Brexit: So What Happens Next?

1 July 2016
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Key takeaways

  • Following last week’s historic referendum, questions have been asked about how the UK will begin the process of withdrawing from the EU.
  • The withdrawal mechanism is set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The first step is for the UK formally to notify the EU of its intention to leave. There is much debate as to when that will happen, but following the resignation of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, it is unlikely to be before the autumn at the very earliest, once a new Prime Minister has been elected, which is expected to happen in September.
  • Article 50 notification marks the beginning of a two- year period, when the UK and EU negotiate the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, as well as the terms of any future relationship. This two-year period can only be extended with the unanimous consent of the remaining 27 Member States. If agreement is not reached within this two-year period, and no extension is agreed upon, the UK will automatically cease to be a member of the EU.
  • Until this two-year period is over, or until a withdrawal agreement is agreed upon, the UK continues to be part of the EU, and must comply with all EU law.
  • There is a debate as to whether an Act of Parliament is required before the Government provides the Article 50 notification. Whether Parliament is ultimately consulted is likely to be a political, rather than a legal, question.