Article 50

MoneyBestPal Team
A clause in the European Union's Lisbon Treaty that outlines how a member state can voluntarily withdraw from the block.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union describes how a member state may voluntarily leave the union. Before the United Kingdom's decision to exit the EU in 2016, despite its introduction in 2007 and implementation in 2009, it had never been utilized.

Every member state may opt to leave the union in accordance with its own constitutional criteria, according to the article, but it must inform the European Council of its decision. The article also outlines the process for negotiating and signing an agreement with the EU that outlines the terms of the exit and the two parties' future relations.

The provision sets a two-year time limit for the negotiations unless all sides agree to an extension. The article also states that the withdrawing state is not allowed to take part in discussions or decisions made by the European Council or the Council on its withdrawal.

The UK's triggering of Article 50 set off a difficult and unprecedented process of removing the UK from the EU's political, legal, and economic frameworks. On March 29, 2017, the UK formally informed the EU of its intention to depart, beginning the two-year countdown to Brexit. However, due to the fact that both parties had to deal with topics including citizens' rights, financial settlement, border arrangements, trade and security cooperation, and future governance, the negotiations proved to be challenging and acrimonious. A draft separation deal between the UK and the EU was negotiated in November 2018, however, it was rebuffed three times by the UK Parliament due to significant opposition.

Brexit was then postponed until October 31, 2019, after the UK requested and received two extensions to the Article 50 deadline. A general election was scheduled in December 2019 to end the impasse, and Boris Johnson's Conservative Party, which ran on a platform of "getting Brexit done," won with a commanding victory. Johnson succeeded in having the exit deal passed by Parliament in January 2020 by renegotiating several of its terms, including those pertaining to the Irish border. On January 31, 2020, the UK entered a transition phase that would last until December 31, 2020, during which it would continue to be bound by EU regulations and obligations while negotiating a new partnership agreement with the bloc.

Notwithstanding the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, the transition time was not prolonged, and on December 24, 2020—just days before the transition period was set to end—the UK and the EU struck a trade and cooperation deal. A provisional implementation of the agreement began on January 1, 2021, pending ratification by both parties.

The impact of Article 50 and Brexit on the UK, the EU, and their relations is still unfolding and will likely have significant and long-lasting consequences. Some of the main effects include:
  • The end of free movement of people, goods, services, and capital between the UK and the EU, with new rules and barriers for trade, travel, work, and study.
  • The loss of the UK's membership in various EU institutions, agencies, and programs, such as the European Parliament, the European Court of Justice, Europol, Erasmus+, and Horizon Europe.
  • The need for new arrangements for cooperation in areas such as security, foreign policy, data protection, fisheries, aviation, and energy.
  • The increased divergence between UK and EU laws and standards on issues such as environmental protection, consumer rights, labor rights, and state aid.
  • The possibility of further constitutional changes within the UK, as Brexit has heightened tensions between England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland over their respective roles and powers within the union.
  • The uncertainty over the future of Northern Ireland's status and stability, as Brexit has created new challenges for maintaining peace and avoiding a hard border with Ireland.
  • The potential for further changes in the EU's integration process and governance structure, as Brexit has exposed some of the weaknesses and divisions within the bloc.