16 pictures that tell the story of five years of utter Brexit chaos

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
It's been a rollercoaster...

Brexit is happening.

Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement will clear its final hurdle on Wednesday when it is ratified by the European Parliament.

It will mean Britain is leaving the EU at 11pm on Friday, marking the (official) end of one of the most divisive periods in recent British history.

But how did we get here? Yahoo News UK takes you through the key moments of the past few years:

15 April, 2015

David Cameron speaking at University Technical College in Swindon at the launch of the Conservative Party manifesto in 2015. (PA)

The day all the fun starts.

David Cameron, terrified at Nigel Farage’s Ukip posing a genuine electoral threat, launches the Conservative manifesto for the 2015 general election – and it contains a pledge to hold a referendum on EU membership by 2017.

7 May, 2015

The Tories unexpectedly win a majority in the election and are free of Lib Dem shackles from the previous coalition government.

12 September, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn smiles after being announced the new leader of the Labour Party in 2015. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

A little-known backbench socialist named Jeremy Corbyn is elected the new Labour leader.

In the following years, his deep-seated Euroscepticism – contrasted with Labour’s natural pro-Europe position – causes chaos in the party and is ultimately exploited by Boris Johnson in the 2019 election.

20 February, 2016

Cameron, a staunch Remainer, announces the referendum is to be held on 23 June, 2016, keeping his manifesto promise.

Ministers in his government are free to campaign for Leave.

21 February, 2016

Boris Johnson announces he will campaign for Leave in the 2016 referendum. (PA)

In a huge blow to Cameron, mayor of London Boris Johnson tells reporters outside his Islington townhouse that he’ll be campaigning against EU membership.

The Leave campaign has its figurehead.

23 June, 2016

Nigel Farage celebrates the referendum result in London. (PA)

In an unexpected result, Leave campaigners win the referendum by 52% of the vote to Remain’s 48%.

24 June, 2016

David Cameron, watched by wife Samantha, announces he will resign in the wake of the referendum result. (AP/Matt Dunham)

Cameron, humiliated by his failed referendum gamble, is left powerless and resigns outside 10 Downing Street.

30 June, 2016

Boris Johnson announces he will not run for the Tory leadership in 2016. (AP/Matt Dunham)

At a press conference, frontrunner Johnson dramatically rules himself out of the subsequent Tory leadership race.

He is widely seen to have been “knifed in the back” by his supposed campaign ally Michael Gove, who decides to enter the contest at the last minute.

It ultimately paves the way for…

11 July, 2016

Theresa May and husband Philip enter Downing Street. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

…Theresa May to take over as leader.

She doesn’t even need an election, after her one remaining rival Andrea Leadsom drops out of the race.

May, who campaigned for Remain, promises “Brexit means Brexit” and officially replaces Cameron as prime minister two days later.

29 March, 2017

May invokes Article 50, beginning the supposed two-year process to leave the EU on 29 March, 2019.

18 April, 2017

The PM stuns the country by calling a snap general election. It’s a plot to gain a bigger Tory majority in the Commons and get a deal over the line.

Brenda from Bristol isn’t happy.

8 June, 2017

Theresa May on election night. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Polling day. May has had a disastrous election campaign while Corbyn flourished.

The PM duly loses her majority.

She cobbles a government together by entering into a shaky-looking confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party.

The government hobbles along until the real trouble starts one year later...

8 July, 2018

David Davis poses for a picture following his resignation as Brexit secretary. (PA)

David Davis, May’s Brexit secretary, resigns in protest at her strategy following an infamous Chequers getaway of Cabinet members.

Foreign secretary Johnson quits soon after.

10 months of turmoil begins.

14 November, 2018

May’s Withdrawal Agreement is published. It is much-maligned, particularly by the hardline Brexiteer Tories on whom she is relying to get her deal through the Commons.

In another blow, Dominic Raab, who replaced Davis as Brexit secretary four months before, immediately quits.

15 January, 2019

Remain and Leave protesters on Parliament Square ahead of the first 'meaningful vote'. (Richard Gray/EMPICS)

Amid fervent scenes inside and outside of Parliament, the Withdrawal Agreement is put to a Commons vote for the first time.

May suffers unprecedented humiliation, losing by a massive 230 votes.

12 March, 2019

The bill is put to a second vote. She loses again, by 149 votes.

22 March, 2019

Brexit isn’t happening on 29 March. An Article 50 extension to 22 May is agreed.

29 March, 2019

On the day Brexit was supposed to happen, the bill is put to a third vote. May loses again, by 58 votes.

10 April, 2019

Article 50 is extended to 31 October.

24 May, 2019

Theresa May announces her resignation. (Dinendra Haria/Sopa Images/Sipa USA)

The moment that felt inevitable for two years. A tearful May announces her resignation outside Number 10.

24 July, 2019

Boris Johnson after he was announced as the new Conservative Party leader, having beaten Jeremy Hunt. (PA)

Johnson wins the subsequent Tory leadership contest, easily defeating Jeremy Hunt in the final ballot to become prime minister.

28 August, 2019

Protesters outside Downing Street three days after Boris Johnson's move to prorogue Parliament. (Steve Taylor/Sopa Images/Sipa USA)

Johnson – whose aggressive approach to Brexit negotiations alienates scores of Tory MPs who either resign or are sacked for not towing the government line – sparks further uproar as he announces he will prorogue Parliament until 14 October.

The PM claims it is necessary to plot the government’s domestic agenda.

But with the scheduled return day just two weeks before the 31 October deadline, it is seen as a way of silencing Parliament and forcing a no-deal exit.

His move sparks massive protests on the streets of London three days later.

24 September, 2019

Commons Speaker John Bercow in Westminster after announcing MPs will return to Parliament following the Supreme Court ruling that Boris Johnson's prorogation was unlawful. (PA)

Supreme Court judges sensationally rule that Johnson’s prorogation was unlawful. MPs return to Parliament.

17 October, 2019

Brexit secretary Steve Barclay, Boris Johnson, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier after a Brexit deal was agreed. (AP/Francisco Seco)

Johnson agrees a revised Withdrawal Agreement deal with the EU.

19 October, 2019

The PM fails to make progress in a special Saturday sitting of Parliament.

As Parliament hasn’t given its consent to the deal by this day, the “Benn Act” is activated and Johnson is forced to ask for another Brexit extension until January 31, 2020.

Johnson, who had previously said he would rather “die in a ditch” than request an extension, pointedly refuses to sign his name in the letter to European Council president Donald Tusk.

31 October, 2019

After yet more parliamentary deadlock, Johnson is finally granted his wish for a general election. The campaign starts the following week.

12 December, 2019

Boris Johnson at the election count in Uxbridge. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Johnson enjoys spectacular success in the poll, destroying Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour with a majority of 80 Tory MPs.

Brexit, to repeat the PM’s famous campaign motto, is officially “getting done”.

20 December, 2019

The first sign of Johnson’s new-found parliamentary muscle after years of Brexit deadlock.

With an army of Tory MPs behind him, the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill sails through the Commons at its second reading with a majority of 124.

23 January, 2020

After easing through its nine remaining parliamentary processes, the bill receives royal assent and becomes law.

29 January, 2020

The Withdrawal Agreement is due to be ratified by the European Parliament, meaning Brexit is officially happening at 11pm on Friday 31 January.