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Brexit Day: Here's how Britain left the EU and how it has affected Kent and Medway

Big Ben may not be bonging when the clock strikes 11pm tonight and the White Cliffs of Dover may not be illuminated with pro Brexit slogans. But make no mistake: today marks a hugely significant moment in politics, with contrasting reaction across the county.

So how did we get here and what were the key moments in Kent? Our political editor Paul Francis reviews the bumpy path towards the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron with current PM Boris Johnson in 2013
Former Prime Minister David Cameron with current PM Boris Johnson in 2013

The 2015 General Election

Arguably this was the election that gave a turbo-charge to those clamouring for a referendum on leaving the EU.

The then Ukip leader Nigel Farage failed in his attempt to win the South Thanet seat and the party failed to win elsewhere, despite gaining nearly four million votes at the ballot box.

Why was it significant?

The Conservative victory meant that it had to deliver on a manifesto promise to hold a referendum on staying or leaving the EU.

Then Ukip leader Nigel Farage failed to win the South Thanet seat in 2015
Then Ukip leader Nigel Farage failed to win the South Thanet seat in 2015

June 2016 - UK votes to leave

After a referendum campaign dominated by claim and counterclaim and "fake news"about the consequences of leaving and staying - the Brexiteers prevailed by the narrowest of margins and confounded most of the experts.

In Kent, all bar one area - Tunbridge Wells - voted out.

The front pages of a selection of British newspapers on the day following the referendum result
The front pages of a selection of British newspapers on the day following the referendum result

July 2016: Theresa May becomes PM

David Cameron quit, saying the country needed a different leader who was committed to delivering Brexit.

May was seen by some as a closet Brexiteer and coined the soundbite "no deal is better than a bad deal".

David Cameron announcing his resignation as Prime Minster in June 2016
David Cameron announcing his resignation as Prime Minster in June 2016

March 2017: May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty

The government formally kick-starts a two-year countdown to the UK exiting the EU.

The Sun projected the words "Dover and out" across the White Cliffs of Dover.

A photograph The Sun newspaper's front page
A photograph The Sun newspaper's front page

June 2017: Theresa May calls a snap election

It surprised many. But it proved a spectacular miscalculation and she lost a working majority - a precursor to a torrid period in which she struggled to command support for a deal both in the EU and among her rebellious MPs.

Theresa May's decision to call a snap election in 2017 backfired
Theresa May's decision to call a snap election in 2017 backfired

July 2018: The PM announces cabinet support for her deal

The cabinet swings behind Theresa May and her Brexit deal but almost immediately suffers setbacks with key cabinet ministers quitting including Brexit Secretary David Davis and then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

KMTV report on reaction in Kent after key resignations

December 2018: PM survives confidence vote

The Conservative Party holds a secret confidence ballot in May’s leadership. She won the vote by 200 to 117, allowing her to remain in post.

Theresa May failed three times to get her Brexit deal through parliament
Theresa May failed three times to get her Brexit deal through parliament

January 2019: Parliament inflicts humiliating defeat on May's deal

Theresa May suffers an ignominious defeat in the Commons - a record-breaking number of MPs - including several of the county's - rebel over the Withdrawal Bill.

It marked the beginning of the unravelling of her premiership.

Operation Brock contingency plans, involving lorries being parked at the Manston airport site, are tested but are ridiculed after just 90 lorries turn up for the trial.

A report leaked to Kent Online reveals organisations in Kent preparing contingency plans for Brexit were advised by the government on how to resist releasing information about their work to avoid causing public concern.

Fewer than 90 HGVs turned up for a dress rehearsal to test government's plans to use the Manston airport site as an emergency lorry park
Fewer than 90 HGVs turned up for a dress rehearsal to test government's plans to use the Manston airport site as an emergency lorry park

March 2019: Another defeat on Brexit deal for Theresa May

Theresa May brings back her deal to parliament in an attempt to get it passed before the deadline for leaving is reached but suffers yet another defeat.

In Kent, Operation Brock is put in place with a contraflow along the M20.

Operations Brock was put in place on the M20 between junctions 8 and 9
Operations Brock was put in place on the M20 between junctions 8 and 9

April 2019: The EU grants another extension to government

The UK's deadline for leaving the UK is pushed back to 31 October - with or without a deal.

The UK has been part of the EU for 47 years
The UK has been part of the EU for 47 years

June 2019: Theresa May succumbs

After her failures to get an agreement deal backed by parliament, Theresa May bows to the inevitable and amid intense pressure from her own party, agrees to stand aside as Prime Minister to a mixed reaction.

Theresa May led the Conservative Party for three years
Theresa May led the Conservative Party for three years

July 2019: Bojo wins big in party leadership battle

Boris Johnson wins the Conservative leadership battle, defeating his rival Jeremy Hunt and moves into Downing Street.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

September 2019: The Farage Brexit Party tour hits Maidstone

Nigel Farage holds a rally in Maidstone for his Brexit Party.

The former Maidstone and Weald MP Ann Widdecombe joined him after her decision to leave the Conservative Party.

Crowds at the Brexit Party rally in Maidstone
Crowds at the Brexit Party rally in Maidstone

October 2019: Finally: Brexit deal gets the backing of MPs

A deal is agreed in principle but MPs stall its progress, saying more time is needed to consider it.

Boris Johnson is forced to request another Brexit extension until 31 January.

MPs in parliament (28072632)
MPs in parliament (28072632)

November 2019: A general election is called

The prime minister insists the only way to "get Brexit done" and break the deadlock is to hold a general election.

Kent MP and the former business minister Greg Clark has the Conservative whip restored.

MP Greg Clark
MP Greg Clark

December 2019: Boris triumphs in poll

The Conservatives win the election with a comfortable majority and in Kent sweep up all the seats with the exception of Canterbury, which Labour holds.

Labour's Rosie Duffield celebrates winning her seat
Labour's Rosie Duffield celebrates winning her seat

January 2020: Signed, sealed and eventually delivered

After his decisive election victory, Boris Johnson's Brexit withdrawal agreement cleared all its parliamentary hurdles in both the Commons and the Lords, becoming law.

The European parliament ratified the deal on January 29.

Listen to KentOnline's special news podcast on how Brexit happened.

Head to our politics page for expert analysis and all the latest news from your politicians and councils


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