Britain's long goodbye to the European Union often seems to be spoken in unintelligible code. 

Most people call the agonising divorce "Brexit" – a child of the term Grexit that economists coined when it looked like Greece would leave the EU's monetary union in 2012. 

The Greeks stuck around but Britons are actually leaving the entire bloc thanks to a 2016 referendum that soon spawned its own lexicon. 

Here are some of the terms – both real and invented – being used to describe a split which has now past its March 29 deadline. 

Article 50 

The basics begin with the 2007 Lisbon Treaty that updated the bloc's governing rules. 

Its Article 50 offers a "withdrawal clause" — a two-year notice Prime Minister Theresa May sent to European Council president Donald Tusk in 2017. 

More than six million pro-European Britons have since signed a petition asking May to revoke Article 50 and keep things as they were. 

Others want Brexit reversed by putting any final deal up for a "confirmatory public vote" that has staying in the EU as the second option. 

May has dismissed both ideas as undemocratic.

Withdrawal agreement 

The two sides crowned nearly two years of mind-numbingly complex talks in December by releasing a 585-page divorce settlement agreement. 

Most UK politicians absolutely hated it. 

They have voted it down three times and are threatening to do so again if May tries her luck once again later this week.

Single market, customs union 

These dry essentials of how the EU works are at the heart of Monday's parliamentary debate on a Brexit Plan B.

The EU is part of a "single market" – a broad economic area that also includes non-EU members such as Norway and Iceland. 

It removes internal borders so that goods and money can move around freely and people can live and work where they please. 

The EU also forms a "customs union" – a body that applies a single set of quotas and tariffs on non-members such as China and the US. 

A growing number of pro-EU lawmakers want one or both of these latched onto May's deal for a "softer" Brexit.

Hard and soft Brexit 

Exhausted Britons have taken to comparing Brexit to their eggs for breakfast: there are the hard and soft varieties – but little inbetween.

A hard version is championed by EU haters – the so-called "Brexiteers" – who want a clean break from the bloc. This is the "no-deal" scenario many businesses dread. 

A soft Brexit would nudge Britain only partially out of Europe. 

Some want to copy the single market arrangement Norway reached with Brussels that keeps it in the single market. 

A "Norway plus" option being considered looks a lot like what Britain had before it voted to leave – minus representation in the institutions of the EU.


Brexiteers sniff that "Norway plus" and all the other permutations are plain old BRINO – or "Brexit in name only". 

It implies that Britain will leave the EU on paper but not in fact.


British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted last year that "many people are bored of Brexit" and want the whole thing to go away. 

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt

The acronym BOB struck a nerve in a tired nation that has been debating the same old points for three years. 


This is the nickname a scoffing reporter from The Guardian assigned May for using stock phrases to defend her deal. 

Critics said this made her look aloof and out of touch. 

The moniker's use increased when May broke out some stiff dance moves during a tour of Africa – and then again at a party congress last year. 


Possibly the most perplexing term of them all – and the one underpinning May's Brexit dilemma. 

A backstop is a temporary arrangement designed to preserve a free-flowing border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. 

It turns out that doing this is all but impossible without making Northern Ireland follow slightly different trade rules from the rest of the UK. 

May's crucial Northern Irish allies in parliament refuse to back any deal that even marginally sets them apart from Britain.