Brexit and the possibility of “withdrawing the withdrawal”: a hypothetical question?

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 by Alessandra Silveira, Editor

In case C-621/18, Wightman and others, pending judgment by the ECJ, the request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Article 50 TEU. It has been made in proceedings where the opposing Scots parties are Andy Wightman and o., on the one hand, and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, on the other, raising the question whether it is possible to revoke the notification of the intention of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to withdraw from the European Union. The Court of Session, Inner House, First Division (Scotland), seeks, in essence, to ascertain whether, where a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union in accordance with Article 50 TEU, EU law permits that Member State to unilaterally revoke its notification before the end of the period of two years referred to in that Article. If so, the referring court is uncertain as to the conditions governing such a revocation and its effects relative to that Member State remaining within the European Union.

The referring court states that, under Section 13 of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the withdrawal agreement which might be concluded between the United Kingdom and the Union under Article 50(2) TEU, setting out the arrangements for that withdrawal, may be ratified only if that agreement and the framework for the future relationship of the United Kingdom and the European Union has been approved by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The referring court states that, where the withdrawal agreement is not approved by that Parliament, and if no other proposal is made, the departure of the United Kingdom from the Union will nonetheless take effect as from 29 March 2019. The referring court adds that it is uncertain whether it is possible to revoke the notification unilaterally and to remain within the European Union. That court also states that an answer from the ECJ will clarify the options open to the parliamentarians when they vote on those matters.
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“Out is out” (including in relation to the Mediterranean diet…). On the Article 50 of the European Union Treaty in the light of the federative principle of European loyalty

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by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

Since Abraham Lincoln faced the hardest constitutional crisis of the USA (War of Secession, 1861-1865) the modern legal theory of federative systems had taken for granted that the hypothesis of secession was repelled. And then the Canadian Supreme Court reframed the data. In the country, in 1995, a referendum was called on the unilateral declaration of secession of Québec. The proposal of separation was reject by a short difference – 50,58% of the votes in a turnout of 94%. Following the referendum the federal government appealed to the Supreme Court to know if a unilateral secession, addressed in a popular consultation not approved by the remaining States, would violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that a unilateral secession with those features would infringe the Constitution. However, if in a different referendum, when answering a “clear question”, the “clear majority” of the Québécoise casted an unequivocal will of not integrating Canada anymore, then the remaining States and the federal government would be bonded to negotiate with Québec the conditions for its withdrawal because unwritten constitutional principles determined it (Reference re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217). In the aftermath the federal government passed in the Canadian Parliament “clear” rules tending to regulate and calculate the “price” of withdrawal, especially to safeguard the legitimate interest of the remaining States and their population – as a result, Québec still integrates the federation. Punch line: in a federative system there are neither free lunches nor free exits.

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A realpolitik, inside view of the Social Security negotiations in the EU on “Brexit”

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by Elisabete Silveira, Director of Negotiation and Coordination of International Instruments Unit of Directorate-General of Social Security in Portugal

After long and difficult discussions, the Heads of State or Government, meeting within the European Council of 18-19 February 2016, adopted a Decision concerning a New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union.

It will become effective on the date the United Kingdom informs the Council about its decision to remain a member of the EU and will require secondary legislation which the Commission will only propose after a successful referendum. Should the result of the referendum in the UK be for it to leave the EU, the set of arrangements agreed by the European Council will cease to exist.

The Decision covers four sections: Economic Governance, Competitiveness, Sovereignty and Social Benefits and Free Movement.

Focusing only on the last section, it should be noted that, following the taking effect of the Decision, the Commission will submit proposals for amending two important Regulations: Regulation (EC) N.º 883/2004 on coordination of social security schemes and Regulation (EU) N.º 492/2011 on freedom of movement for workers within the EU.

The amendment of Regulation (EC) N.º 883/2004 is intended to give Member States, as regards the “exportation of child benefits to a Member State other than that where the worker resides, an option to index such benefits to the conditions of the Member State where the child resides. This should apply only to new claims made by EU workers in the host Member State. However, as from 1 January 2020, all Member States may extend indexation to existing claims to child benefits already exported by EU workers. The Commission does not intend to propose that the future system of optional indexation of child benefits be extended to other types of exportable benefits, such as old-age pensions.”

These arrangements raise many doubts and perplexities.

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