House of Commons Library

Brexit Glossary

Published Thursday, November 22, 2018

This Commons Library research briefing contains a list of commonly-used terms and acronyms that have needed clarification since the United Kingdom voted in the June 2016 EU referendum.

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It is not a comprehensive list but will be expanded and updated periodically.

Example term: Article 50 TEU

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union was inserted into the European Union (EU) Treaty by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. It allows a Member State to leave the EU and sets out a procedure for doing so.

Example term: Brexit

Brexit is the abbreviation for ‘British exit’ from the EU. It was used before the referendum on 23 June 2016 in which a majority of the UK electorate voted to leave the EU, and has been used ever since in the media and by commentators and experts on the subject of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Brexit has not happened yet. The UK voted for Brexit in the referendum but the UK will remain in the EU until 11pm on 29 March 2019. Negotiations can be extended beyond the two years stipulated in Article 50 if all EU Member States agree.

Hard Brexit

A situation in which the UK leaves the EU swiftly and probably with a basic free trade agreement with the EU. A very hard Brexit would involve resorting to WTO rules without an agreement with the EU.

Soft Brexit

A situation in which the UK leaves the EU but negotiates, for example, continued membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) or largely staying in the single market and customs union while giving up influence over single market rules.

Smooth Brexit

An orderly, negotiated, prepared Brexit.

Red, white and blue Brexit

The Prime Minister used this to describe the kind of Brexit she hopes to achieve, continuing: "the right Brexit for the UK, the right deal for the UK". But its precise meaning has been debated. The Guardian, 6 December 2016, said that this kind of Brexit was "midway between a 'black Brexit', a cliff-edge scenario for businesses and financial services in which the government left the article 50 talks without a future deal with the EU, and a 'white Brexit', which would see the UK attempt to remain in the single market".

Blind Brexit

Because we do not know what the future relationship between the EU and UK will be before the UK leaves the EU, this situation has been referred to as a ‘blind Brexit’.

BRINO – Brexit in Name Only

Coined by Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, this refers to a very ‘soft’ Brexit in which the UK leaves the EU but aligns with EU Single Market rules including freedom of movement. It would keep the Irish border open and facilitate trade and travel much as at present.

Example term: Backstop

The ‘backstop’ refers to the commitment made by both the UK and the EU in paragraph 49 of the December 2017 Joint Report that if no other solution to keeping the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland ‘soft’ can be found in the negotiations, the UK will maintain “full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 agreement”.

Negotiations stalled over differing opinions as to whether this commitment means the UK as a whole will align with relevant Single Market and Customs Union rules if need be (the UK view), or if Northern Ireland alone will (the EU view).

Further information

Publication details

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7840

Authors: Eleanor Gadd; Vaughne Miller; Edward Potton; Jack Simson Caird; Ilze Jozepa; John Curtis; Graeme Cowie; Philip Brien; Arabella Lang; Dominic Webb; Tim Edmonds; Matthew Keep; Terry McGuinness; Joanna Dawson; Grahame Danby; Jeanne Delebarre

Topics: Common Agricultural Policy, Constitution, Economic and monetary union, Energy, EU budget, EU defence policy, EU enlargement, EU external relations, EU grants and loans, EU institutions, EU law and treaties, EU political integration, International law, International organisations, Legislative process

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