In the aftermath of the referendum result this week, there has been extensive speculation as to when, if at all, the UK will give “Article 50 notice”.  

Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union sets out the process for a member state to formally give notice of its intention to leave the EU. This exit mechanism was introduced relatively recently and is, as yet, untested. 

Once Article 50 notice is given, a two year time limit starts to run.  There are three possible outcomes:

  • The UK negotiates an exit agreement with the EU.  The agreement must be approved by a simple majority of those voting in the European Parliament and by a “qualified majority” of the Council of the EU - this means that Council members representing (i) 55% of members states and (ii) member states representing 65% of the total EU population must vote in favour.
  • An extension to the two year time limit is agreed unanimously (save for the UK) by the Council. 
  • If no exit agreement or extension are agreed within the two year time limit, then the UK’s membership of the EU will automatically end.

Assuming that notice is given, negotiations with the EU would take place against a changing backdrop.  There would be a considerable amount for government, the civil service and diplomats to do in a comparatively short period of time.  The UK would be negotiating with both the EU and non-EU countries at the same time, whilst formulating domestic legislation and policy to accommodate the numerous potential negotiation outcomes.  There is likely to be domestic political wrangling and the wishes of devolved administrations would need to be navigated.  Further, although significant, Brexit would be one of a number of challenges on the EU and non-EU countries’ respective agendas. 

In the short term, the UK cannot be compelled (by the EU) to give notice despite the referendum result and until Article 50 notice is given, the UK’s membership of the EU will not change. 

If you have any questions regarding anything in this article, please do get in touch with your usual BWB contact. 

Posted on 01/07/2016 in Brexit Briefcase

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