What Does it Mean to Trigger Article 50?

March 29, 2017– Today, Theresa May sent a letter to Brussels to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which created the political structure of the European Union, and official began the Brexit process.

What Is Article 50?

Article 50 is a clause in the Lisbon Treaty that discusses when and how a member state can leave the European Union. The full and exact text is below:

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

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.

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.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.

Today, Theresa May (Prime Minister of Britain) carried out step 2 of the article by notifying Brussels of the UK’s intent to leave the Union. Step three is now underway, and the United Kingdom has two years to renegotiate all of the EU treaties on which it had conducted business before. Step three notes that the process can be extended, but due to the tensions between the United Kingdom and EU allies, the European Parliament has made it clear that no extension will be granted. The United Kingdom will not be able to participate or sit in on any discussions of the European Parliament. Some worry that being separate from the European Parliament will cause the UK to loose a political and economic edge in Europe, while others argue that the UK relationship is too important to Europe to lose.

Can The UK Rejoin?

As it states above, any State that wants to rejoin the Union will be judged based on Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty. Article 49 is a formal article that outlines the process of admission. In its simplest form it says that any State complying with the expectations of Article 2 will be considered by the Parliament for membership. Article 2 is as follows:

The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

It is possible for the United Kingdom to join the EU again. But politics are also a factor in the decision making process. It is unlikely that the European Parliament would allow the United Kingdom membership in the near future.

What About Scotland?

In the referendum to leave or remain in the EU nine months  ago, Scotland voted almost unanimously to remain. Prior to that vote, Scotland held a referendum of its own, to consider leaving the United kingdom. While that referendum failed, there have been recent talks about calling the vote a second time– post Brexit.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, gave a speech calling for a second referendum on Scottish independence. She claims she is able to do so because Brexit posed a significant change to Scotland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom.

Scotland and England have been at odds for decades, with Scotland consistently claiming that London does not pay attention to Scottish interests when making decisions for the country. The goal of threatening a second referendum may not be to actually leave the United Kingdom, but to put pressure on Theresa May when she renegotiates treaties and trade deals with Europe. Scotland seeks special access to the EU’s single market.


** Featured image taken from CNN.com**


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