The right to withdraw the notification to leave the European Union under Article 50 TEU: can we still save the marriage?

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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.

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Brexit is going to happen, but…

by João Alexandre Guimarães, Erasmus student at UMinho

The New York Times says the British government’s plan for leaving the European Union was thrown into uncertainty on Thursday after the High Court ruled that Parliament must give its approval before the process can begin. “The court’s decision seemed likely to slow — but not halt — the British withdrawal from the bloc, a step approved by nearly 52 percent of voters in a June referendum. Nevertheless, the court’s decision was a significant blow to Prime Minister Theresa May“.

She had planned to begin the legal steps for leaving the European Union by the end of March, and to prepare for the negotiations over Britain’s exit mostly behind closed doors. If the court’s ruling is upheld — the government immediately vowed to appeal — that plan would be thrown into disarray, analysts said.

On CNN (also here), Jane Marrick says, this does not have to expose Britain’s detailed negotiating position with Brussels, but it should allow our democratically elected representatives to scrutinize the broad terms. It will also give the 48% who voted Remain — 16 million people — a voice that under the government’s plans they are currently denied.

Eleanor Garnier, from BBC, said this decision has huge implications, not just on the timing of Brexit but on the terms of Brexit. That’s because it’s given the initiative to those on the Remain side in the House of Commons who, it’s now likely, will argue Article 50 can only be triggered when Parliament is ready and that could mean when they’re happy with the terms of any future deal. Of course, it will be immensely difficult to satisfy and get agreement from all those MPs who voted to remain. Could an early general election be on the cards after all? , via BBC.

“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.

Continue reading ““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”

Editorial of July 2016

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by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

Every cloud has a silver lining. On the referendum able to push forward the unity of the Europe and the disunity of the Kingdom

Modern democracy, with which the West has lived since the liberal revolutions, is representative – exceptionally accompanied by moments of semi-direct democracy through referenda or popular consultations. Such exceptionality is based on the very survival of democracy as referenda hardly ever manage to escape high doses of manipulation and abuse. When Hans Kelsen was asked once about the rightfulness of popular consultation, he allegedly answered that, despite they make sense in certain situations, it should not be forgotten that an uninformed population preferred Barabbas over Jesus Christ. This metaphor illustrates one of the main assumptions of the democratic theory (which no one described as brilliantly as Norberto Bobbio): the excess of democracy may kill it.

This becomes crystal clear in the referenda (supposedly) on European issues, tendentiously instrumentalized by national political elites that convert them in arenas to internal disputes. The day the world awaked in astonishment with the results of the British referendum, the top questions at the social networks and search engines in the United Kingdom on the European Union since the Brexit result was officially announced were: “What is the European Union? What does it mean to leave the European Union?” That reveals that many British have voted without really knowing what the EU is or what it stands for in their daily life.

And so 17 million British, deceived by the most despicable demagogy, decided about the destinies of 500 million European, subverting the most elementary democratic rule of a polity – the one of majority will. They did so openly for the worst reasons – fear, hostility, xenophobia, all wrapped in the sovereignty narrative –, offering weapons for the Leftist and Rightist populisms all over Europe to wield a speech against the Brussels’ technocracy. The same technocracy that will stop paying grants to British agriculturists, that will cease supporting research in the British universities, that will discontinue the stimulation for the movement of British Erasmus students, that will interrupt law-making towards promoting equality and non-discrimination among the British.
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On the world of yesterday, witches and ghosts

 

by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

(text in the memory of Jo Cox, British MP, 41, upholder of refugees’ rights and the continuation of United Kingdom in the EU, who was appallingly killed on 16th June).

Jo Cox’s murder was a senseless attack on democracy itself“, via The Telegraph.

Jo Cox MP death: David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn unite in tributes“, via BBC.

Jo Cox death: ‘The well of hatred killed her,’ Corbyn says – latest updates“, via The Guardian.

Jo Cox’s tragic death may halt pro-Brexit momentum, analysts say“, via CNBC.

The price of caring“, via The Economist blog.

Jo Cox’s death should make us reflect on our polluted, abusive politics“, via Mirror.

After Jo Cox’s Killing (…)“, via The Wall Street Journal.

Before the adversities we have been facing in Europe lately – financial speculation, migratory boom, terrorism, Euroscepticism, populism, intolerance, Brexit, etc. – sometimes it seems it could not get worse. A sort of perfect storm, as it is said. But it can always get worse. In fact, it was worse in the past. We can acknowledge that by simply reading Stefan Zweig’s memoirs, The World of Yesterday. In it the author gives us a nostalgic picture of a missing world, the one of Europe pre-1914 which is opposed to heinous period of the wars, interleaved by a short time of peace and hope in the European renaissance. It was during the exile in England, and then Brazil, where the Jewish Austrian wrote his memories – as well as the iconic Brazil, land of the future, in deep demonstration of gratitude to the country that hosted him.

At this time of profound consternation due to the harrowing assassination of Jo Cox, this “world of yesterday” described by a war refugee in the end of the 1930s proves that there is still space for a normative approach of the European integration process, inclined to create solutions that help neutralize the fragmentation forces against which the Union is being confronted, and mobilize its cohesion forces.

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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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Editorial of March 2016

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by Allan F. Tatham, Professor at Facultad de Derecho, Universidad CEU San Pablo
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New Deal for the UK in Europe: Rewarding British particularism or Making Exceptionalism Acceptable?

And so British Prime Minister David Cameron, standing outside No. 10 Downing Street last Saturday, announced to a waiting nation (and Union) that he had wrested for the United Kingdom  almost all of the concessions he had been negotiating on with his EU Member State partners. What had once seemed as an almost Herculean task to achieve and an unprecedented one at that, has led to agreement with his fellow colleagues (no doubt grudgingly for some) in the European Council. Yes, Cameron was thus able to recommend to the British people on 20th February 2016 to accept the results of his “historic” renegotiation and vote for “Bremain” this summer; yes, the European Council has expressly recognized the constitutional and legal existence of a two- or multi-speed Europe[ii]; and, yes, the EU has accepted the existence – once again but in a much stronger version this time – of British particularism, in other words “in Europe but not of Europe” so to speak.

In the months leading up to the February European Council meeting, commentators canvassed the various options open to the UK were PM Cameron to have instead recommended a “Brexit” following negotiations and which might still happen if the popular vote in the 23rd June 2016 referendum were to show a majority in favour of leaving the EU.[iii] Among the possibilities considered have been: (1) UK membership of the European Economic Area (“EEA”) through reapplying for membership of the European Free Trade Association (“EFTA”) which would create the scenario of “back to the future” for the country as it was an original founding EFTA state in 1960, leaving to join the then European Economic Community in 1973; (2) a series of bilateral agreements between the UK and the EU, following Switzerland, each agreement being separately negotiated although the format is subject reconsideration by the EU; and (3) the Turkish model including a customs union, free movement of goods, and limited movement of workers as well as forming a strategic partnership in areas of mutual interest. Yet all three options would leave the UK woefully exposed internationally and in a very much weakened bargaining position outside the EU although probably still within the World Trade Organisation.

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