Glossary of Brexit terms

In the wake of the referendum of 23 June 2016, many new pieces of Brexit-related jargon have entered popular use.[1][2]


Article 50
Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union is a procedure in the treaty that sets out how member states can leave the Union, with a two-year timetable for leaving. Article 50 was triggered by Prime Minister Theresa May at the end of March 2017.
A term referring to the Irish backstop, a part of the negotiated withdrawal agreement that will keep Northern Ireland in some aspects of the European Union Customs Union and of the European Single Market to prevent a hard border in Ireland, so as not to compromise the Good Friday Agreement. The backstop comes into force if the withdrawal agreement is ratified and a trade agreement has not been reached before the end of the transition period.
Blind/Blindfold Brexit
Coined in September 2018 to describe a scenario where the UK leaves the EU without clarity on the terms of a future trade deal.[3][4] EU and British negotiators would then have until 31 December 2020 to sign off on a future trade deal, during which time the UK would effectively remain a member of the EU, but with no voting rights.[5][6]
Brexit (like its early variant, Brixit)[7] is a portmanteau of "British" and "exit". Grammatically, it has been called a complex nominal.[8] The first attestation in the Oxford English Dictionary is a Euractiv blog post by Peter Wilding on 15 May 2012.[9][10][11] It was coined by analogy with "Grexit", attested on 6 February 2012 to refer to a hypothetical withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone (and possibly the EU altogether, although there was never a clear popular mandate for it).[12] At present, Brexit is impending under the EU Treaties and the UK Acts of Parliament, and the current negotiations pursuant thereto.[13][11]
A word coined to describe the extension granted until 31 January 2020 (a portmanteau of Brexit and extension).[14]
Canada plus/Canada model
This is shorthand for a model where the UK leaves the EU and signs a free trade agreement. This would allow the UK to control its own trade policy as opposed to jointly negotiating alongside the EU, but would require rules of origin agreements to be reached for UK–EU trade. It is likely this would lead to UK–EU trade being less "free" than joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and result in additional border controls being required, which is an issue of contention, particularly on the island of Ireland. The Canadian–EU deal took seven years to negotiate, but Brexiteers argue it would take much less time between the UK and EU as the two participants already align on regulatory standards.[15]
Chequers Agreement
The short name given by the media to The framework for the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, the government's white paper drawn up at Chequers and published on 12 July 2018, which set out the sort of relationship the UK government wanted with the EU after Brexit.[16][17] The government published the updated draft on 22 November 2018.[18]
Clean break Brexit
This term, used particularly by the Brexit Party, is more generally known as a no-deal Brexit.[19] The Brexit Party have also used the simpler term "Clean Brexit" interchangeably with the longer term since early September 2019.
Customs Union
A customs union is an agreement under which two or more countries agree not to impose taxes on imported goods from one another and to apply a common tariff on goods imported from countries not party to the agreement.
Divorce bill
It is expected that the UK will make a contribution toward financial commitments that it had approved while still a member of the EU, but are still outstanding. The amount owed is officially referred to as the financial settlement but has informally been referred to as an exit bill or divorce bill.[20] While serving as Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab said the UK will not pay the full financial settlement to the EU in a no-deal scenario but would instead pay a significantly lower amount to cover the UK's "strict legal obligations".[21] The UK Government's estimate of the financial settlement in March 2019 was £38 billion.[22] After normal member contributions payable to 31 October 2019 of £5 billion, a final settlement of £33 billion on 31 October is currently estimated by the Office for Budget Responsibility.[23]
A "flextension" was how European Council president Donald Tusk characterised the extension to 31 January 2020, which allows the UK to leave before the deadline, on the first of any month, if by then a deal has been approved by the UK and European parliaments.[24]
Hard and soft Brexit
"Hard Brexit" and "soft Brexit" are unofficial terms that are commonly used by news media[25] to describe the prospective relationship between the UK and the EU after withdrawal. A hard Brexit (also called a no-deal Brexit) usually refers to the UK leaving the EU and the European Single Market with few or no deals (trade or otherwise) in place, meaning that trade will be conducted under the World Trade Organization's rules, and services will no longer be provided by agencies of the European Union (such as aviation safety).[26] Soft Brexit encompasses any deal that involves retaining membership in the European Single Market and at least some free movement of people according to European Economic Area (EEA) rules.[27] Theresa May's "Chequers agreement" embraced some aspects of a "soft" Brexit.[28] Note that the EEA and the deal with Switzerland contain fully free movement of people, and that the EU has wanted that to be included in a deal with UK on fully free trade.
Hard border
Because of Brexit, a physical border could be erected between Northern Ireland, a constituent part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. This raises concerns about the future of the Good Friday Agreement (or Belfast Agreement), a peace deal signed in 1998 which helped to end the Northern Ireland conflict (The Troubles).
Indicative vote
Indicative votes are votes by members of parliament on a series of non-binding resolutions. They are a means of testing the will of the House of Commons on different options relating to one issue.[29] MPs voted on eight different options for the next steps in the Brexit process on 27 March 2019; however, none of the proposals earned a majority in the indicative votes.[30] MPs also voted on four options on 1 April 2019 in the second round of indicative votes. Still, none of the proposals earned a majority.[31]
Those supporting Brexit are sometimes referred to as "Leavers".[32][33] Alternatively the term "Brexiteers",[34][35] or "Brexiters" has been used to describe adherents of the Leave campaign.[36][37][38][39] Likewise, the pejorative term "Brextremist", a portmanteau of "Brexiter" and "Extremist" has been used by some outlets to describe Leavers of an overzealous, uncompromising disposition.[40][41][42]
also Lexiter. A portmanteau of 'left-wing' and 'Brexit', referring to left-wing advocacy of EU withdrawal.[43][44][45][46]
Meaningful vote
A meaningful vote is a vote under section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, requiring the government to arrange for a motion proposing approval of the outcome of negotiations with the EU to be debated and voted on by the House of Commons before the European Parliament decides whether it consents to the withdrawal agreement being concluded on behalf of the EU in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union.[47]
Managed no-deal
"Managed no-deal Brexit"[48] or "managed no deal Brexit"[49] was increasingly used near the end of 2018, in respect of the complex series of political, legal and technical decisions needed if there is no withdrawal agreement treaty with the EU when the UK exits under the Article 50 withdrawal notice. The Institute for Government has advised that the concept is unrealistic.[50]
No-deal Brexit
This means the UK would leave the European Union without a withdrawal agreement.[51]
Norway model/Norway plus
This is shorthand for a model where the United Kingdom leaves the European Union but becomes a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area, possibly with the addition of a customs union ("plus"). EFTA and EEA membership would allow the UK to remain in the single market but without having to be subject to the Common Fisheries Policy, Common Agricultural Policy, and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The UK would be subject to the EFTA court, which largely shadows the ECJ, have to transfer a large amount of EU law into UK law, and have little say on shaping EU rules (some of which the UK will be compelled to take on). The UK would also have to allow freedom of movement between the EU and UK, which was seen as a key issue of contention in the referendum.[52]
People's Vote
People's Vote is an advocacy group launched in April 2018, who calls for a public vote on the final Brexit deal. The People's Vote march is part of a series of demonstrations against Brexit.
Those in favour of the UK remaining in the EU are sometimes referred to as "Remainers".[53] The derogatory term "Remoaner" (a blend of "remainer" and "moan") is sometimes used by Leavers to describe adherents of the Remain campaign.[54][36][38]
Second referendum
A second referendum has been proposed by a number of politicians and pressure groups. The Electoral Commission has the responsibility for nominating lead campaign groups for each possible referendum outcome.[55]
Slow Brexit
The term "slow Brexit" was first coined by British Prime Minister Theresa May on 25 March 2019 as she spoke to Parliament, warning MPs that Article 50 could be extended beyond 22 May, slowing down the Brexit process. A 'slow Brexit' implies a longer period of political uncertainty in which members of Parliament will debate the next steps of Britain's departure from the European Union.[56][57]


  1. Al Jazeera. (2018). Brexit jargon: From backstop to no deal, 17 key terms explained (Al Jazeera). Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  2. BBC. (2019). Brexit: Jargon-busting guide to the key terms (BBC). Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  3. Blitz, James (6 September 2018). "The danger of a 'blind Brexit'". Financial Times. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  4. Castle, Stephen (20 September 2018). "As Britain's departure nears, talk grows of a 'blind Brexit'". The New York Times. p. A10. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  5. Boffey, Daniel (3 September 2018). "Emmanuel Macron stresses opposition to 'blind Brexit'". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  6. Bevington, Matthew (19 September 2018). "Why talk is growing around "blind Brexit"". Prospect. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
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  8. Ro, Christine (14 March 2019). "How Brexit changed the English language". Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  9. Wilding, Peter (15 May 2012). "Stumbling towards the Brexit". Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  10. Friederichsen, Paul (27 June 2016). "Coining catchy "Brexit" term helped Brits determine EU vote". New York Daily News. New York. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  11. "Brexit, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2017. Web. 9 May 2017.
  12. Krause-Jackson, Flavia (28 June 2015). "Economist Who Coined 'Grexit' Now Says Greece Will Stay in Euro". Bloomberg Business.; Atkins, Ralph (23 December 2012). "A year in a word: Grexit". Financial Times.; "'Grexit' –Wer hat's erfunden?".
  13. Hjelmgaard, Kim; Onyanga-Omara, Jane (22 February 2016). "Explainer: The what, when, and why of "Brexit"". USA Today. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  14. "Take Five: Brextension, Brelection, Brextinction". October 25, 2019 via
  15. "Would Canada-plus do the trick?". Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  16. Stewart, Heather (29 August 2018). "No-deal Brexit is only alternative to Chequers plan, says Lidington". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  17. Kentish, Benjamin (30 August 2018). "Brexit: David Lidington warns EU that Chequers plan is only alternative to no-deal". The Independent. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  18. "Draft Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union". Department for Exiting the European Union via GOV.UK. 22 November 2018. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  19. "What would a Brexit Party Brexit look like?", BBC News, 27 May 2019.
  20. Keep, Matthew (12 December 2017). "Brexit: the exit bill" (PDF). House of Commons Library. CBP-8039. Retrieved 15 February 2018. When the UK leaves the EU it is expected to make a contribution towards the EU's outstanding financial commitments—spending that was agreed while the UK was a member. The media have labelled this as an 'exit bill' or 'divorce bill', the EU see it as a matter of 'settling the accounts'. The issue has been discussed in the first phase of Brexit negotiations under the title of the 'single financial settlement' (the settlement).
  21. "PM to discuss no-deal Brexit plans". BBC News. 13 September 2018.
  22. "Economic and Fiscal Outlook" (PDF). Office for Budget Responsibility. March 2019. p. 111. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  23. "Fiscal risks report" (PDF). Office for Budget Responsibility. July 2019. p. 166. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  24. "Brexit: European leaders agree extension to 31 January". BBC News. 28 October 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  25. ""Hard" Brexit most likely outcome for UK leaving EU, says S&P". Reuters. 11 November 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  26. Morris, Hugh (25 October 2018). "Air industry chief predicts 'chaos' for holiday flights in event of no-deal Brexit". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  27. "Brexit: What are the options? Alternative Brexit models". BBC News. 15 January 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  28. "How Brexit weakens and strengthens Britain's Conservatives". The Economist. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
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  31. How did my MP vote on Brexit indicative votes? (Second round). BBC News. Published 1 April 2019; retrieved 8 April 2019.
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  33. Wheeler, Brian (14 December 2017). "Brexit: Can Leavers and Remainers call a Christmas truce?". BBC. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  34. Kuenssberg, Laura (7 September 2017). "Brexiteers' letter adds to pressure on May". BBC. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  35. Peck, Tom (28 December 2017). UK must pay for French ports after Brexit, Macron to tell May. The Independent.
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  37. Page, Ruth; Busse, Beatrix; Nørgaard, Nina (14 August 2018). Rethinking Language, Text and Context: Interdisciplinary Research in Stylistics in Honour of Michael Toolan. Routledge. ISBN 9781351183208. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  38. Seargeant, Philip (28 July 2017). "Brexiteers and Broflakes: how language frames political debate". Open University. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  39. "Oxford English Dictionary definition of Brexiter". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  40. "The lexicon of leaving: AP demystifies UK's Brexit jargon". Associated Press. 29 January 2019. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  41. MacIntyre-Kemp, Gordon (25 October 2018). "Why the Brextremist position has hallmarks of a religion". The National. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  42. Maguire, Kevin (13 February 2019). "Commons Confidential: The Labour plotters' table". Retrieved 16 March 2019. Brextremist bore Peter Bone's tea room hissy fit during a discussion of the details of Theresa May's bad plan confirmed that leaving is a religion for the headbangers' headbanger. As Tory colleagues discussed trade and the backstop, Bone-head startled MPs sitting nearby by raising his arms in the air and wailing: "I don't care. I don't care. I just want to leave."
  43. Jones, Owen (14 July 2015). "The left must put Britain's EU withdrawal on the agenda". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  44. West, Catherine (30 January 2018). "I know a left-wing Brexit is a myth – I wrote the report on why it would never work". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  45. Blakeley, Grace (23 November 2018). "Lexit: The left's strategy for Brexit". BBC. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
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  48. Maguire, Patrick (11 December 2018). "Could the next Tory leader really pull off a "managed no-deal Brexit"?".
  49. Foster, Peter (18 December 2018). "Managed no deal: What exactly does it mean for Brexit – and what will happen?". The Telegraph.
  50. Lisa O'Carroll and Rowena Mason (28 July 2019). "Johnson told no-deal Brexit will crush domestic policy plans. Institute for Government tells PM there is 'no such thing as a managed no deal'". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  51. "What is a no-deal Brexit? Here are the consequences of the UK leaving the EU without a deal". 4 September 2019.
  52. "The Norway model is back on the Brexit agenda – here's what that means". Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  53. "Remainer (definition)". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  54. "remoaner noun – Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes". Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. a name given to a person who believes that the UK should remain in the European Union and does not support Brexit: – The journalist doesn't mind being called a Remoaner, as it tells her that her opponents, the Brexiteers, are getting desperate.
  55. Institute for Government. (2019). How would a second referendum on Brexit happen? Article updated 22 March 2019; retrieved 23 March 2019.
  56. "Theresa May Wields Threat of 'Slow Brexit' in Final Bid for Support". Bloomberg. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  57. "Theresa May warns of 'slow Brexit' as MPs vote to grab the reins". Metro. 26 March 2019.