Factbox - Parlez-vous Brexit? A 'Brexicon' of the UK-EU break-up

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - As Britain’s Brexit negotiations with the European Union move into a new phase, the process has generated a new language all of its own, some of it colourful, much of it mystifying to the uninitiated.

So here’s a non-exhaustive Reuters lexicon of Brexit. Or as some might have it, a Brexicon:

--- BREXIT 1.01 ---

BREXIT - A portmanteau of “British” and “exit” from the EU. Inspired by “Grexit”, coined in 2012 as debt-laden Greece seemed about to crash out of the euro zone, the term Brexit took off after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged a referendum in 2013.

HARD BREXIT - Cutting as many ties as possible with the EU. Implied exit from close links to the EU single market and customs union. Much stronger immigration controls for all non-UK citizens. Favoured description used by opponents of Brexit to imply a severe divorce with catastrophic consequences.

WTO TERMS - Term preferred by Brexit supporters, this fallback position if there is NO DEAL with Brussels would let Britain export to the EU under rules set by the World Trade Organization, which limit the level of tariffs on goods.

SOFT BREXIT - A Brexit that preserves as many of the attributes of membership as possible, including some sort of preferential access to the single market and customs union. Often favoured by supporters of Brexit to describe the views of their opponents, whom they cast as foolish. Other variants include MODEST BREXIT or THE CLOSEST POSSIBLE TIES.

BREMOANER - Derogatory term for Brexit critics, REMAINERS, who moan about the result. Self-styled BREXITEERS -- it echoes buccaneering “privateers” who helped found Britain’s maritime empire -- cast them as whinging, unpatriotic, urban liberals.

See also:

REGREXIT - Second thoughts attributed to some Brexit voters by Remainers. There is little evidence of major shift in public opinion that might justify calls for a SECOND REFERENDUM.

BREXTREMIST - A supporter of Brexit who wants to leave the EU and all of its works regardless of the consequences.

See also:

THE SELL-OUT TRAITOR MOB and THE SWIVEL-EYED FEW - Colourful insults used by a Remainer minister of Brexiteers who called colleagues TRAITORS for agreeing to pay Brussels a FINANCIAL SETTLEMENT.


ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE - Another token of mutual loathing, a Daily Mail headline describing UK judges who ruled that British Prime Minister Theresa May must get parliamentary approval to trigger the formal Brexit process.

WITHDRAWAL TREATY - What Britain and the EU are negotiating under ARTICLE 50 of the EU’s Lisbon treaty, to settle legal loose ends and avoid a CLIFF-EDGE messy exit on March 29, 2019. May has insisted, however: NO DEAL IS BETTER THAN A BAD DEAL.

CITIZENS’ RIGHTS - An interim deal last month gave lifetime residency rights to some 4.5 million expatriates on either side. SUFFICIENT PROGRESS on that, as well as the FINANCIAL SETTLEMENT and IRISH BORDER, opened the way to SECOND PHASE, TRADE TALKS.

CUT-OFF DATE - Britain agreed to let EU citizens living there on Brexit Day to stay for life. May is now pushing back against an EU move to extend that SPECIFIED DATE to the end of 2020.

GOVERNANCE ISSUES - Another bone of contention is an EU demand that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) be ultimate guarantor of the withdrawal treaty and citizens’ future rights.

TRANSITION PERIOD - Twenty-one months after Brexit, open to extension, intended to cushion shocks all round. Talks start soon and could end in March in agreement to prolong Britain’s EU benefits after it loses its vote. Confusingly, May and British officials call this an IMPLEMENTATION PERIOD. British officials have argued that an implementation period is different from a transition period but have struggled to explain how.


VASSAL STATE - The idea that Britain will be a vassal of the EU during the transition period because it will have to abide by all of Brussels’ rules while losing any say on them. Wielded by May’s Brexiteer critics, EU negotiator Michel Barnier gives it a Gallic shrug: Britain “must ACCEPT THE RULES OF THE GAME”.

See also: BRINO, or BINO - Brexit In Name Only

FUTURE RELATIONSHIP - Talks from April on how cross-Channel relations will look from 2021 will aim to produce a POLITICAL DECLARATION on future trade and cooperation by late this year. This would translate into a FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (FTA) by 2021.


NORWAY MINUS - Norway’s ties to the EU look a lot like the UK in the transition, membership in all but name, without a vote. May rejects membership of the EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AREA (EEA) as it means staying in the single market, with all its rules.

SWISS MODEL - Switzerland is not in the EEA but is in the single market for goods. Brussels is fed up with complexity and wrangles with the Swiss and won’t offer such a deal to London.

REVERSE GREENLAND - A short-lived idea for Scotland to stay in the EU by breaking with England and keeping the United Kingdom’s seat in Brussels; inspired by how Greenland quit the bloc in 1985 while the rest of the Danish kingdom stayed in.

CANADA PLUS - The EU’s baseline assumption for the future relationship. An FTA even more extensive than the EU has with Canada, its closest trading partner to date. Noting Britain’s much bigger trade and clout with the EU, Brexit Secretary David Davis reckons he can negotiate CANADA PLUS PLUS PLUS.

BESPOKE ARRANGEMENT - May’s goal, to reflect mutual interest in maintaining close ties. It all depends what you mean by “bespoke”. Like a Savile Row suit, EU leaders say, any FTA will be tailored to British trade patterns. But it will still be a model that looks from afar much like the one that fits Canada.

See also: May’s plan for a RED, WHITE AND BLUE BREXIT


FOUR FREEDOMS - The single market demands free movement for goods, services, capital and labour. The Brexit campaign against immigration, as well as against the SOVEREIGNTY of EU law and judges, means May will not accept single market rules. And the EU insist the four freedoms are INDIVISIBLE. See CHERRY-PICKING.

CHERRY-PICKING - The favourite bugbear of EU leaders who say special deals for Britain could unpick their single market and inspire others to quit the bloc. They refused to let London put controls on EU immigration and dislike suggestions some British industries might be allowed to stay in the single market.

“No cherry-picking” is heard most often from Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel used it days after the Brexit vote. In the German, ROSINENPICKEREI or raisin-picking, more clearly refers to the denuding of cakes -- and so to Brexiteer Boris Johnson’s demand that Britain should HAVE ITS CAKE AND EAT IT.

REGULATORY ALIGNMENT - Britain argues that it already has all the EU’s rules and so should have market access. The EU worries about FUTURE DIVERGENCE but accepts a promise this won’t happen in Northern Ireland to ensure there is no HARD BORDER with EU member the Irish Republic, which could disrupt peace.

EQUIVALENCE - Banks losing PASSPORTING RIGHTS across the EU say EU recognition that UK rules are EQUIVALENT may help their access. Some in the EU are sympathetic and there is talk of PAY TO PLAY -- giving banks access if London pays to the EU budget. That is still cherry-picking to many and May rejected the idea.


ARTICLE 49 - Britons are divorcing their neighbours under ARTICLE 50. But as some EU leaders have reminded them, they will always have ARTICLE 49 -- it sets out how to join the EU again.

THE 27 - The EU’s 27 other members. Talks with Britain are led by Frenchman Michel Barnier and TASK FORCE 50, or TF-50 (as in ARTICLE 50), of the European Commission. They coordinate with 27 national envoys in COREPER-50 who prepare the GAC-50, or GENERAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL of ministers, whose work is reviewed by 27 SHERPAS for summit meetings of the EUROPEAN COUNCIL AT 27.

See also:

DExEU - The Department for Exiting the European Union, whose minister David Davis is Barnier’s opposite number. In Brussels, it works via Britain’s EU embassy, or Permanent Representation, which goes by the similarly unmelodious acronym UKREP.


“BREXIT MEANS BREXIT” - May’s famous early line after taking over from Cameron after the referendum. Many in Brussels grumble that she has yet to spell out what she wants in the long run.

“STRONG AND STABLE” - The slogan used so mechanically by May during a snap June election that critics nicknamed her MAYBOT. She lost her majority. Phrase now used exclusively with irony.

“NOTHING IS AGREED TILL EVERYTHING IS AGREED” - A warning to anyone reading too much into interim deals. They will only be legally binding in a final text ratified by both parliaments.

“TAKE BACK CONTROL” - A pro-Brexit slogan, more heard now in Brussels with heavy irony when London agrees to follow EU rules.

“SALT AND VINEGAR” - A touchstone moment highlighting how Britons and continentals so often mystify one another. Donald Tusk, the chair of EU leaders, responded to Boris Johnson on cake by saying there would be NO CAKE for anyone ONLY SALT AND VINEGAR. To a Polish Catholic, the reference to Jesus’s torment on the cross was obvious. But to Britons it conjured up a much more positive image: the tasty dressing on their fish and chips.

Additional reporting by Reuters London and Brussels bureaux; editing by Mark John