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How can Britain leave the EU?

Prior to the Lisbon Treaty there was no mechanism for a member state to leave the EU. That was in itself a threat since any country wishing to do so merely had to invoke their sovereign right to tear up the Treaty and walk away. The EU realised that it needed to construct a mechanism to prevent this happening. That mechanism is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Under Article 50 a Member State has to notify the European Council of its intention to leave, and the Union shall then negotiate an agreement with that state setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal. These ‘negotiations’ shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council acting on a qualified majority vote, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

The Member State in question shall not participate in the Council’s discussions on its own future. This whole process will take a minimum of two years, and failing an agreement it can be extended, perhaps indefinitely. In theory the negotiations can go on for years or decades, and throughout that time, we remain a member of the EU with all its obligations and subject to EU law.

The mechanics of leaving are convoluted enough, but now imagine the politics. For a minimum of two solid years we will have the BBC, other sections of the media, the political establishment, and possibly even the President of the United States, telling us that Britain cannot survive outside of the EU.

The representatives of international vested interests will try to scare the British public into believing that EU exit will result in the loss of trade and jobs and calamities of all sorts. How would a Prime Minister hold his nerve under this kind of fire, especially one that does not believe in exit in the first place?

So how can we leave? The actual mechanics of doing so are quite straightforward.  Britain is a member of the EU by means of the European Communities Act 1972. This is what gives ‘supremacy’ to EU law. To leave we just have to repeal the Act. This is perfectly legal under English constitutional law and international law. The EU Treaty will then be just another of many consigned to the scrapheap of history.

Britain can then unilaterally discontinue all payments to the EU budget with immediate effect.  We can reclaim our seat on the World Trade Organisation, and regain control of our trade policy; not to mention our borders and immigration policy, and a host of other policy areas now under the control of the EU.

There will be no loss of jobs or trade because the EU sells us far more than we sell them, and they wish to go on selling to us; and it any case putting up discriminatory barriers would be against binding WTO rules. Britain would be in a strong position to agree a trade deal with the EU, but this must be a consequence of leaving not a condition.

The biggest problem to address will be the tens of thousands of EU laws in place. Parliament can at its leisure repeal all of those Directives enacted into Acts of Parliament, and replace them with national legislation where it felt it necessary.

There could be a transitional period where some EU regulations would still apply, but they would have no supremacy over national law. Any future legislation that might be required to enable us to interact with the EU (if it continues to exist) would be by means of Acts of Parliament under the sovereign control of Parliament.

It would be a big strategic mistake for the withdrawalists to allow their opponents to define the basis on which Britain can withdraw.  Mooted scenarios of duplicating the ‘Norwegian or Swiss model’ or ‘staying in the European Economic Area’ would only deliver partial independence and are dependent on others accepting those options.

In the long months of debate to come the withdrawlists will be asked the question: ‘OK if we vote to leave the EU how can we do it?” We must have a coherent plan that explains exactly how.  The only plan that would work and give us real independence is unconditional, unilateral withdrawal.


This article was originally published in the July edition of Brexit, the magazine for the Better Off Out campaign.

Gerard Batten has been a UKIP Member of the European Parliament since 2004 and his book The Road to Freedom (published by Bretwalda Books) explains how Britain can leave the European Union.

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About Gerard Batten MEP (42 Articles)
Gerard Batten in a UKIP MEP representing London. He is also UKIP's Spokesman for Brexit.

17 Comments on How can Britain leave the EU?

  1. For a start, I would declare the Lisbon Treaty null and void.
    UK was promised a referendum and Brown reneged, which even though he signed up to it was without the sanction of the British electorate.
    To me that is reason for divorce like an unconsummated marriage..
    What Brown did was treason (and gutless), he should be in the Tower

    • The Emperors New Clothes // September 28, 2015 at 4:36 am // Reply

      I would go further back and say the Maastricht Treaty null and void as political union was never agreed with the public for that change. The referendum of 1975 made Edward Heath’s treason lawful in the establishment’s eyes, but it never has been lawful under the constitution which has supremacy. This fact is however being ignored by successive governments since then and likewise being ignored in our courts too, as seen with the Metric Martyrs and Factortame cases.
      In the Bill of Rights 1688, it is binding on all UK parliaments forever. It is a limit on what Parliament can do. NOT giving away sovereignty to a foreign power is one of the binding rules.
      The whole treaty is based on an unlawful Act of Parliament, so subsequent treaties are also unlawful and void if they are based on the ECA 1972.
      Also every law since 1972 is also null & void if it based on that treaty and all those that gave that sovereignty to a foreign power are complicit in High Treason and should stand trial for their lives in a court of law.

      Happy days are here again!

  2. “Under Article 50 a Member State has to notify the European Council of its intention to leave,…..”

    How about “Sorry guys, we’ve left already as that was the wish of our citizens. Your rules don’t apply to us any more”.

    • But those rules will still apply to us. This is the point I made below (no answers as yet). Do we keep that primary legislation?

    • This isn`t the time for nicety, if you`re abrogating a treaty, whether you have the whole community on your side or not, just stick two fingers up, we`re an island they are unlikely to invade us.

  3. Are we happy to retain all the primary legislation?

  4. Good article – one mistake – there will be some job losses. The Commisioner and a number of civil servants working in Brussels and elsewhere and very good thing too – wasted workers!

    • Another deliberate mistake (well spotted) is that two years is the envisaged default or back stop – it could be shortened by agreement.

      International law holds against being bound by treaties where it is clearly absurd. The idea of staying in the EU and being bound by it when we’ve just voted to leave is absurd.

      What we want is to fast-track exit to within a matter of weeks needed for legal formalities, and replace EU membership with a cooperation agreement, allowing us to wind down joint projects etc. We will need the EU’s support in transferring aviation and trade treaties into our own name – but again, it is supposed to support free trade within the WTO.

      Get out we must. We need to have an orderly plan for doing it if we are to win the referendum though.

  5. 44th "Fighting Fours" // September 23, 2015 at 9:24 pm // Reply

    I am quietly looking forward to the referendum (that is if Cameroon’s latest cast iron guarantee doesn’t melt like butter in a frying pan). The crisis in the Mediterranean is still rumbling on and with each passing day the ineptitude of the EU and its supporters (e.g. Frau Merkel) is ever more clear, not to mention the media. Sky News seems even worst than the BBC in it’s reporting of the crisis. We will have everything against us but I think we can win. If/when they play funny after we vote to to leave then yes, we shall repeal the 1972 act, it will have to happen at some point.
    By the way, is Nigel going to do some more speeches in East Anglia next year? I live in Norfolk and the closest event with him was in Essex. I think he would get a good turnout if he came to Norfolk, although there is always the fear of student activists and ‘Corbynats’ as I shall now call them.

  6. Hear, hear !
    Out now !

  7. Of course, you buy a german car it must be right hand drive, you buy a german fridge it must have a UK plug. Regulations apply to all, we’ll cope, no problem

    • Those laws are already in place and can stand.

    • Will we; be buying German cars?
      Just been looking at Audi problems in the States when they had unexpected acceleration problems.
      They virtually lost their market overnight.
      Look how Scottish Independence is a changed game since the revenues from North Sea Oil are fading.
      “Its events , Dear Boy, events” (H.MacMillan)

  8. But to export to the EU, UK products still have to comply with EU regulations and laws.

  9. Then repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 is the best way and the only way. When the majority vote to LEAVE comes in, the electorate will get very angry if Cameron and Co try to faff about for 2 years stonewalling the exit. I have never been on a serious demo before, but I’d certainly join one against any government attempt to thwart the will of the people over Brexit. Would I be prepared to get injured or arrested in an angry demo? – Yes.

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