by Mariana Alvim, PhD candidate at University of Lisbon
The 29 March 2017 will be always recalled as the date the United Kingdom has served divorce papers on the European Union, following a referendum that took place on the 23 June 2016 where the majority of the British people decided to leave the EU.
The EU institutions and the Member States have limited instruments at their disposal to persuade other Member State to remain a member of the Union against their will; therefore if exit cannot be prevented at least it can be regulated.
The decision to depart is always taken in accordance with the Member State’s domestic law but once Article 50 TEU is triggered the law of the European Union governs the withdrawal process and the departure itself.
And despite its rapid rise to fame in the result of the British referendum, this sparsely worded Treaty provision still raises more questions that it answers.
It is important to underline that Article 50 TEU imposes substantive and procedural conditions on the withdrawing Member State. But once it has given notice under Article 50(1) TEU, all that the withdrawing Member State is apparently required to do, before the Treaties cease to apply, is to wait out the two-year period stipulated in Article 50(2) TEU.
Hence, the State is not required to justify its decision to leave, nor does Article 50(2) TEU impose a duty upon it to negotiate and conclude a withdrawal agreement with the Union, unless, of course, we take into consideration the fundamental principle of sincere cooperation.
But one thing is clear: Article 50 TEU remains soundless as to whether the withdrawing Member State may retract its notification to leave during the established time-frame. How can we interpret the silence of Article 50 TEU on this matter? Is it still possible to save the marriage?
(The author’s full text on this theme will be published in the next edition of UNIO – EU Law Journal)
Picture credits: Phrase wedding… by Max Pixel.