Britain has left the EU, more than three years and three prime ministers after it voted out. It’s been a political rollercoaster full of twists and turns, and a journey which can be tracked by what people said at the time. Some have aged better than others, but here are a few of the key quotes from before the referendum until Brexit day.
The United Kingdom faced up to an uncertain future as it left the European Union after years of political wrangling that followed the Brexit vote in 2016. The country now enters a transition period during which it will retain many of the privileges of membership, but have no say on rule-making.
How did this happen?
On June 23, 2016, the British people went to the polls in a vote on whether the U.K. should remain a member of the EU. To much of the country’s shock — even, it appeared, to politicians like current Prime Minister Boris Johnson who campaigned to leave — 51.9% of Brits voted to leave the EU with 48.1% voting to remain in the economic and political union.
Although the political earthquake was unexpected, euroskepticism was rife in the country in the decades and immediate years leading up to the referendum, fueled partly by an anti-EU tabloid press in the U.K. and the rise of the U.K. Independence Party led by Nigel Farage.
A migration crisis in Europe in the run-up to the 2016 vote, fears over the possible accession of Turkey to the EU and a desire among many Brits to contain immigration also played a part. There were more intangible factors such as Britain being an island separated from its continental neighbors, and of somehow, someway, being “different”.
Reeling from the vote and the immediate resignation of then Prime Minister David Cameron, the government under Theresa May took until March 29, 2017, to trigger “Article 50,” beginning what was meant to be a two-year countdown to the U.K. formally leaving.