LONDON — The UK's attempt to negotiate its departure from the European Union has dominated British politics for two years. So what is it?
What is Brexit?
Brexit is short for "British exit" and describes the UK's scheduled departure from the European Union. The European Union is a political arrangement between 28 European countries which share common laws and regulations in exchange for privileged access to each others' markets. The UK voted to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum by a margin of 52% to 48%.
When does Brexit happen?
The UK is due to leave on March 29, 2019. That is exactly two years after UK prime minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, the legal mechanism by which a member state gives its notice of departure.
However, there is a growing belief that Brexit will be delayed by at least a few months. That is because the Prime Minister has been unable to secure majority support for her Brexit deal in the UK parliament, meaning it can't pass into law.
What is the Brexit deal?
The UK and EU agreed on the terms of a Brexit deal in November 2018 after months of negotiations. It contains two parts: the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration.
The withdrawal agreement is a 550-page document which deals with issues arising from the UK's departure from the EU — things like budget contributions, avoiding a hard border in Ireland, and the status of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU, after Brexit.
The political declaration is a much shorter document which sets out aspirations for the future UK-EU relationship in areas like trade and security.
The deal would hand the UK a 20-month "transition period" under which the UK effectively retains its EU membership for 20 months despite having left formally.
The purpose of the transition period is for the UK and EU to agree upon the full terms of their future trading relationship and to strike a free-trade deal. In return for this arrangement, the UK has committed to paying £39 billion to the EU budget, the same amount as if it had retained membership.
Why was the vote on the Brexit deal defeated in parliament?
The House of Commons rejected Theresa May's Brexit deal by 432 votes to 202 on January 15 — the biggest government defeat in UK history. Many MPs who opposed the deal were opposed specifically to the Irish backstop. That is a measure in the Withdrawal Agreement designed to ensure no new border checks arise between Ireland and Northern Ireland when the latter leaves the EU.
What is the Irish backstop?
Currently, Northern Ireland and Ireland are EU members which means they are part of a so-called customs union which means there are no checks on goods and people passing between their borders. However, if Northern Ireland was outside the EU, both countries would by default be required to check goods and people passing between them.
The return to a hard border in Ireland would be very dangerous because border posts were a focal point for dissident terrorist activity during the so-called Troubles.
Source : https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-the-brexit-deal-vote-and-what-does-it-mean-2019-1