Why the delay in implementing Article 50 and when should it be triggered?

I receive a lot of letters asking about what happens next as a result of the EU referendum and the decision by the British people to leave the EU.

At some point we will need to formally tell the EU that we wish to leave. To do this we have to enact “article 50” of the Lisbon Treaty which begins that formal process.

I was asked in a letter why there was a delay in implementing Article 50 and when it might be triggered?

Before any negotiations, it is important that both sides prepare their negotiating positions, what they will ask for and any red lines.  Once the Prime Minister, David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and presumably the cabinet are satisfied that our negotiating position is clear, we will then trigger Article 50.

Article 50 is triggered by the government of the country wishing to leave the EU. It cannot be blocked by, for example, QMV (qualified majority voting). However, the final agreement between the UK and EU has to be agreed by QMV.  If no agreement is reached within two years, then the negotiations can be extended if the UK and all the 27 governments of the EU agree.

Here is the text of Article 50:

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.


For information about Brexit please read my Pocket Guide here.