Brexit Glossary

Article 50

The Article 50 is part of an EU treaty that sets out how member countries can leave, with a two-year timetable for leaving. In the case of the UK, Article 50 was triggered by former Prime Minister Theresa May at the end of March 2017. However, the deadline was extended to 31 October 2019 after MPs rejected Mrs May's Brexit deal.Summary Article 50 does not set down any substantive conditions for a Member State to be able to exercise its right to withdraw, rather it includes only procedural requirements. It provides for the negotiation of a withdrawal agreement between the EU and the withdrawing state, defining in particular the latter's future relationship with the Union. If no agreement is concluded within two years, that state's membership ends automatically, unless the European Council and the Member State concerned decide jointly to extend this period.The legal consequence of a withdrawal from the EU is the end of the application of the EU Treaties (and the Protocols thereto) in the state concerned from that point on. EU law ceases to apply in the withdrawing state, although any national acts adopted in implementation or transposition of EU law would remain valid until the national authorities decide to amend or repeal them. A withdrawal agreement would need to address the phasing-out of EU financial programmes and other EU norms.Experts agree that in order to replace EU law, specifically in any field of exclusive EU competence, the withdrawing state would need to enact substantial new legislation and that, in any case, complete isolation of the withdrawing state from the effects of the EU acquis would be impossible if there is to be a future relationship between former Member State and the EU. Furthermore, a withdrawal agreement could contain provisions on the transitional application of EU rules, in particular with regard to rights deriving from EU citizenship and to other rights deriving from EU law, which would otherwise extinguish with the withdrawal. (more details: )

Customs Union

The EU customs union is an agreement between EU countries not to charge taxes called tariffs on things coming from other EU countries, and to charge the same tariffs as each other on things coming from outside the EU. For more details visit


The Department for Exiting the European Union: the name of the new UK government department responsible for managing the UK's departure from the EU. For more details visit

Divorce bill

The money the UK agrees to pay to the EU as part of a Brexit deal. Under Theresa May's deal it was widely expected to total about £39bn, to be paid over a number of years. It was based on UK's share of EU budgets up to 2020 as well as continuing liabilities such as EU civil servants' pensions. Some of that money has been paid as part of the UK's normal membership contributions already. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates that the bill is now around £33bn. For more details visit

European Commission

The European Union's civil service. The European Commission has a key role in initiating EU legislation. For more details visit

European Court of Justice (ECJ)

The ECJ is the EU's highest legal authority and rules on disputes over European Union treaties and other EU laws. Its decisions are binding on EU institutions and member states. For more details visit

European Economic Area (EEA)

An area covering the 28 European Union countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, which enables those three countries to be part of the EU's single market. They abide by the rules of the EU single market and its freedom of movement of people, goods, services and money. But Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland are not part of the EU's Common Agricultural or Fisheries policies and they do not have a common foreign and security policy. For more details visit

European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

An organisation made up of four countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. They are allowed to trade freely with the single market in return for accepting its rules. They're not in the EU customs union and can negotiate trade deals with third-party countries such as China. For more details visit

Free trade agreement

A deal between countries to reduce, but not necessarily eliminate, trade barriers. These barriers include import or export taxes (tariffs), quotas or licences that limit imports, and differing regulations on things such as safety or hygiene or labelling. The aim is increase trade in goods but also services. For more details visit


Member of the European Parliament. There are currently 73 UK MEPs, representing 12 electoral regions made up of the nations and regions of the UK. After Brexit the UK will not be represented in the European Parliament. For more details visit

No Deal

A no-deal Brexit would mean the UK leaving the European Union and cutting ties immediately, with no agreement in place. The UK will leave with no deal on 31 October unless a Brexit deal is agreed, the Brexit deadline is extended, or Article 50 is revoked. In a no-deal scenario, the UK would follow World Trade Organization rules to trade with the EU and other countries, while trying to negotiate free-trade deals. For more details visit

Settled status

EU citizens and their families who have been living in the UK for five years can apply for "settled status", which allows them to stay in the UK for as long as they wish. Any child born in the UK to a mother with settled status will automatically become a British citizen. Settled status means you can work in the UK, use the NHS, have access to pensions and benefits and travel in and out of the UK. For more details visit

Single market

A system that enables goods, services, people and capital (money) to move between all 28 EU member states, as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.Countries in the single market apply many common rules and standards.Example: A UK company can sell its product (goods) in Portugal as easily as it can in Portsmouth, bring back the cash (capital), offer maintenance (services) and despatch a repair team (people). For more details visit

Tariff-free trade

Trade without any taxes or duties to pay when goods are imported or exported. For more details visit

Transition period

The transition period is intended to allow time for the UK and EU to agree their future relationship.The UK would have no say in the making of new EU laws during the transition but would have to follow all EU rules, including freedom of movement.This period is due to expire on 31 December 2020, but could be extended by up to two years if both the UK and the EU wanted. For more details visit

Withdrawal agreement

Theresa May agreed a deal with the EU on the terms of the UK's departure. It included how much money the UK must pay to the EU as a settlement, details of the transition period, and citizens' rights. It also covered the so-called "backstop", which ensures that no hard border exists between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit even if there's no deal on the future relationship in place by the end of the transition period. After it was voted down three times and Mrs May resigned, Boris Johnson negotiated changes to the withdrawal agreement where the backstop was replaced with a new Northern Ireland proposal. For more details visit

Withdrawal agreement bill

If a withdrawal agreement is approved by MPs, Parliament will also have to pass a Withdrawal Agreement Bill. The is the piece of legislation which will implement the Brexit deal into UK law. For more details visit

WTO rules

If countries don't have free-trade agreements, they usually trade with each other under rules set by the World Trade Organization. Each country sets tariffs - or taxes - on goods entering. For example, cars passing from non-EU countries to the EU are charged at 10% of their value. But tariffs on some agricultural products are much higher - dairy averages more than 35%. If the UK chooses to put no tariffs on goods from the EU, it must also have no tariffs on goods from every WTO member. For more details visit