What does Brexit mean?

Article 50 of the EU treaties, the one that sets out the terms for leaving the EU should perhaps have been read and understood by those arguing for Brexit, because a lot of rubbish is being spoken by people who ought to know better.

The full text is here

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 If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.

I draw people’s attention in particular to part 4. It is abundantly clear that the UK will have no part in deciding the terms of our withdrawal. The 27 will meet and decide what the terms are and what it will cost and the UK will be told what those terms are and how much we will have to pay for the privilege of access to the single market and any other areas of the EU and the UK will have absolutely no say in determining those terms.

So when we hear Dr Liam Fox saying that we can have the negotiations in advance of activating Article 50, he is talking utter nonsense. There is nothing to discuss until article 50 is activated and then the UK will be excluded from the process.

This was said during the referendum and dismissed as scaremongering. People were told exactly how the Norwegian arrangement operated and chose not to believe it. They wanted to believe the UK could have its cake and eat it.

Although the treaties will cease to apply after 2 years, the process of unravelling 43 years of law making is a monumental task that will take much longer to do than 2 years, but that will be the UK’s problem not the EU’s.

I fully support the Lib Dems campaigning to rejoin, but we must be clear that if we ever do so apply, we will do so as a newcomer to the EU and will have to accept the Euro, the Schengen agreement and all the other things the UK opted out of during our 43 years’ membership. There will be no rebate. There is also a serious question as to whether our electoral system would meet the democratic requirements of the EU.

* Dr Michael Taylor has been a party member since 1964. He is currently active in the Calderdale Party.

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24 Comments

  • Christopher 3rd Jul '16 - 11:15am

    Yes but we buy more from them than they buy from us, money talks.

  • David Evershed 3rd Jul '16 - 11:49am

    Under Article 50 above, during the two year transition period the UK would only be excluded from participating in the negotiating position of the remaining members.

    The other EU members would also be excluded from deciding the negotiating position of the UK.

    There would be a negotiation between the two sides.

    The EU negotiating position would be decided by majority voting which weakens single country vested interests having too much weight.

  • Andrew McCaig 3rd Jul '16 - 11:51am

    Christopher,
    In goods yes, in services no..

    Goodbye City of London (or large parts of it) without freedom of movement for sure.. Some people might be very happy with that (even me), but in the medium term we would lose a huge amount of tax revenue…

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Jul '16 - 1:02pm

    Christopher
    Don’t be naive. We sell 45% of our exports to the EU, they sell 7% of their to us. The power is with them, not us. Do you really think that’s the basis of a good deal?
    David Evershead
    No. We can demand what we want but the offer from the EU will be a take it or leave it one. We have nothing the EU wants and there is a huge amount we need from them. To think otherwise is to ignore what EU leaders have been saying since the referendum. Junker made it clear. “This is no amicable divorce”
    Michael Meadowcroft
    Agree totally, but our MPs should have insisted in a proper threshold in the referendum act.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Jul '16 - 1:56pm

    See Peston on Sunday 3/7/2016 in the light of the Andrew Marr Programme.
    The Home Secretary was interviewed and does have a detailed understanding of immigration issues, despite the impractical promises made in the Tory manifestoes of 2010 and 2015.
    Robert Peston did not ask her, yet, about the difficulties the other 27 will have. The UK has tended to look at EU citizens in the UK from UK point/s of view. Poland and Spain may have different interests based on the importance of remittances to their economies and the costs of UK citizens to their health services.
    Different industries may react differently. Negotiations may be about cars and fish and many other things.
    MPs of any and all parties make a very sophisticated electorate.
    If the Tory MPs have any sense they will vote for competence.
    In the Tory leadership election in 1990 they went up in the polls, which tempted them to call an early election. Parties should start to adopt candidates.

  • paul barker 3rd Jul '16 - 2:10pm

    Thanks for this, there seems to be a contradiction between this article & the assumptions Tom Brake is making in his, is that right ?
    Thinking about it, is it even possible to complete these complex negotiations in a Two Year period ? This could be a recipe for chaos.

  • While I am with Michael Meadowcroft on the substance of what should be our position, it is not clear to me that he is correct in asserting that our parliamentary party is tamely accepting the result of the referendum. As Michael recognises elsewhere in his remarks, Tim has taken the decision that we will campaign for UK in Europe at the next general election, which certainly does not to my mind sound like a tame acceptance by Tim and his parliamentary colleagues of the referendum result.

    If a specific proposal is put to Parliament to invoke Article 50, it would to my mind be unimaginable that our parliamentary party in either of the two Houses would go as far as to vote for it, and since to abstain on it would bring down on us criticism from every possible quarter for us not knowing our own mind on so important an issue, it would seem to me self-evident that Tim and his colleagues in both Houses are going to vote against it – in which case, what is Michael worried about ?

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Jul '16 - 3:22pm

    Hugh P.Yes, there is a contradiction and I think Tom is wrong in his assumption that we will be in any sort of negotiating position with the 27.
    I repeat. The other EU leaders, including our own Liberal friends, are now saying that this is the opportunity for them to get on with the EU project because they will no longer be held back by the UK’s constant demand for opt outs and concessions. In addition, the implications for treating the UK kindly are almost certainly more countries at least engineering a vote on leaving. The EU have to make an example of the UK ‘pour decourager les autres’. In other words expect no concessions whatsoever.
    When/if the UK government invokes article 50 they will discover that they face a no choice decision about what is offered to them. In essence we will pay a lot of money (probably more than our current next contribution) for access to the single market [and in Norway’s case it doesn’t include food], we will have to accept free movement and possibly Schengen. We will have no say in the rules we will have to adopt as the price for single market access. In short, we will actually become what the leavers said we were, wholly dependent on the bureaucrats of Brussels for laws and rules about the EU, over which we will have no control.
    I agree with Tom that the House of Commons will have to vote on the deal and that actually many MPs will feel unable to support it. Whether we want another referendum I am not at all sure.
    Let’s suppose that we don’t like the deal? We could then ask to be readmitted, but we can’t, I think, withdraw our article 20 notice, so we’d be in the position of a new applicant and would have to comply with all the chapters on admission, which include Schengen, the Euro, no rebate and no opt outs. Our democratic system would probably not meet the requirements of the EU either.
    All in all it’s a mess. I don’t believe there’s an easy way out.

  • We have given away all our bargaining powers by deciding the outcome in advance. We need a trade agreement in Europe. We have one. We are in a EU in which the things which have been complained about, like the enlargement, could have been stopped by the UK government. They didn’t of course bother to ask the British people.

    Thank you to Michael for some real facts. Very refreshing!

  • Oh, and if we have another referendum please let us have something that makes sense. When we leave Europe I am going to vote for going to the South Seas. There seems to be room there. And the weather is better. And we can team up with Australia and New Zealand. Will we have a referendum on where we are going?

  • Yee-Liu Williams 3rd Jul '16 - 4:52pm

    Can somebody help with a question? I am a relatively new member – so forgive my ignorance on political matters. After yesterday’s London march I wrote to my MP – now James Berry for Kingston and Surbiton – to express my concern and dismay with a number of the points raised in this thread. I was disturbed by the conciliatory tone taken by his statement on his website and what Hughp describes as “tame acceptance”.

    If I read between the lines, his viewpoint is that we must “respectfully” accept this as the “will of the people” as this underlies the British democratic process. As K&S were 61% firm Remain, my question to him was “When the time comes to vote in Parliament to invoke Article 50 will you vote against the “will” of your constituents in the name of democracy for a process that was deeply flawed from the beginning?” I asked him not to “tamely accept” but to ensure that Article 50 would be invoked for the right reasons and in his role to take action to stop this madness of the most catastrophic political decision of modern times.

    Jo Muskens from LSE makes some interesting points in his blog as to the responsibility of MPs in this matter. He argues that ‘the will of the people’ cannot plausibly be invoked to renounce the constitutional doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. Parliament is sovereign, and it must exercise its legislative power by considering the ambiguous referendum result as well as the long-term integrity of the UK. But as we have seen there have been no checks or balances of constitutional process and reality.

    As the referendum question was framed about leaving Europe but invoking Article 50 results in the break up of UK is this not grounds to argue that Article 50 cannot be invoked as break up of UK would need to take precedence? (I may have misunderstood this.)

    After reading the case of Wales (and most probably Cornwall and Sheffield) in the Guardian today “Endless lies persuaded Ebbw Vale to vote Leave” does this whole referendum fiasco amount to a case of fraud or at a minimum “perverting the course of justice”?

  • David Allen 4th Jul '16 - 12:15am

    As Michael Taylor rightly explains, the EU has drafted Article 50 in order to give itself all the cards. Brexiters boasting about how they will negotiate hard and get a much better deal than Cameron’s are indulging in vainglorious wishful thinking. The EU has ensured that it can dictate the terms on which a country can leave, and that the deal they get will be just as one-sided as the EU want it to be. If they want to totally screw us, they can.

    The EU’s intention was to make any sensible country think very hard before contemplating leaving. Fair enough – Leaving will cause the remaining 27 a lot of grief. The Brexiters ignored these facts, for a variety of terrible reasons.

    The only way for Britain to recover the situation will be to refuse to accept Article 50. Britain could demand it be withdrawn and an alternative procedure substituted, failing which we refuse to leave. Farage would of course cry foul, but government might well be able to say sincerely – Look Nigel, we honestly do really seek to leave, but it would be economic suicide to do it on the terms as they stand.

  • Mick Taylor 4th Jul '16 - 7:59am

    @David Allen
    Whoever becomes PM they will rapidly discover that the terms for leaving are indeed economic suicide. What will the PM do? There are several alternatives.
    1. Go to Parliament and say ” I cannot in all honesty recommend the terms of Brexit to the House, so the government will not proceed with it”
    2. Engineer a general election in which the PM says much the same thing as in option 1.
    3. Call a second referendum to give the electorate the final chance to proceed, knowing exactly what the terms of Brexit are.
    One can only hope that if option 3 is pursued there will be a threshold both in terms of the number of people voting and in turnout. Also that there are effective rules about telling the truth

  • Building on Michael Taylor’s piece about Article 50 and David Allen’s comment, we should not lose sight that this is a play of two parts, that some voices in the EU are warning us about:
    1. First the UK leaves the EU.
    2. Then the UK can negotiate new trade deals.

    To do the first, the UK has to invoke Article 50. However, as the UK continues to be a member of the EU until it falls off the end of the Article 50 conveyor, it is bound by EU law, as are the other EU members. EU law effectively prevents members from negotiating trade deals with each other or in their own right. So the UK is effectively prevented from negotiating entry to the EEA, EFTA or any other trade club, until it has completed part 1.

    On commencement of the second part the only trade arrangements available to the UK are WTO, although I suspect any bilateral trade agreements that predated our joining the EEC might still be honoured.

    Once the UK is outside of the EU, it can commence trade negotiations with EEA, EFTA etc. and the EU as a block and not individual EU members.

    Whilst some may say that WTO rules aren’t that bad, what they are missing is all the extras – hence why the EU maintains a large staff of trade negotiators (596 according to the BBC) and is busy negotiating deals such as TTIP.

    As an aside, what is going to be interesting is seeing how much Whitehall enlarges as it takes back responsibilities and functions that had been passed to the EU.

  • Every time I see someone make a variation on Christopher’s comment I think “I buy more from Sainsbury’s than they buy from me, therefore I have the whip hand in any negotation with them over prices”

  • “Goodbye City of London” Andrew McCaig 3rd Jul ’16 – 11:51am

    It is looking like we won’t actually need a Brexit to achieve that. The takeover of the London Stock Exchange by its German competitor Deutsche Boerse is still being pursued (it is being put to LSE shareholders today and DB shareholders on July 121th).

    However, it seems the UK’s attitude to the EU is resolving the problem of deciding the location of the HQ, key systems and thus the allocation of cuts between London and Frankfurt. Prior to the referendum, clear business logic was for London to be the HQ of the new combined business…

    Whilst the actual number of jobs directly impacted is small, we should not forget the finance sector accounts for 12% of GDP and employees 2.2m people. If the LSE relocates to be within the EU, there will be many companies who will follow; due to the nature of the business…

  • Mick Taylor 4th Jul '16 - 4:44pm

    I am told that workers at the Nissan plant in Sunderland expressed surprise that new lines will not be placed in Sunderland but in a factory within the EU. Nissan made it clear that in Brexit happened they would be likely to relocate within the EU and yet Sunderland, whose main employer is Nissan, chose to believe that this was just another bit of project fear and voted to leave.
    I’m sure Nissan are not alone. Votes DO have consequences.

  • Margaret Gray 5th Jul '16 - 12:12am

    I share most of Lee Yiu Williams’ questions – I can’t find anyone of these posts that attempts to answer them – have I missed this? Has anyone tried to answer?

  • Mark Goodrich 5th Jul '16 - 2:39am

    @Margaret and @Lee Yiu

    Fair point. Here is my amatuer attempt to answer the queries I see in Lee Yiu’s posts.

    1. Parliament is indeed sovereign and could decide not to trigger Article 50. There are some nice legal arguments about whether Parliament is required to trigger Article 50 or whether Government could do it under its prerogative. Personally, I feel that is a bit academic – the Government will likely want Parliamentary cover before it does anything potentially catastrophic (remember the Iraq war?).

    2. As you note, people have made exceedingly good arguments as to why Parliament should not trigger Article 50 (your reference to the break-up of the UK being one; a lack of settled will being another; the perils of putting ourselves into a negotiation where the other side hold all the cards being a third). However, my feeling is that Parliament would (just as in the Iraq war) do the Government’s bidding if asked – Tories would overwhelmingly stick together and some Labour would break ranks.

    3. I agree with you that this result was won with the benefit of lies and misrepresentations by the Leave campaign (most of whom did not expect to win). However, this is not a matter which gives rise to any realistic possibility of legal action. (The legal action which has been commenced is on the narrow legal issue in 1 above).

    I believe our best course is not to invoke Article 50 and for the Government to try to negotiate the best deal it can outside its confines and then put that to the people. One of the many problems with Article 50 is that there is no clear mechanism for withdrawal so setting it in motion is highly dangerous. An awful deal might come back from the Article 50 negotiations and the British parliament or people reject it but we might not be able to avert the exit…

  • Mick Taylor 5th Jul '16 - 3:04pm

    Mark Goodrich

    1. The only way to exit the EU is through Article 50. There is no other mechanism in the EU treaties that allows for it.
    2. The EU has said it won’t negotiate except after article 50 has been invoked.
    3. I am as confident as I can be that the UK will get a very poor deal, because the EU cannot afford to make it seem as though exit is easy or in any way encouraged.
    4. The government can huff and puff all it wants, but the EU will not offer us anything like as good a deal as we have now [see my earlier post above on the government’s options]

    @Lee Yiu

    Whilst you have slightly confused the issues, there is little doubt that a decision to go ahead with an article 20 notice could well lead to a break up of the UK as Scotland and possibly N. Ireland could seek independence in the EU on the one hand and reunification or a confederation within the EU on the other.

  • Mick Taylor 5th Jul '16 - 3:06pm

    @ Mark Goodrich

    You are almost certainly correct that once article 20 is invoked there is no going back without the unanimous agreement of the 27 states and almost certainly being treated as a new applicant with all that entails.

  • Mick Taylor 5th Jul '16 - 8:20pm

    Oops. It should be article 50 wherever I put 20!

  • Mick Taylor 7th Jul '16 - 5:38pm

    I have since been told that it IS possible to withdraw an article 50 notice, so one scenario would be that the UK applies to leave, get terms that are unacceptable to the government, let along the electorate and then decides not to proceed. It could do this by a parliamentary vote or by offering a referendum with firm advice to reject.

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