What do Slow Brexit, backstop and no-deal mean? 14 key Brexit buzzwords explained

Slow Brexit? No-deal? A People's Vote? Backstop?

These are just some of the words being used by politicians about Brexit and the negotiations between the UK and the EU - with our exit from the European Union imminent, the amount of jargon only seems to be growing.

For those of you confused by the language around Brexit, here's our guide to what all the key terms actually mean:

  • Slow Brexit

Theresa May floated the term Slow Brexit to MPs in the Commons as she laid out options open to them for Brexit following her talks with the EU, which extended the negotiation period beyond the original date of March 29.

A Slow Brexit would extend Article 50 beyond the proposed extension of May 22, meaning Britain would take part in European elections scheduled to take place from May 23.

Mrs May warned MPs a so-called Slow Brexit would see the UK giving up control of borders, law, money and trade, adding it is not the solution that will unite the country.

Mrs May warned MPs a slow Brexit is an option. Credit: HoC
  • 'No-deal' Brexit

A no-deal Brexit means the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 29 March without an agreement on its future political or economic relationship with the EU.

There will be no transition period which is part of Theresa May's deal - meaning huge implications on trade with the EU and dozens of other countries.

Currently, the UK trades with 68 countries as part of an agreement with the EU in some form, and these relationships would revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) trading rules.

A no-deal Brexit will see the UK adopt WTO trading rules with the EU. Credit: PA

These rules may not be as economically favourable as the current trade agreement on certain goods.

As well as new trade agreements, border checks on EU goods may potentially be introduced, leading to gridlock at ports and motorways.

Some have expressed concern that this disruption - without proper contingency plans - could result in shortages of food and medicines.

  • EU withdrawal agreement

The 585-page text provides the basis of a legally binding treaty. It covers the future rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals in the EU, the UK’s £39 billion “divorce” settlement, as well as protocols on Gibraltar and the UK sovereign base areas in Cyprus.

It also provides for a transition period after the UK leaves in March 2019 running to the end of 2020, with the option of a one-off extension if more time is needed to conclude an agreement on the future relationship.

Crucially it also covers the so-called “backstop” intended to ensure there is no return to the hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic if negotiations on the future relationship have still not been completed.

  • Draft political declaration

The 26-page statement is not legally binding and outlines the UK's intent for a future relationship with the EU.

The Prime Minister has admitted more negotiations are required but inside the document there was a promise that “technologies” and “alternative arrangements” could help avoid the Northern Irish backstop; an independent trade policy for the UK; and a new fisheries policy could continue to give EU boats access to our waters.

The draft agreement also outlined how the European Court of Justice will keep a role in resolving disputes.

  • People's Vote

There have been dozens of People's Vote marches across the UK. Credit: PA

A People’s Vote is a campaign demanding a second referendum on EU membership.

Supporters of the movement claim the public were not in possession of all the facts and now with a deal negotiated - a vote can be made between Theresa May's deal, no deal or staying in the EU.

  • Backstop

If it was a competition, 'backstop' would win the prize for the most used, least understood word to have been borne out the negotiation process.

It's a complex term relating to the post-Brexit border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - it is also the main sticking point in negotiations.

As things stand, goods and services can pass between the two nations with few restrictions, because both are part of the single market and customs union (explained later).

However, when the UK finally leaves the EU, things could be very different.

Goods and services can currently flow freely between the UK and EU. Credit: ITV News

If customs arrangements cannot be agreed upon by the end of the transition period in December 2020, the backstop will come into place to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland - something neither side wants.

It is effectively a safety net that, for a limited time, will keep Northern Ireland part of the single market and customs union, meaning the cross-border Irish relationship will remain the same.

Both sides have already agreed on the need for a backstop but cannot find common ground on what form that backstop should take.

If the EU's version of a backstop comes into place, there could be checks on goods and services passing from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK. Credit: PA

The EU wants the backstop to mean that only Northern Ireland can remain in the single market and customs union, which would effectively create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK - a red line for Theresa May.

The UK wants the backstop to mean that Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK remains within the single market and customs union for a limited period of time following the transition period - a red line for the EU.

The issue of the backstop is such a sticking point for the EU that they won't allow the transition period to begin before it can be agreed upon where a safety net should be placed.

  • Chequers plan

Chequers is the name of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom's country house, located in Buckinghamshire - but it has also become synonymous with Theresa May's seemingly doomed plan for Brexit.

It is called the Chequers plan because it was agreed upon during a cabinet meeting inside the historic country residence. The agreement resulted in the resignation of two Brexit poster boys - David Davis and Boris Johnson.

They initially agreed to Chequers but changed their mind after deciding it was proposing a version of Brexit much 'softer' than they wanted.

This is the historic Chequers meeting in action. Credit: PA

The Chequers plan centres around the need for the UK and EU to agree to a "common rule book" that will allow a "free trade area for goods".

The common rule book means the UK would still follow standards and rules created by the European Union. This would mean, for example, that the UK continues to commit to consumer protection standards and EU case law.

Theresa May wants to create a free trade area to "avoid friction at the border, protect jobs and livelihoods, and ensure both sides meet their commitments to Northern Ireland and Ireland".

The birthplace of the Chequers plan. Credit: PA

The plan includes a "facilitated customs agreement," set up to avoid customs checks at EU-UK borders, meaning the UK would still have access to the EU single market. It would also end free-movement of people.

The EU have already said Chequers "will not work" because of the access it will give the UK to the single market without agreeing to the four freedoms: movement for goods, services, capital and people.

Many Tories don't agree to the plan because they believe it would result in the UK continuing to answer to the EU.

  • Customs union

Every European Union member nation is part of the customs union, which means there are no customs checks when goods pass between EU states.

Another feature of the customs union is that goods entering the EU from the rest of the world are subject to a "common external tariff", which is set by European Union institutions, not individual countries.

This also means that the EU decides how to spend revenue collected from tariffs and most of it goes into the EU budget.

The reason politicians want Britain to leave the customs union is so the UK can strike its own trade deals.

  • Single market

To be part of the single market, nations must agree to the 'four freedoms'; free movement of people, capital, goods and services.

In return, countries get access to goods and services passing between member states without having to pay tariffs.

  • Hard Brexit

Protesters from the global campaigning movement Avaaz believe the general election result in 2017 was proof the public don't want a hard Brexit. Credit: PA

Tory politicians such as David Davis and Boris Johnson believe a 'hard Brexit' is what the public voted for two years ago.

A hard exit from the European Union would see the UK lose access to the single market, the customs union and all EU institutions.

It will give the UK more freedom and ability to strike trade deals with countries all over the world that are not part of the EU trading bloc.

Many critics say the downside to a hard Brexit is that the UK would lose its trading relationship with the EU and fall back onto World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, meaning increased tariffs on goods.

Tariffs are a tax or duty imposed by governments on goods and services imported from other countries. Imposing tariffs on imports makes them more expensive and makes domestic goods and service more attractive.

  • Soft Brexit

MPs Nicky Morgan, Nick Clegg and Chris Leslie joined members of Open Britain, in March 2017, which campaigns for a soft Brexit. Credit: PA

Many politicians who campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU before the referendum now believe a 'soft Brexit' is the best option for Britain.

A soft Brexit is widely perceived to be a deal that will keep the UK closely aligned with the EU after it leaves - including retaining access to the single market and parts of the customs union, allowing some sectors to trade without having to pay tariffs.

British MEPs, such as Nigel Farage, will cease to exist, meaning the UK will have no say over decisions made within the European Parliament. Credit: PA

This model means the UK would still pay into the EU budget and continue to accept the four freedoms, but without any say in the EU decision making process.

Critics of a soft Brexit it say it would result in BRINO - Brexit In Name Only - and they don't believe that is what the public voted for.

  • Canada plus

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis has an alternative to Theresa May's Chequers plan called 'Canada plus'.

The plan is based on the free trade deal struck between Canada and the EU, known as CETA, that took seven years to negotiate.

CETA means there are no tariffs on most goods and services passing between Canada and the EU, except on items such as food and agriculture.

This gives Canada access to nearly all of the European market without actually being part of the single market. They also don't have to contribute to the EU budget or follow EU laws.

Canada plus would see the UK achieve a similar deal to one it took the EU and Canada seven years to negotiate. Credit: PA

David Davis' idea of Canada plus would give the UK a deal very similar to CETA, but with increased access to the single market in areas that could impact the British economy, such as financial and energy markets.

The downside of this plan is that it may result in the UK continuing to contribute to the EU budget.

On top of this, the Canada plus idea could be seen as cherry-picking, something the EU has said it will not allow.

  • Norway style deal

A Norway style deal would likely get approval from those hoping for a soft Brexit. Credit: PA

Another alternative to the Chequers plan is to follow the style of Norway's relationship with the EU - which would be seen as having a soft Brexit.

A Norway style deal would see Britain join the European Economic Area (EEA) which means it would remain part of the single market and continue to pay into the EU budget, without having a say in decision making.

Norway also has to follow the majority of EU laws and accepts freedom of movement.

It is unlikely this option could ever become a reality because it crosses many of the Government's red lines, such as continued free movement of people.

  • Article 50

A copy of the Bill to trigger Article 50, in front of the Houses of the Parliament in London. Credit: PA

The formal legal process for leaving the European Union is detailed in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which became law in December 2009.

Article 50 is only five paragraphs long and focuses on the exact way a nation can leave the EU.

It states that any member can withdraw from the Union and when it decides to do so it must inform the European Council before negotiating the terms of its exit.

Once a decision has been triggered the country leaving the EU has a two year period in which it must reach an agreement on its departure. An extension of the two years may be granted only if all member states agree.

Once the two year period begins, the nation leaving the Union is exempt from discussions relating to its departure. The departure must be approved by a "qualified majority" of members.

If a state that has left the EU wishes to rejoin, Article 50 outlines that it must apply for membership in the same way as any other country.