Nearly three years ago, Britain held a (misguided) referendum on its EU membership and voted to ‘take back control’ of politics, whatever that means. 52% of British people were sufficiently swayed by Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and an illegal campaign based on lies, and thus, Brexit was born.
Today — 29 March 2019 — was supposed to be the day that we left the EU. But it turns out, ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is not an effective political strategy, and our departure date has been delayed by at least two weeks — that is, if we end up leaving the EU at all.
But how did we get here? How did Brexit — an objectively terrible idea in the first place — get so screwed up that the entire political establishment has ground to a halt and the entire British electorate is contemplating downing a bottle of window cleaner because it would be less painful than this?
This, my friends, is the story of every Brexit vote and milestone that got us the this miserable, disastrous point.
After five years of the Clegg-Cameron coalition that brought us sky-high university tuition fees and increased food bank usage, the 2015 General Election was held on 7 May 2015, and the British people voted for… another five years of Tory hell.
David Cameron and his Conservative Party won the election with a working majority of 12 seats, and before long, they made good on their campaign promise to hold a referendum on EU membership.
Britain faces a simple and inescapable choice – stability and strong Government with me, or chaos with Ed Miliband: https://t.co/fmhcfTunbm
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) 4 May 2015
On 23 June 2016, the EU Referendum was held and, thanks to a whole lotta lies and deceit, the Leave camp won. Britain voted to Brexit. Lefties around the country cried.
The day after, David Cameron resigned.
Following David Cameron’s resignation as leader of the Tory party (and therefore Prime Minister of the UK), the Conservative Party held a leadership content. None of the prominent Brexiteers wanted the job of party leader in the end — presumably because they realised no one actually knew what Brexit should look like — so we ended up with Theresa May as party leader and PM on 13 July 2016.
On 7 December 2016, MPs overwhelmingly voted to support the Government’s plans to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017. This was despite the fact that the Government still had absolutely no idea what Brexit would or should look like.
Two years ago today, on 29 March 2017, Theresa May triggered Article 50. There was, in theory, no going back now.
In a desperate attempt to solidify her position as Prime Minister, Theresa May called a snap election on 18 April 2017, three years before the next election was due to be held.
‘She said she wasn’t going to call a general election’
Theresa May: pic.twitter.com/prWcL2qAou
— Kath (@thatgirlkath) 18 April 2017
On 8 June 2017, almost a year after Britain voted to leave the EU, the country flocked to the polling booths again to vote in the 2017 General Election. Labour made massive gains thanks to young people’s love for Jeremy Corbyn, and the Tory majority, which was already small, disappeared entirely.
While everybody in British politics scrambled to try and form a majority government, Brexit negotiations formally began in Brussels on 19 June 2017. Terms of the negotiation were set out, and Theresa May guaranteed that no EU citizen living in the UK would be forced to leave after Brexit, providing the EU offered the same protections to British expats.
Then, on 26 June 2017, Theresa May managed to bribe the Northern Irish DUP with £1 million in return for a Confidence-Supply deal that would give her the working majority she needed to stay in power.
July – November 2017
With her place as leader (kind of) secure, Theresa May spent the next few months of 2017 in Brussels for the first few rounds of Brexit negotiations. We still didn’t know what Brexit would look like, but these early negotiations covered citizen rights, the border in Northern Ireland, the UK’s financial commitments to the EU (they didn’t put that on a bus…) and the two-year transition period following the UK’s departure.
Just over a year after MPs voted to trigger Article 50, they voted again on 13 December 2017 to be given a so-called Meaningful Vote on the final Brexit deal.
December 2017 also saw the publication of joint UK-EU report which outlined the early details of the Withdrawal Agreement.
The details of the transition period — a two-year period following the UK’s departure where we would effectively ease ourselves in to this post-EU world of trade and politics — was finally agreed on 19 March 2018.
On 26 June 2018, Parliament passed the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. This is the official piece of legislation that allows us to leave the EU (by repealing the European Communities Act 1972) and requires MPs to approve any final Brexit deal.
Despite the promising name of the act, we still had no idea what leaving the EU will actually look like at this point.
Could it be… do we finally have a deal? On 12 July 2018, Theresa May’s Chequers Deal was published. The only problem? It was apparently so bad that three days before, on 9 July 2018, then-Brexit secretary David Davis resigned, leading to the appointment of Dominic Raab.
You know something’s gone horribly wrong when the bloke that helped negotiate the deal doesn’t even like the deal.
David Davis is the equivalent of a man who decided his office was too cold, and to save the on the lecky he lit a fire in a waste paper bin.
When it started to spread he did a runner out the back, and left everyone else to burn.#DavidDavisResigns
— The Mass Historia (@TheMassHistoria) 9 July 2018
After a year of back and forth, Brexit negotiations with the EU officially come to an end. Except, they didn’t. Because we still didn’t have a workable deal that MPs liked.
Four months before the UK was due to leave the EU, the government finally published its final Withdrawal Agreement on 14 November 2018.
December was a big month for Brexit and Theresa May.
On 4 December 2018, MPs voted and found the Government in contempt of Parliament over its handling of Brexit legal advice. This seemed like a big deal at the time, but honestly, nothing much has come of this historic vote.
On 5 December 2018, the House of Lords published a report on the Withdrawal Agreement, expressing concerns over the Irish backstop.
On 10 December 2018, Theresa May postponed the meaningful vote on her Withdrawal Agreement because she was (rightly) worried that she didn’t have enough support to get it through the House.
On 11 December 2018, in what felt like the first piece of good political news in forever, the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK can revoke Article 50 at any point without EU approval.
Then, in some kind of Christmas miracle, on 12 December 2019, Theresa May survived a Vote of No Confidence from her own party.
MPs returned from their Christmas break to the first Meaningful Vote on Theresa May’s deal. In news that surprised precisely no one, May’s deal was almost unanimously voted down on 15 January 2019.
Then, on the 16 January 2019, Labour tabled their own Vote of No Confidence in Theresa May’s government. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your political persuasion), the Tories rallied and saved May from defeat.
May returned to Brussels for the umpteenth time to try and negotiate some changes to her Withdrawal Agreement, even though the EU had already said countless times that the deal is final.
Brexit day loomed large as May brought her deal back for a second Meaningful Vote on 12 March 2019. Unsurprisingly, it failed again. Probably because literally nothing had changed since MPs voted on it in January
On the 13 March 2019, MPs then voted to reject No Deal under any circumstances. Then they voted again on 14 March 2019 to delay our withdrawal from the EU to give us a little more time to figure out some kind of deal.
The following week, on 21 March 2019, the EU formally agreed to delay Brexit until the 22 May 2019, if May’s deal is approved, or until 12 April if May’s deal is rejected.
A few days later, on 26 March 2019, MPs voted to seize control of Parliamentary business with a series indicative votes — that is, non-binding votes that show the will of the House.
Good news, right? The indicative votes would show what Brexit option MPs were willing to get behind.
Well, not exactly. On 27 March 2019, there were eight indicative votes held on various Brexit options — covering everything from a second referendum, to revoking Article 50, to a customs union, and everything in between. Unfortunately, all eight amendments were rejected, meaning there is not a majority for a single Brexit option within Parliament.
So where does that leave us now? Well, today on 29 March 2019, Theresa May will bring the Withdrawal Agreement back to MPs, without the Political Declaration. Will it be enough for for her deal to pass and May to step down as PM?