Leaving the EU

Can Britain Actually Leave the European Union?

Contrary to what the ill-informed Tory and UKIP parties claim, leaving the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty constitution is as simple as giving notice to that body.
The Tories and UKIP have quite falsely claimed that it is virtually impossible to leave the new EU superstate.

For example, Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, writing in his column in The Telegraph of 2 December, said that, “Until yesterday, Britain could simply walk out of the EU by abrogating the Treaty of Rome and repealing the 1972 European Communities Act.
“Henceforth, it will have to go through the secession procedure laid down in Lisbon. In other words – in the minds of Euro-lawyers, at any rate, if not of British constitutionalists – the EU gets to settle the terms on which its members are allowed to leave. Formal sovereignty has been shifted from the national capitals to Brussels,” wrote Mr Hannan.

The truth is completely different to Mr Hannan’s version of events. In reality, before the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December, there was no provision in the treaties or law of the European Union which detailed a state’s ability to voluntarily withdraw from the EU.
It is therefore ironic that the Lisbon Treaty does indeed have an exit clause, article 50, which states that:

“1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”
The arrangements by which such withdrawal can be made are the key issues that both Tories and UKIP have got hopelessly wrong — most probably because they, like the Labour Party’s leaders, have never even bothered to read the Lisbon Treaty in full.

Article 50, paragraph 2 states:
“2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention.
In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.”

In other words, Mr Hannan got this part right: the Lisbon Treaty does call for a negotiated exit between all EU members. However, it seems that Mr Hannan, the Tories and UKIP simply never read any further.

Article 50, paragraph 3 goes on to state:
That if within two years of a nation giving notice of its intention to withdraw from the EU, a negotiated agreement is not reached, then the Lisbon Treaty simply stops applying to that nation.

Article 50, paragraph 3 states:
“3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”

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