Chronography of the European Union

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UK Brexit 2016-2020

31 December 2020, The UK formally left the European Union, at 11.00pm UK time.

31 January 2020, The UK began to leave the European Union. A period of transition, scheduled to end 31 December 2020, began during which trade relations would be sorted out. Many people suspected this was too little time to complete these negotiations.

20 December 2019, Boris Johnson, British PM, won a huge majority of 358 to 234 against for his Bill to complete Brexit on 31 January 2020; larger than his overall Commons majority of 78. From end January, a transition period is due to begin, for 11 months until 31 December 2020; however many believed this was too short and might have to be extended.

24 September 2019, Britain�s Supreme Court ruled that PM Boris Johnson had acted unlawfully when he prorogued (suspended) Parliament, ostensibly because of upcoming Party Conferences, but in reality to avert further debate on Brexit. Parliament returned to sitting the next day.

3 September 2019, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost significant Parliamentary votes. MPs voted to force him to ask Brussels for an extension on the Brexit process from 31 October 2019, and not to hold a General election before this date. 21 Tory MPs rebelled and were expelled from the Conservative Party by Mr Johnson, who now led a Government with a minority of 47. Mr Johnson said if he were compelled by law to ask for an extension (something he earlier said he would never do), he would also threaten to be so disruptive to the EU that in fact they would not grant one. Calling an early General Election in October would, under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, have required two thirds of MPs to vote for, which Boris Johnson did not get; it would also have ensured that Parliament was not operating in full at the end of October so even if Labour won they could not have voted to extend the Brexit deadline or avert No Deal. However it was possible that the EU, despairing of the never-ending Brexit process, would decline to offer an extension anyway, with President Macron of France taking this position.

28 August 2019, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson took the highly controversial move of announcing that the UK Parliament would be prorogued from 10 September for a crucial 5-week period until 14 October just before the planned Brexit of 31 October 2019. Opponents of Brexit claimed that this was a move to suppress any debate in parliament of the Brexit process, and prevent the passing of a Bill to block a Brexit without a deal being made with the European Union.

24 May 2019, Mrs Theresa May, UK Prime Minister, announced her resignation, having failed to secure a Brexit deal that could get through the UK Parliament.

21 March 2019, After lengthy talks between Mrs May, UK Prime Minister, and the EU, the EU set new dates for Brexit. If Mrs May managed to get her deal with the EU accepted at a third vote in Parliament, Brexit would take place on 22 May 2019. This would give the UK Parliament time to pass the necessary legislation. However it was possible that the Speaker, Mr Bercow, would debar a 3rd vote unless the proposal was �significantly different from the proposal that was heavily defeated two times already; possibly the new schedule would constitute a �difference�. If, however, Mrs May could not get her Deal passed, the UK was to have until 12 April to �say what it wanted� � which could be anything from No Deal to postponing or even cancelling Brexit, revoking Article 50.

11 December 2018, UK Prime Minister Theresa May postponed a Parliamentary vote on her Brexit Deal, which many had derided as giving up too much to Europe, and quickly met European leaders to try and renegotiate terms. She failed.

10 December 2018, The European Court of Justice ruled that a country could unilaterally reverse its exit from the EU by cancelling its use of Article 50; so long as this had been done democratically within the country, by a Parliamentary vote or a second referendum.

28 March 2017, Late this evening, UK Prime Minister Theresa May signed Article 50, triggering the exit process of the UK from the EU. The letter was delivered to Donald Tusk (Poland), President of the European Council, on 29 March 2017. The two-year negotiation process was started; however after the inconclusive UK General Election of 8 June 2017 this timetable was looking tight.

3 November 2016, Britain�s High Court ruled that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, could not trigger Article 50 to leave the EU without Parliamentary approval. This ruling was later upheld by the Supreme Court. This opened up the possibility of Parliament severely delaying or even thwarting the Brexit process.

26 June 2016 The fallout from the Brexit vote continued. David Cameron delayed invoking Chapter 50, which would kickstart a 2-year procedure to negotiate the UK�s withdrawal from the EU. Cameron expressed a preference for his successor as Tory leader to undertake these negotiations. Meanwhile EU leaders were pressuring the UK to invoke Chapter 50 soon. The EU leaders feared further �Exit� referenda in countries like France, The Netherlands, Denmark, possibly Sweden, in Spain, Greece, and even Germany and the Czech republic. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn�s, position seemed precarious as ten of his Cabinet resigned, over his lacklustre support for the Remain campaign. There was debate within the UK as to whether the Referendum result was actually binding, especially if a UK General Election ensued within a few months, which itself would require legislation to amend the five year rule for such elections. Also by this afternoon, nearly 3.4 million people had signed a petition asking for a second Brexit Referendum; some signatures were suspected of coming from outside the UK.

23 June 2016 The UK voted 51.9% to leave the European Union in the so-called Brexit referendum. David Cameron resigned as Conservative Prime Minister. The actual figures were, OUT, 17,410,742, IN, 16,141,241, Turnout = 72.2%.

19 February 2016, UK Prime Minister David Cameron concluded negotiations for a deal redefining the relationship between the UK and the EU. This was a preliminary move before a UK referendum to be held on whether the UK should leave the EU. On 20 February 2016 the date for this referendum was set for 23 June 2016.


European refugee crisis � the Schengen borderless concept begins to unravel

4 January 2016, Sweden introduced border controls on the Oresund Bridge border with Denmark to try and slow the influx of migrants. In response Denmark introduced border controls on its German border. The Schengen ideal appeared to be unravelling.

30 June 2015, Europe�s refugee crisis continued To this day, illegal arrivals from 1 January 2015 totalled over 340,000. 102,342 refugees from the Middle East and Kosovo had arrived via Hungary; 132,340 from the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan areas had arrived via Turkey and Greece; 91,302 from Africa had arrived via Libya and Italy, and 6,698 from Syria and west Africa had arrived via Spain.

19 April 2015, The heaviest casualty incident to date of the ongoing unofficial migrant sailings across the Mediterranean to Europe occurred this day, when 770 drowned as their boat sank off the Libyan coast. In September 2014 500 drowned off Malta, on 12 April 2015 400 died as their boat capsized off Libya and on 3 October 2013 368 migrants drowned off Lampedusa. Between January and end-July 2015 187,000 migrants had arrived in the EU; 96,971 arrived in Italy, 88,695 to Greece and 1,674 had arrived in Spain.


The European Union loses voter popularity, especially in the UK

23 January 2013, In the UK, David Cameron, Conservative Party Leader, promised to hold a Referendum on Britain�s continued membership of the European Union if he won the next General Election.

14 November 2012, Protests in Greece, Portugal and Spain against European austerity measures.

1 January 2012, The Caribbean island of Saint Barthelemy seceded from Guadeloupe; thereby leaving the European Union.

29 October 2004, EU heads of State in Rome signed the Treaty and Final Act establishing a European Constitution. However referendums on this Constitution would be necessary in at least 9 EU States, including the UK.

14 June 2004, Results came in for elections to the European Parliament. Turnout was disappointing, averaging just 44.2%, and just 28.7% for the 10 new (mainly eastern European) States. In the UK UKIP doubled its share to 7%. Established Governments did badly, especially in France and Germany.


Geographical enlargement of the European Union

1 January 2011, Estonia became the 17th country to adopt the Euro currency.

1 January 2009, Slovakia adopted the Euro, replacing the Koruna.

1 January 2007, Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union.

26 September 2006, The accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU on 1 January 2007 was formally approved.

1 May 2004. Ten more countries joined the existing 15 EU members. These ten were Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Malta, Cyprus, Slovakia, The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia.

14 September 2003, In a referendum, Estonia approved joining the EU.

1 January 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the European Union.

1 February 1993. The EC began formal talks on admitting Austria, Sweden, and Finland by 1995.


Further deepening of the integration of the European Union

1 January 2002, The majority of countries within the EU abolished their national currencies in favour of the Euro. Only Britain, Denmark, and Sweden retained the Pound Sterling and Kroner.

26 February 2001, The Treaty of Nice was signed by the 15 members of the EU, to enable the bloc to function smoothly after the 2004 enlargement to 25 member states. The scope of the national veto was reduced, and Parliamentary seat allocation for a 25-member bloc was agreed.

25 March 1999, The European Union adopted the Common Agricultural Policy, at a meeting in Berlin.

1998, The European Central Bank was founded.

1 November 1998, The European Court of Human Rights was instituted.

3 May 1998, The EU confirmed that the new Eurozone, or European Monetary Union, would start from 1 January 1999. 11 countries, all the EU members except Britain, Denmark, Sweden and Greece, would be part of it.

2 October 1997, The Treaty of Amsterdam was signed, further integrating the European Union.

26 March 1995, In Europe, the Schengen Convention came into force, allowing free movement between countries,

1 November 1993. The European Union (formerly EC) came into existence as the Maastricht Treaty came into effect for its 12 members.

2 August 1993. The UK ratified the Maastricht Treaty.

18 June 1993, In a second referendum, Denmark narrowly approved the Maastricht Treaty.

1 January 1993. The European Single Market came into operation. Apart from the UK, Ireland, Denmark, and Greece, passports would not be needed at frontiers within the EU. British shoppers began to take advantage of more much relaxed limits on the amount of alcohol and tobacco they could bring back from France.

11 December 1992, An Edinburgh Summit of EC heads of State discussed Denmark�s� rejection of the Maastricht Treaty.

20 September 1992. The Maastricht issue split the EC, with France voting narrowly for it but Denmark voting narrowly against it. The idea was to further integrate Europe. British politics was also split with �Euro-sceptics� on the Conservative back benches harassing John Major, Prime Minister.

7 February 1992, The Maastricht Treaty was signed, founding the European Union.


18 December 1989, The EC signed a 10-year trade pact with the USSR.

2 March 1989, All 12 EC nations agreed to ban the production of CFCs by 2000.

1 July 1987, The EC passed the Single European Act.

26 May 1986, The EC adopted a starred flag.

1 January 1986. Spain and Portugal became the 11th and 12th members of the EC.

19 July 1984, Jacques Delors was nominated as President of the European Commission from January 1985.

April 1983, The start of the European Round Table (ERT). The Chief executive of Volvo organised a meeting with the heads of 15 other large European corporations, including ICI, Fiat, Nestle, Philips and Unilever, to seek ways to �harmonise trade rules in Europe�. This was to enable these companies to reach the economies of scale necessary to compete with non-European companies. The ERT presented its proposals to the European Commission in January 1985. The ERT�s proposals included the Channel Tunnel and the Denmark-Sweden Bridge, and a Europe-wide system of high speed trains and road highways. The ERT also wanted, and got, monetary integration and enlargement of the European Union.

23 February 1982. Greenland, a Danish territory, with home rule, voted to leave the EC.

1 January 1981, Greece joined the EC.

30 May 1980, EC Foreign Ministers agreed to reduce Britain�s annual contribution to the EC by around 25%.

7 June 1979, First direct elections to the European Parliament.

1 January 1979. The European Monetary System (EMS) was formed.

6 December 1978, James Callaghan announced that Britain would not be joining the new European Monetary System (EMS).

30 October 1976, The EEC agreed to introduce a 200-mile fishing zone from 1 January 1977.

13 July 1976, Roy Jenkins became President of the European Commission.

12 March 1974, The EEC Parliament elected its first Communist Vice-President, Mr Gerard Bordu.

1 February 1973, The Common Agricultural Policy of the EEC came into operation.

1 January 1973. Britain, Denmark, and Ireland joined the EEC, enlarging it from 6 to 9 countries.

21 October 1972, An EC Summit in Paris approved the principle of economic and monetary union by 1980.

17 October 1972. European Communities Bill received Royal Assent.

31 July 1972, Paul Spaak died, aged 73. He had been one of the chief architects of the European Community (EC).

23 April 1972, In a referendum in France, voters approved the treaty adding Britain, Ireland and Denmark into the Common Market, with more than 68% in favour.

22 January 1972. Britain, Denmark, Norway, and Ireland signed the EEC Treaty � to join January 1973. Norway later withdrew after a referendum showed a majority of Norwegians were against membership. See 1 January 1973. As the British Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath signed the Treaty of Brussels, he had ink thrown over him by protestors against the redevelopment of Covent Garden Market.

23 July 1970. Membership negotiations opened in Brussels between the EEC and the UK, Denmark, Ireland, and Norway. See 22 January 1972.


Britain vetoed from EEC by De Gaulle; finally accepted, 1962-71

21 May 1971. French President Pompidou said the UK could join the EEC.

See also Great Britain for events relating to UK-Europe relations

30 June 1970. Britain began negotiations to join the EEC, following De Gaulle�s resignation in May 1969. Ireland, Denmark and Norway also began negotiations to join.

19 December 1967. Second French veto by De Gaulle on British membership of the E.E.C. The pound was devalued, and Harold Wilson made his �pound in your pocket� television speech.

27 November 1967, De Gaulle vetoed Britain�s entry into the EEC.

6 October 1966, The EEC published an adverse report on the UK economy; the UK was trying to join the EEC.

10 November 1966, The UK held discussions about entry to the EEC.

14 January 1963. De Gaulle vetoed Britain�s membership of the EEC. He said the UK was too close to the Commonwealth and the USA, and not �sufficiently European�.

18 December 1962, PM Harold MacMillan of the UK and President Kennedy of the USA concluded the Nassau Agreement, at Nassau, Bahamas.This allowed the US navy to provide Polaris missiles for the Royal Navy, normally operating under NATO command.This Anglo-US collaboration was resented by General De Gaulle of France, who saw it as proof that Britain was not sufficiently European.Within a month De Gaulle had vetoed UK membership of the EEC, see 14 January 1963.

14 November 1962. Britain resumed negotiations to join the EEC. Macmillan and De Gaulle talked at Rambouillet on 15-16 December 1962. However De Gaulle was intransigent, fearing the UK would import US influence into Europe. De Gaulle resigned in May 1969.

2 March 1962. The UK applied to join the European Coal and Steel Community. On 5 March 1962 the UK applied to join the European Atomic Energy Community.


31 December 1965, The executives of the European Economic Community, Euratom, and the European Coal and Steel Community were merged into one executive authority.

8 April 1965, Members of the European Coal and Steel Community, the Economic Community and Euratom signed a treaty providing for the merger of these institutions� functions into a single Commission and Council of Ministers.

3 July 1962. France recognised Algerian independence, after a referendum; this also entailed the departure of Algeria from the EU.

14 January 1962. The European Economic Community agreed on a Common Agricultural Policy.

8 November 1961. Negotiations with Britain began in Brussels to join the Common Market.

10 August 1961. Britain first applied for membership of the EEC.

18 July 1961. The six Common Market countries issued the Bonn Declaration aimed at political union.

3 May 1960, The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was founded in Geneva. It had seven members; Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Switzerland, Austria, and Portugal.

23 February 1959. The European Court of Human Rights sat for the first time.

16 April 1958. The EEC, the European Economic Community, was set up. The original six countries were France, Italy, West Germany, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg. See 10 August 1952.

1 January 1958. The European Economic Community came into effect. It then comprised 6 countries; France, West Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries.

25 March 1957. Six nations signed the Treaty of Rome to create the Common Market (EEC) and Euratom. These were Italy, West Germany, France, and the three Benelux countries. The founding nations foresaw a union of some 160 million people, to be developed over 15 years. There was also a shared atomic energy programme, Euratom. Britain was notably absent, preferring to create a wider but looser trading network involving the Common Market, the Commonwealth, and others. Britain feared a supra-national authority that would erode its sovereignty over domestic affairs. However the PM, Harold MacMillan, privately believed that the UK should have sought Common market membership and now began to create the European Free trading Area, EFTA, which included all of western Europe, and involved less loss of sovereignty for the participating nations. A stand-alone Britain faced greater threats to its trade and industry from a developing Common Market.

7 May 1956. The inaugural meeting of the Western European Union Council.

5 August 1955, European Monetary Agreement signed.

5 July 1955, The first meeting of the Assembly of the Western European Union, at Strasbourg, France.

1954, The European Labour Card was instituted. This enabled any citizen of the six participating nations to work anywhere within the Community.

31 May 1954, The first Bilderberg Group meeting concluded (opened 29 May 1954). The group, of politicians, royalty and industrialists, was named after the hotel where this initial meeting, now held annually, first met; the Hotel Bilderberg, Oosterbeek, The Netherlands.

23 April 1954, The US made a loan of US$ 100 million to the European Coal and Steel Community to modernise its collieries and power stations. A smaller loan by the French Government facilitated the relocation of miners to the most productive pits.

10 January 1953. First meeting of the European Coal and Steel Community.

10 August 1952. Inauguration of the European Coal and Steel Community. See 28 April 1949 and 16 April 1958.

25 July 1952, The European Coal and Steel Community came into force.

5 July 1952, The Court of Justice of the European Coal and Steel Community became operational.

17 May 1952, The Treaty of Paris was signed by the 6 original EEC members setting up the European Defence Community. However the French Parliament subsequently declined to ratify this move, voting against it by 319 to 264.

13 December 1951, The French National Assembly ratified the Schuman Plan. This placed French and German steel iron and coal industries under one common authority, to which other countries could also accede.

18 April 1951. The European Coal and Steel Treaty was signed in Paris. France, West Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries signed up.

18 November 1950, At a meeting of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, Robert Schuman, French foreign Minister, made a speech supporting the Pleven Plan for establishing a European Army.

19 September 1950, The European Payments Union was established.

11 August 1950, In Strasbourg, France, at the meeting of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, Winston Churchill called for the creation of a European Army. The motion was passed by 89 votes to 5.

2 June 1950, The UK declined to take part in any European grouping that would entail a loss of its national sovereignty.

9 May 1950. The Schuman Plan lead to the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community.

7 November 1949, The first meeting of the Council of Europe; Spaak was the Chairman.

3 August 1949, The Council of Europe came into being.

3 May 1949. The Council of Europe was established, after a ten-state conference in London.

16 April 1948. The Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) was set up, see 14 December 1960.

17 March 1948. Britain, France, and the Benelux countries signed the Brussels Treaty, a pact of economic, military, political, and cultural alliance. The Treaty came into effect on 25 July 1948.

14 May 1947, A �United Europe� meeting was held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Winston Churchill spoke in favour of a European Union and urged Britain and France to take the lead in restoring Germany's economy before the German people "turn their thoughts to revolt and revenge."

19 September 1946. Winston Churchill, in Zurich, urged Franco-German reconciliation and a �kind of United States of Europe.

5 September 1929. Aristide Briand, the French Prime Minister, proposed a United States of Europe.

20 July 1925, Jacques Delors, President of the European commission, was born.


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