TODAY |

Everything you need to know about Brexit

Confused by Brexit? Well, you're not alone.

The UK voted to leave the European Union - the world's most powerful bloc - two years ago, and is due to leave on the 29th of March next year. No other country has ever left before, and just how and when it leaves will have implications that ripple around the globe. But it's all very complicated with talks of deals, no deals, second referendums and even a general election.

1 NEWS Europe Correspondent Joy Reid breaks it down.

What is it?

Brexit is a catch phrase coined for Britain leaving the EU, joining together the words "Britain" and "exit". That's essentially what's happening.

In a tight referendum in June 2016 (51.9% to 48.1%), the UK voted to leave the European Union (a group of 28 countries in Europe which pays membership and enjoys free trade and movement of people).

It's set to leave at 11pm on the 29 March 2019.

Where are things right now?

After months of wrangling and tough negotiations, British Prime Minister Theresa May has come up with a deal with the European Union that outlines how the UK will leave the EU - it's called the Withdrawal Agreement.

It's only a temporary option until the two sides work out a future trade relationship, so it's a bit like divorce papers.

But it's not a done deal yet. While the two parties have agreed on it, Ms May needs her Parliament to sign off on it.

Many said that Ms May would be unable to get any deal on the table at all so this is a big step forward, but she now has the biggest challenge yet: Can she get her Parliament to back it?

Can she?

Well, at this point it doesn't look good.

A vote in Parliament takes place on 11 December.

Two Brexit secretaries (the Government ministers in charge of the Brexit deal) have resigned so far, saying they can't support the deal.

Another 10 Government ministers have resigned in total over it. At this stage there's talk of up to a third of her own Conservative MPs voting against it, as well as the Democratic Unionist Party, which the Conservatives rely on for support to stay in power (much like NZ First and the Greens do for Labour in New Zealand). The Opposition Labour party says they will vote against it, too, so it is definitely an uphill battle for Ms May.

What exactly is the deal?

The Withdrawal Agreement agrees that:

  • The UK will pay the EU £39 billion to settle outstanding debts - that's more than $70 billion New Zealand dollars

   • It also guarantees the rights of Brits living in the EU and also EU citizens living in the UK, which means EU citizens and their families will be able to move to live and work in the UK (and vice versa) until the end of the transition period in December 2020. 

   • It suggests a way of avoiding a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This is known as the "backstop". It plans to do this by keeping Northern Ireland in a closer relationship with the EU than the rest of Britain if a new trade deal can't be reached by the end of the transition period. Essentially that means Northern Ireland would stay in the EU customs union AND be part of a new UK and EU arrangement. If it came into force it would mean the UK would have to follow quite a lot of the EU laws.

   • It also agrees on a 20-month "transition period", which would mean no major changes until the end of 2020. The UK would essentially continue trading as normal with the EU under their rules and regulations. This would allow the UK and EU to hammer out a new trade deal but would prevent it from making any new trade deals with the likes of New Zealand during this time

There's also a much shorter document which has been drawn up with gives an overview of the potential future relationship between the UK and EU. This isn't legally binding and is more of a guide for ambitious future trade talks.

Why the opposition to it?

There's a lot of concern over the Irish border aspect of the Withdrawal Agreement. The backstop would only come into play if the UK and EU haven't come up with a new trade deal by the end of the transition period.

But if the backstop was put in place at the end of the transition period, there are fears that the UK might be indefinitely tied to the EU as the backstop requires BOTH sides to agree on when it should end.

Many MPs feel they cannot support the deal which leaves them more closely aligned to the EU than they want, potentially indefinitely, without being able to have a say over the rules that would essentially govern them.

What are the other options?

Labour (the Opposition) says if the vote does not pass then it wants a general election. It's not easy to see how that would happen, but it is a possibility.

What about another referendum?

The last possibility is for another referendum and there are growing calls for a "People's Vote".

This would take time and would likely go past the March 29 deadline. But this deadline could be extended if EVERY other EU country agrees to an extension. They may be happy to do so as the EU has publicly said multiple times that they're disappointed the UK is leaving them.

Experts say the whole process would take an extra 24 weeks.

Is there enough support for another referendum?

There’s certainly growing momentum for this, but again, there isn’t enough support for this to be a definitive option. It’s a controversial issue as many feel a second referendum would be undemocratic and ignores the will of the people in the first referendum who voted to leave.

The People’s Vote campaign, however, believes the public were not fully informed at the time of the 2016 vote.

Also, current polls suggest people are still divided about how much they have changed their minds and it seems that the result would again be very close.

And just to recap: Why did the UK vote to leave?

The UK essentially voted to take back control of its laws, economy and its borders.

The "Vote Leave" campaigned on concerns around some of the EU laws that the UK are subject to due to its membership and the costs of being an EU member.

It said that the UK would have more money for things like its National Health Service (NHS) if it didn't have to pay EU membership fees.

Immigration was also a big issue due to widespread concern about the free movement of people.

Why is it so complicated?

This is the first time a country has ever left the European Union. Britain joined in 1973, and for the past 45 years has agreed to all sorts of laws, trade deals, rules and regulations. The question is, how to get out of them. There's no precedent so effectively people are making it up as they go along.

It's being likened to unscrambling an egg. How does one do that? We're about to find out.

1 NEWS Europe Correspondent Joy Reid has the latest from London. Source: Breakfast