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Brexit and Article 50

Posted by Ilham Malik on July 27, 2016

Following the British public’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) on 23/06/16 the term “Article 50” has been referenced in most discussions regarding the withdrawal.

What is Article 50?

Article 50 refers to Article 50 of the Treaty on European

Union 1993 (TEU) which sets out the procedure for a Member state to withdraw from the EU. The Article provides that withdrawal from the EU will proceed as follows:

  1. The UK must formally notify the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU.
  1. Notification will trigger a two-year process where the UK and the European Council will proceed to negotiate the arrangement for its withdrawal (withdrawal agreement).
  1. Until the Article 50 process is finalised, the UK will remain an EU member with the same rights and obligations offered to all EU nationals and businesses.
  1. Article 50 has provided an opportunity to extend the negotiation of withdrawal agreement beyond two years by a unanimous decision of the UK and all remaining member states.
  1. If the period is not extended after two years and there is no withdrawal agreement between the parties, the UK will automatically cease to be a member of the EU.

While the UK is negotiating it’s withdrawal from the EU it will be excluded from the European Council’s discussions about the withdrawal. However, EU law will continue to apply to the citizens of the UK in addition to the following:

  • Voting rights
  • Institutional privileges
  • Influence over EU legislation

Can the decision to withdraw be reversed?

The House of Lords EU Committee addressed this question in its report published on 04/05/16. The expert witnesses concurred that a member state could legally reverse a decision to withdraw at any point before the date on which the withdrawal agreement would take effect. However, once the withdrawal agreement has taken effect it cannot be reversed and the member state will have to apply to re-join under Article 49 of TEU.

The UK Foreign Office released a statement on 09/07/16 to confirm that there will be no second referendum on the issue of withdrawing from the EU.  The statement concludes “we must now prepare for the process to exit the EU and the government is committed to ensuring the best possible outcome for the British people in the negotiations.

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