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Key dates and events on the path to Brexit

Posted: 09/02/2017

We know that the result of the referendum held on 23 June 2016 was not legally binding, and despite the mandate that immediately followed, the Government does not have the power to unilaterally decide to give notice to withdraw from the EU. Much debate, commentary and criticism has been voiced since that day in June last year. Here are the key dates and events:

June 2016

23 June 2016 - the UK voted 51.9% to 48.1% in favour of leaving the EU.

24 June – David Cameron resigns as Prime Minister

End of June/early July - Gina Miller (lead claimant) with London-based Spanish hairdresser Deir Tozetti Dos Santos and the People's Challenge group, set up by Grahame Pigney (backed by a crowd-funding campaign) launched a case in the High Court to challenge whether the Government could trigger Article 50 without the consent of Parliament. This case has huge constitutional significance about how the UK is governed. Ms Miller argued that only Parliament could make a decision leading to the loss of her "rights" under EU law; “only Parliament can grant rights to the British people, and only Parliament can take them away”, it is not down to the Prime Minister to determine those sorts of decisions without the support of Parliament.

July 2016

13 July - Theresa May appointed Prime Minister and the Rt Hon David Davis MP appointed as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

October 2016

2 October - the Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced that she intended to invoke Article 50 by the end of March 2017, meaning that the UK would be on a course to leave the EU by the end of March 2019.

November 2016

3 November – High Court judgment of the divisional court in R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union sets out the decision that the Government does not have power under the Crown's prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50 for the UK to withdraw from the European Union – a vote of Parliament is required. The Government announces that they will appeal and the case is fast tracked to the Supreme Court. 

January 2017 

17 January – Theresa May sets out her 12 point plan on exiting the EU and makes it clear that the UK will not remain within the European Economic Area. See our article here.

24 January - The Supreme Court rules 8 - 3 against the Government in R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union - Article 50 cannot be triggered without a vote of Parliament in favour. Devolved administrations do not have to be consulted.

26 January - first reading of The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill (Brexit Bill) – this is a formality.

27 January – Theresa May controversially meets President Donald Trump at the White House in a bid to enhance UK – US relations ahead of trade talks. 

31 January – 1 February – the Brexit Bill has its second reading. A debate is held to allow the House of Commons to agree to the principle of the legislation. Lawmakers must vote to approve the second reading for the Brexit Bill to progress.

February 2017

1 February - MPs vote on the Brexit Bill.  498 MPs vote for and 114 against as the Labour Party suffers a big rebellion.

2 February – The Government’s white paper called “The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union” is published setting out details of the Government’s exit negotiating strategy. See our commentary here

3 February - Theresa May, the Prime Minister, met fellow European leaders at a summit of EU Nato leaders in Valletta, Malta, to build alliances ahead of Brexit.

6 – 8 February – Committee Stage for the Brexit Bill.  Lawmakers will debate the Brexit Bill for up to seven hours a day and will have the opportunity to put forward amendments. Lawmakers can either propose changes or add new clauses. The deputy speaker will select which amendments are going to be debated. The House of Commons will then debate the bill and the amendments. Votes will take place on the Bill and each of the proposed amendments.

20 and 21 February – The Brexit Bill will have its second reading in the House of Lords. Any member of the House of Lords can speak during the second reading and indicate whether they are likely to be involved in suggesting changes at later stages.

27 February - Peers debate the Brexit Bill in the first of two days in committee, when numerous attempts to amend the Bill and delay Brexit are likely to be made.

March 2017

1 March - Peers in the House of Lords will debate the Brexit Bill on the second of two days in which it goes through committee. More amendments can be made to the Brexit Bill at this stage.

7 March - The Bill will have its report stage and third reading. If the Brexit Bill is passed without amendments, it can receive Royal Assent. If not, it will go back to the House of Commons for MPs to agree the proposed changes. At this point, the Brexit Bill may ping pong back and forward between the House of Commons and House of Lords until the final Bill is agreed upon. However, it is unlikely that either house will want to be seen to be opposing the Bill or dramatically slowing down its progress (subject to certain party lines expected to be taken by the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and any dissenting Labour MPs).

9 – 10 March - Theresa May is expected to meet EU leaders at the European Council in Brussels when it is speculated that she could formally inform the EU of the UK’s intention to trigger Article 50 by the end of the month.

31 March - The Government has repeatedly insisted that this is the deadline for Article 50 to be triggered.  Once Article 50 has been triggered, negotiations for the UK’s exit from the European Union and for future trading arrangements can be formally commenced.

Keep up to date with the events as they unfold and receive relevant legal commentary on the latest issues for business by joining our Penningtons Manches Brexit Insights LinkedIn group here.

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