Constituents have contacted me following speculation as to when the UK will leave the European Union. This matter has received heightened interest because the Government has proposed an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill which would make it absolutely clear that Britain will be leaving at 11pm on 29 March 2019 (being midnight in mainland Europe). Those who are reluctant about Britain leaving the EU do not want this hard deadline imposed and would rather amend the Bill to permit a later date being used (or no such date at all).
My own personal view is that the act of leaving the EU will most likely be successful if it is done with simplicity and lack of duplicity. This issue is one such example where EU provisions in our domestic law already deal with the timetable as set out below.
1. The provisions of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty govern the process for any country leaving the EU.
2. Britain triggered its EU exit mechanism under Article 50 on 29 March 2017.
3. Britain will continue to be bound by Article 50 until leaving the EU because Article 50 is enshrined in domestic legislation via the European Communities Act.
4. Article 50 makes it clear that, once a country notifies of its intention to leave the EU, which Britain did on 29 March 2017, the "Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification."
5. On this basis, there is no need to further legislate as to the date when Britain leaves the EU because our own law currently details the timetable as being two years from the date of triggering Article 50.
5. Equally, it would be futile, for those who are reluctant about our departure, to insert a departure date which is later than 29 March 2019 because, after this date, Britain will have automatically left the EU.
6. Under Article 50, only the 27 remaining EU members can extend Britain's stay in the EU ("the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period").
In my opinion, Parliament is holding a conversation, and proposing legislation, about a matter which is already clear and concise. Not only does it not require further change, it would not be within Britain's hand to do so. Rescinding Article 50 is a different matter altogether albeit it appears that this is not being suggested.
I will continue to keep constituents updated on EU departure news on an ongoing basis.
Text of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty
1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.
A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.