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Brexit is finally over. We have laid out the turbulent events of the last five years in full.

Words by Georgina Bailey and Kate Proctor. Illustrations by Tracy Worrall.

Brexit The Full Story

2016

JUNE 23

The United Kingdom votes to leave the EU by 51.9% to 48.1%. Leave won 53.4% of the vote in England, 44.2% in Northern Ireland, 38% in Scotland, and 52.5% in Wales.

JUNE 24-30

David Cameron announces his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party and PM, saying he thinks “the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction”. Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May run to replace him, while Boris Johnson announces he will not run.

JUNE 26-29

Hilary Benn is sacked from the Labour frontbench and 20 colleagues resign protesting Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of leadership on Brexit, forcing a vote of no confidence by the Parliamentary Labour Party.

JULY 11

May first uses the phrase “Brexit means Brexit” at a campaign event in Birmingham. Later that day, Leadsom drops out of the Conservative leadership race leaving May as the victor.

JULY 13-14

May becomes Prime Minister and creates the Department for Exiting the European Union, to be led by David Davis and Olly Robbins as permanent secretary. Other key Brexiteers are appointed to Cabinet.

JULY 27

Michel Barnier is announced as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.

SEPTEMBER 24

Corbyn beats challenger Owen Smith to remain leader of the Labour Party with 61.8% of the vote.

OCTOBER 2

May delivers her conference speech, saying it is for the “government alone” to trigger Article 50, that it will be invoked “no later” than March 31 2017, and ruling out the Norway or Switzerland models.

NOVEMBER 3

The High Court rules that the UK government needs parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50, leading to the three judges involved to be branded “Enemies of the People” by the Daily Mail. The case is taken to the Supreme Court.

DECEMBER 7

MPs sign off on May’s Brexit timetable, with Labour successfully pushing for the government to publish its Brexit plan before March 31. David Davis promises that MPs will get a final vote on the deal.

2017

JANUARY 3

Ivan Rogers, the UK’s ambassador to the EU, quits over claims his warnings about Brexit have been ignored.

JANUARY 17

May sets out her Brexit vision in her Lancaster House speech, including leaving the single market, ending freedom of movement, and ending ECJ jurisdiction. The claim ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ is heard for the first time.

JANUARY 24

The Supreme Court agrees with the High Court that parliamentary approval is needed to trigger Article 50.

FEBRUARY 8

MPs vote by 494 to 122 to trigger Article 50 at third reading.

MARCH 29

Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s ambassador to the EU, delivers a letter from Theresa May to European Council President Donald Tusk, invoking Article 50. This would make March 29 2019 the day the UK is expected to leave the EU.

MARCH 31

Tusk sets out his draft Brexit guidelines, including the ”phased approach” – where the UK’s ‘divorce settlement’ must be agreed before talks on a future relationship begin. The settlement is estimated to be over £50bn at the time.

APRIL 18

May announces a snap general election, hoping to increase her 17-seat working majority and “strengthen [her] hand” in the Brexit negotiations. Opinion polls give the Conservatives a 21 point lead.

JUNE 8

The general election delivers a hung parliament, with the Tories losing 13 seats despite securing their highest share of the vote since 1983. Northern Ireland’s Leave-supporting DUP makes a deal with the Conservatives and its votes allow May to stay in power.

JUNE 19

The first Brexit negotiation talks take place between Barnier and Davis, where they agree to prioritise residency rights. The UK concedes to the EU’s demands about the ‘phased approach’ to talks.

SEPTEMBER 22

May delivers her Florence speech, designed to assuage EU fears, and seen by some Brexiteers as a climbdown on earlier tough rhetoric. It commits to maintaining high regulatory standards, paying into EU budgets until 2020, and proposes a two-year implementation period.

OCTOBER 4

Tory conference concludes with a disastrous speech from May, plagued by a cough and the sign behind her falling down.

DECEMBER 8

The EU and UK reach a partial breakthrough: protecting reciprocal rights for citizens living abroad, an estimated ‘divorce payment’ of £35–39bn, and no hard border on the island of Ireland, leading to the first discussion of the Irish ‘backstop’. May stresses that “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

2018

JANUARY 29

The European Council publishes its negotiating directives, including that the UK will remain part of the EU single market and customs union during the transition period. Negotiations continue.

MARCH 2

May’s Mansion House speech expands on the UK position, including recognition that the ‘level playing field’ rules will be more tightly binding. May introduces five vague “tests” for any deal.

MARCH 8

Tusk freezes negotiations on other issues until the UK comes up with a solution on the Irish border, saying the approach from now on will be “Ireland first”.

MARCH 19

A draft joint withdrawal deal is published, of which 75% is agreed, including a 21-month transition period ending on 31 December 2020, and the principle of a “backstop” keeping Northern Ireland under EU law where regulation diverges. The deal comes under attack from Brexiteers, with May accused of acquiescing to too many EU demands on immigration and fisheries.

JUNE 7

The UK proposes that the entire UK would enter into a temporary customs arrangement with the EU if needed as a ‘backstop’ to protect the open border on the island of Ireland.

JUNE 8

Barnier rejects the proposal, saying that the four freedoms are indivisible.

JUNE 9

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accepts the Irish border question will be postponed until October 2018, allowing other negotiations to proceed.

JULY 6

The cabinet meets at Chequers to finalise the government’s Brexit plan.

JULY 8

Brexit secretary David Davis resigns.

JULY 9

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson resigns, with Jeremy Hunt replacing him. Dominic Raab replaces Davis as Brexit secretary. In total, seven ministers resign over the Chequers plan over nine days.

JULY 10

After a series of agreements are published, Barnier states that 80% of the Brexit deal is now complete.

JULY 12

The Chequers plan is published, including a common rulebook on state aid, the maintenance of high regulatory standards, and a ‘facilitated’ customs arrangement in Northern Ireland.

AUGUST 21

After intensified negotiations, Barnier warns that a trade deal will not be reached by the October EU summit and that there will need to be an emergency summit in November or December.

AUGUST 31

At a joint press conference, Raab and Barnier recommit to meeting the October deadline and state that progress has been made.

SEPTEMBER 20

May is ‘humiliated’ at a summit in Salzburg, as EU leaders reject her Chequers plan, with Tusk implying that she is trying to have her cake and eat it.

OCTOBER

Intense negotiations continue, with the Irish border proving to be the main bone of contention. The EU eventually commits to trying to extend the backstop to the whole of the UK.

NOVEMBER 13

Britain and the EU agree a Brexit deal, with a £39m divorce payment, a transition period to 31 December 2020, and an all UK indefinite customs union ‘backstop’ arrangement, where Northern Ireland had to remain in regulatory alignment with the EU and Britain couldn’t agree other trade deals – unless a satisfactory solution to the Irish border is found.

NOVEMBER 14

After a five-hour meeting, May’s Cabinet approves the agreement – but Brexit secretary Dominic Raab later quits over “fatal flaws”. Eight other ministers resign.

NOVEMBER 25

The EU27 leaders approve the agreement.

DECEMBER 4

Following Labour’s use of a ‘humble address’ on November 13 to try to force the government to publish Attorney General Geoffrey Cox’s legal advice, MPs vote to find the government in contempt of Parliament. Parliament then passes an amendment by Dominic Grieve forcing the government to set out a plan within 21 days if May cannot get her deal passed.

DECEMBER 10

Facing an embarrassing rebellion from her own MPs, May postpones the Commons vote on her deal.

DECEMBER 11

May meets with Angela Merkel and other EU leaders to try and renegotiate the deal – this is rejected.

DECEMBER 12

May wins a vote of no confidence among Tory MPs by 200 to 117 – but promises she will not lead the party into the next general election.

2019

JANUARY 15

First ‘meaningful vote’ on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement struck between the EU and May. It is voted down with a new parliamentary record of 230 against it.

MARCH

There are two more meaningful votes on the deal, which are defeated by margins of 149 and 58. On the last vote May drops the Political Declaration from the vote altogether but it still doesn’t pass.

MARCH 20

May writes to European Council President Donald Tusk, asking to extend Article 50 until June 30. Following a European Council meeting the next day, EU27 leaders agreed to grant an extension but with two other dates: 22 May 2019, should the Withdrawal Agreement gain approval from MPs; or 12 April 2019, should the Withdrawal Agreement not be approved.

APRIL 10

EU agrees to extend Article 50 until October 31 but the UK must take part in the EU elections. European Council President Donald Tusk warns British politicians “please do not waste this time”.

MAY 23

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party wins the most seats at the European elections. The next day May announces she will stand down and says in an emotional statement that she feels “deep regret” that she had been unable to deliver Brexit.

JULY 23

Boris Johnson wins the Tory leadership contest and becomes PM.

AUGUST 28

Johnson prorogues Parliament.

SEPTEMBER 3

Tory Dr Phillip Lee defects to the Lib Dems and Johnson loses the majority he inherited from May. MPs vote 328 to 301 to remove no-deal Brexit, which leads to the whip being removed from 21 Tories including leadership challenger Rory Stewart and Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames. Minister Amber Rudd quits the party in protest.

SEPTEMBER 5

Johnson says he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than ask for an extension.

SEPTEMBER 24

The Supreme Court rules that Johnson’s advice to the Queen that Parliament should be prorogued for five weeks had not been lawful.

OCTOBER 17

Johnson agrees a new deal with the EU, which creates a legal customs border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, but with actual checks taking place between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Northern Ireland would follow EU rules on goods.

OCTOBER 19

Johnson’s deal does not pass: the DUP votes against it, saying it creates a border in the Irish Sea. The ‘Benn Act’ forces him to ask European Council president Donald Tusk for an extension. A few days later a new deal is agreed with the EU which removes the backstop.

OCTOBER 28

EU agrees a further Brexit extension to January 31 2020.

OCTOBER 29

MPs approve a general election, which becomes the first to be held in December since 1923.

OCTOBER 31

The date Britain was due to leave the EU passes. Commemorative Brexit coins are melted down.

DECEMBER 12

Johnson wins a crushing general election victory on the back of a slogan “get Brexit done” by 31 January 2020. Jeremy Corbyn announces he will stand down as leader of the Labour Party.

2020

JANUARY 24

Johnson signs the Withdrawal Agreement.

JANUARY 31

At 11pm, the UK leaves the European Union and marks the moment with a party in Parliament Square. Britain enters the transition phase, in which it’s intended to work out a future relationship, including a trade deal, by the end of the year.

MARCH 2-5

The first round of negotiations between the EU and UK takes place in Brussels. The opening agenda covers 11 topics, including trade in goods, transport, energy, fisheries and the level playing field.

APRIL 15

Almost a month later than scheduled, second round talks begin with Barnier and chief negotiator David Frost over video conference.

SEPTEMBER 8

At the start of the month an almighty row erupts among MPs and between the EU and UK when news breaks that the government will introduce an Internal Markets Bill to overrule parts of the UK’s legally binding Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. It would give ministers powers to amend how the UK could implement the pre-agreed Northern Ireland Protocol.

OCTOBER 1

The EU starts legal proceedings against the UK over the PM’s plan to put in place measures that would allow him to break international law.

NOVEMBER 10

A heavy defeat for the government on the Internal Markets Bill in the House of Lords as they remove sections that would allow ministers to break international law and override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement that relate to Northern Ireland.

NOVEMBER 28

Barnier arrives back in London to resume talks, which are now in the very final stages if a deal is to be hammered out.

DECEMBER 3

Amid well publicised orders of pizza and late night sittings, a member of the EU’s Brexit negotiating team Stefaan de Rynck said there are still “significant” gaps on fisheries and the level playing field, adding: “The outcome is uncertain.”

DECEMBER 7

Ping-pong begins on the Internal Markets Bill as the Commons debates and tries to modify changes made by the Lords, who voted it down.

DECEMBER 8

The UK takes its threat to breach the Withdrawal Agreement off the table and announces that EU officials can station themselves in Northern Ireland to oversee the working of the Northern Irish protocol. U.K. officials insist these moves are not linked to a free trade deal with the EU.

DECEMBER 31

Transition period ends.


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Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump

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“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.

The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”

But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.

On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.

Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.

The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.

Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.

Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.

A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.

But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.

The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.

Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.

A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.

Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.

The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.

Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout

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Matt Hancock has agreed to remove some of the training modules required for volunteers to sign up to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine (PA)


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Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.

It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.

The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.

“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.

In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.

“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.

“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”

Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.

He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same. 

“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”

Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.

The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.

But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.

Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”

The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”

The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.

“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided. 

“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”

Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.

“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”

The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.

He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.

He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.

“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.

“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.

“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”

Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”

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How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers

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Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.

The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.

After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.

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