free trade.

The UK has always been a leading voice for free trade in the EU and globally. Outside the EU, we will have the complete freedom to pursue this approach and to push for more open, global trade, supported by strong global institutions like the WTO.

Will the UK remain a member of the Single Market?

The Government will prioritise securing the freest and most frictionless trade as possible in goods and services between the UK and the EU. We will not be seeking membership of the Single Market. Instead, we will pursue a new strategic partnership with the EU, including an ambitious and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and a new customs agreement.

Will the UK remain a member of the Customs Union?

Negotiating new comprehensive UK trade agreements is a priority for the Government as we leave the EU. We want to have a new, mutually beneficial customs agreement with the EU that supports these objectives, but we have an open mind about the form of that agreement.

EU Funding

What will happen to the future of EU funding for UK projects?

The Treasury will guarantee EU structural and investment projects which are signed before the UK leaves the EU, even if they continue beyond our EU departure – provided they represent good value for money and are in line with the UK’s strategic objectives.

For bids made directly to the Commission by UK organisations: institutions, universities and businesses should continue to apply for funding.

The Treasury will underwrite the payment of such award, even when specific projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.

Over the next few months, the Government will engage closely with stakeholders to review all EU funding schemes in the round, to ensure any ongoing funding commitments best serve the UK’s national interests.


What is the European Union (Negotiation of Withdrawal) Bill?

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is a piece of legislation necessary to implement the referendum result, and respect the judgment of the Supreme Court. It is not a vehicle for determining the terms of the broader negotiations that will follow.

What is the Great Repeal Bill?

It is a piece of legislation which will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 on the day we leave the EU. This ‘Great Repeal Bill’ will end the authority of EU law and return power to the UK.

This Bill does not prejudge the negotiation. It will not affect when the Prime Minister triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which is what starts the process of our negotiation for leaving the EU.

This is about ensuring that our exit is smooth and orderly, which is in the best interests of the UK and our EU partners. There are decades of EU law to consider, and we must ensure our laws work when we leave and that we provide the maximum possible stability.

How will we assess what EU laws we need?

All Government departments are currently reviewing the EU laws that apply in their policy areas and how our withdrawal from the EU will affect the operation of those laws. Where laws need to be fixed, that is what the Government will do.


How will the Government ensure the views of the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive are heard?

The UK voted to leave the EU, and the UK Government has a responsibility to deliver on that mandate and secure the right deal for the whole of the UK.

We are working closely with the devolved administrations to get the best possible deal for all parts of the UK as we leave the EU. We will give the devolved administrations every opportunity to have their say as we form our negotiating strategy.

That is why the Government has set up a Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations, so Ministers from each of the UK’s devolved administrations can contribute to the process of planning for our departure from the EU.

Published 22 November 2016
Last updated 1 March 2017 + show all updates
  1. This content was updated on 1 March 2017.
  2. First published.