It has been a tumultuous year for the United Kingdom as the country prepares for an unruly exit from the European Union. The process is without precedent and defies the kinds of political punditry that typically surrounds these sorts of landmark events. Prime Minister Theresa May has her work cut out to even persuade enough parliamentarians to accept the deal, which includes a controversial provision to keep the UK in a customs arrangement with the European Union until a better solution is found to keep the Irish border open.
Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest outside the House of Commons in London. Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised that a Labour Government would negotiate full, tariff-free access to EU markets, but many British citizens are hoping for a new referendum to cancel Brexit altogether.
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Throughout Brexit negotiations and despite efforts to reach a compromise, the issue of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains unresolved. British Prime Minister Theresa May has struggled to convince members of her Conservative Party, as well as members of her own Cabinet, to support the so-called 'Irish Backstop' plan to keep the border on the island of Ireland open in the event that the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without an agreement in place.
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EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier is shown here holding a press conference with David Davis, who was at that point the British Cabinet secretary in charge of negotiating Brexit. However, Davis resigned from his position in July to protest his government's Brexit strategy. Davis, like many of his fellow party members, believed the agreement May was negotiating with the European Union did not do enough to separate his country from the bloc.
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The United Kingdom's departure from the single customs union threatens to alter the British economy in numerous ways, impacting the livelihoods of citizens working in any number of sectors. Pro-Brexit workers in the fishing industry, for example, burned a fishing boat flying the EU flag to protest the prospect of London's continued adherence to the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy, which sets quotas and establishes fishing rights.
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Like former Brexit Secretary David Davis, Boris Johnson chose to vacate his Cabinet position to protest his government's direction on Brexit. Before becoming Foreign Secretary under Theresa May, Johnson was a prominent supporter of Brexit. Johnson shocked many in 2016 when he chose not to vie for the position of prime minister, leaving it up to someone else to negotiate for the Brexit plan he championed for years.
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The referendum on Brexit may have taken place in 2016, but many Britains have remained at odds with one another over the issue well into 2018. The benefits and drawbacks of leaving the European Union have remained a controversial and relevant political issue in the United Kingdom, with strong opinions on both sides.
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As the road toward Brexit has twisted and turned, Nigel Farage has remained a firm proponent of leaving the European Union. A founding member and former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, Farage has long been a member of European Parliament, where he has often made Euroskeptic and anti-euro speeches. As vice-chairman of the pro-Brexit organization Leave Means Leave, Farage has continued campaigning for Brexit through rallies, speeches and in media.
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British Prime Minister Theresa May has had a difficult year, and her struggles in navigating her country's departure from the European Union will continue in 2019. May survived a confidence vote from her party in December 2018, but the opposition could still trigger a fresh no-confidence motion at any time. As Brexit approaches on March 29, May has plenty of work ahead to convince lawmakers to back her plan.
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