Understanding Brexit: what does it all mean?

Brexit puzzle
These are new times for all of us. 

The terms that are now finding everyday usage can actually be quite bewildering. 

We’ve tried to decode some of the most commonly used terms for Unite members.

Brexit – a shorthand way of describing Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU).

Hard Brexit – leaving the EU at any cost, even without access to the single market and the customs union.

Soft Brexit – leaving the EU but retaining access to the single market, which would be the closest arrangement to the current one.

Freedom of movement – free movement of workers is a fundamental principle of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) enshrined in Article 45.

Free trade zone – a trade arrangement where there are no tariffs or taxes or quotas on goods and/or services from one country entering another, such as the EU has with some non-member countries.

Single market – a trade arrangement between a group of countries, such as the European single market, which has no restrictions or tariffs on trade and where there is also free movement of goods, services, capital and people.

Customs union – another type of trade bloc that involves a common tariff for the member countries.

Article 50 – the part of the TEU, often referred to as the Lisbon Treaty, which the European Commission says the UK must invoke in order to start negotiations on the terms of its leaving the EU.

Great Repeal bill – legislation to be enacted by the government that ends the primacy of EU law in the UK by incorporating EU laws into UK ones, which the government will then decide to keep, change or retain.

Bilateral trade agreements – agreements with other trading blocs, such as North America, which Britain will have to negotiate.

Tariffs – a levy imposed on trade between the EU and the UK by the World Trade Organisation, should no new trading relationship with the EU be agreed. 

UK credit rating – the score given by the major credit rating agencies to the foreign currency credit ratings of different countries, the top being AAA, which affects the cost of government borrowing.

Devaluation of sterling – when the value of the pound falls against other currencies, making it cheaper for those countries to buy UK goods in the short term.

Norwegian model – used to describe an arrangement Britain could have with the EU after Brexit because Norway is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and has access to the single market in return for accepting open borders with the EU and abiding by EU regulations and agreements.

Turkish model – another potential option for the UK, Turkey has a customs union with the EU covering industry and manufacturing, which allows Turkish manufacturers partial access to the European single market but has to accept certain rules such as the EU’s external tariffs.