The EU celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome on March 25th, which signified the start of the European Blocs formation. Leaders from 27 of the 28 member states were present to renew their commitment to the EU with the exclusion of the UK which started proceedings on March 29th to leave the community with the triggering of Article 50. Article 50 is part of the Lisbon Treaty which was signed on the 13th December 2007 by the then 27 member states. The Lisbon Treaty was created for two reasons, as a replacement for the Constitution Treaty which in 2005, the French and Dutch voters rejected, and due to the enlargement of the size in EU membership in 2004, the community needed to reform the working of the European Union.
So now that Article 50 is invoked the difficult navigation of the process to formally leave the European Union for the United Kingdom starts. So, what happens now? Where does the United Kingdom go from here? The United Kingdom have two years to negotiate a separation deal before our membership ceases in 2019 and with this in mind the government published The Great Repeal Bill White Paper on 30th March outlining the governments approach to converting many of the existing EU laws into UK domestic law. These should be integrated into UK law by the end of 2017, so they will not be a point of negotiation with the EU. These laws include for instance worker’s rights and some environmental law. There will be separate bills for customs and immigration. The UK has to abide by the EU laws and treaties throughout this negotiation phase but cannot be part of any decision making within the EU.
The first major step for the EU is on the 29th April 2017 there will be an EU Summit where the leaders start to discuss the withdrawal. They should agree that a mandate is passed by the European Commission to negotiate with the UK. Shortly after this negotiating guidelines will be published by them. Negotiations can then start between the two sides. Speculation is rife the EU will want a divorce bill agreed by the UK prior to any negotiations. Current figures for this are varying from £3 to £50 billion pound’s sterling.
Other key areas of negotiation include but are not limited to, what happens to the rights of British people living in other EU member states and of the EU citizens currently in the UK, cross border security arrangements and intelligence sharing, whether we can enter a free trade deal with our own trade deals internationally rather than access the single market, fishing rights within EU waters and what happens to the unspent EU funds the UK has contributed? These negotiations could further be hindered by both the French presidential elections in May 2017 and the German parliamentary elections at the end of September 2017.
The UK aims to have the negotiations completed by October 2018 then The Houses of Parliament, European Parliament and European Council all need to vote in agreeance of any bill. Within the European Council at least 20 countries with 65% of the EU population need to approve this deal. If not then it is back to the negotiating table. There is a two-year deadline on this, so if no agreement has been made this period can be extended but only if all 27 countries agree. If not then at midnight on March 29th 2019 the UK will cease being a member of the EU and will formally withdraw.
So after all this is it possible for the UK to re-join the EU at a later date should it see fit? In reference to Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty states “Any European State which respects the values referred to in Article 2 and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union.” On this basis, it is not out of the question but all the current member states at the time must agree to it.
The Lisbon Treaty – http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-European-union-and-comments/title-6-final-provisions/137-article-50.html;
BBC News – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/uk_leaves_the_eu