Brexit: What does Article 50 mean?

Theresa May is to trigger article 50 this afternoon

Written by Emily Garber


Today around 12:30pm, British Prime Minister Theresa May will activate Article 50.

This will begin negotiations on the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, or 'Brexit'. Those negotations will include decisions on visas, trade, fishing boundaries, and more. 

What is Article 50? 

Article 50 is the part of the Lisbon Treaty that allows a country to leave the EU.

It states that:

  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 proved 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…it shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining 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 paragraph2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

Even though there is a two-year period assigned to renegotiate a new relationship between the UK and EU, it can take much longer.

But the longer the negotiations take, the worse off both parties will be, as it creates uncertainty for businesses looking to invest or open operations in the EU or the UK.

Once Article 50 is activated, there is no turning back, which is why this is so significant.

However, if Britain decides they want to rejoin the EU after triggering Article 50, they will have to reply like any other country.

The world will be watching the lead up and aftermath of Brexit, and many political leaders are expected to give their responses this afternoon, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

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