News story

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 European Union 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, listening to organisations, institutions and companies in as many sectors as possible to establish their priorities and understand their concerns, and also to hear what they think the opportunities are.

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?

The Prime Minister has made clear the Government’s intention to trigger Article 50 no later than the end of March 2017. It is in everyone’s interest that we take time to establish a UK approach and clear objectives for negotiations.

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 just over 300 staff in London and a further 120 people working in the UK Representation in Brussels. We are currently undertaking 2 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.

Does Parliament need to vote on triggering Article 50?

The Government’s position is clear. This is a prerogative power and one that can be exercised by the Government, and we aim to prove that in the Supreme Court. Both Houses of Parliament legislated for the referendum, with cross-party support, and it was clear that it was for the people to decide whether to remain in the EU or leave it.

What model will be pursued in the negotiation?

Our vision for Britain outside the EU is clear: a fully independent, sovereign country. We are not looking for an ‘off the shelf’ deal for our future relationship – a Norwegian model or a Swiss model – it’s going to be an agreement between an independent, sovereign UK and the EU. We want that relationship to reflect the kind of mature, cooperative relationship that close friends and allies enjoy.

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 Britain 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.

I am a EU national living in the UK - what does exiting the EU mean for me?

There has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK, or of UK citizens in the EU, as a result of the referendum.

The Prime Minister has been clear that during negotiations she wants to protect the status of EU nationals already living here, and the only circumstances in which that wouldn’t be possible is if UK citizens’ rights in European member states were not protected in return.

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

I am a UK national living in the EU, what does exiting the EU mean for my rights (e.g. status, healthcare, pension)?

The Prime Minister has been clear that she wants to protect the rights of UK citizens living in European member states, in the same way that we want to protect the status of EU nationals already living here.

At every step of these negotiations we will work to ensure the best possible outcome for the people of the United Kingdom.

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

What will our future immigration system look like?

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

We want to see net migration to the UK fall to sustainable levels.

On non-EU migration we have already acted to clamp down on abuses, such as bogus colleges and sham marriages, and we will go further in the months ahead. And now that we are leaving the EU we have an opportunity to gain control on the numbers of people coming here from Europe.

The UK needs a fair and controlled immigration policy and that is exactly what this government will deliver.

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 trade and economic relationship with the EU as part of the overall negotiation.

The new 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. We recognise the need for a smooth transition which minimises disruption to our trading relationships, including with developing countries. There will be no immediate changes to our relationship with the EU. Until we have left, the UK will remain a member of the EU with all of the rights and obligations that membership entails.

Will we remain a member of the Single Market or Customs Union?

As the Prime Minister said: we want British companies to have the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market – and to let European businesses do the same here.

There are different aspects to the Customs Union which is why it is important to look at the detail and get the answer right.

EU Funding Projects

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

There will be no immediate change. The UK will remain a member of the EU until its exit and so continues to pay into the EU and continues to receive funds. The UK will continue to have all of the rights, obligations and benefits that membership brings, up until the point we leave the EU.

We recognise that many organisations across the UK which are in receipt of EU funding, or expect to start receiving funding, want reassurance about the flow of funding they will receive. That is why we are confirming that EU funding, including structural and investment funds projects and Horizon research funding grants signed before we leave the EU, will be guaranteed by the Treasury after we leave. Thousands of British organisations have received guarantees over EU funding from the Chancellor.

The Government will work on subsequent funding arrangements as part of our negotiations to leave the EU and will give more information in due course.

You can find more detailed information on this from HM Treasury.


What is the Great Repeal Bill?

It is a piece of legislation which will stop the European Communities Act 1972 from applying in the UK 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’s what the Government will do.


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

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. The Prime Minister is committed to engaging with the Joint Ministerial Committee, bringing together the devolved administrations and the UK Government. This will ensure cooperation and consensus between governments.

We will give the devolved administrations every opportunity to have their say as we form our negotiating strategy.

Will the Government respect calls for a second Scottish independence referendum?

In 2014, the Scottish people decided in a legal, fair and decisive Referendum to remain part of a strong UK. That result should be respected. And that is how we will approach our negotiations for leaving the EU: together as one United Kingdom.