On 29 March 2017, the UK's Permanent Representative to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, delivered the UK's notice under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council. The notice, confirming that the UK will withdraw from the EU following last year's Brexit referendum, had been signed by Theresa May on the evening of 28 March 2017. Its delivery triggers the start of a two year negotiation period between the UK and the EU on the form that Brexit will take.
EUROPEAN UNION (NOTIFICATION OF WITHDRAWAL) ACT 2017
Service of the notice followed the coming into force of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 on 16 March 2017. The Act gave power to Theresa May to serve notice under Article 50. Proposals from the House of Lords that the Act be amended to give the UK Parliament a vote on the final withdrawal terms, to give the UK Parliament a vote on any agreement on the future relationship between the UK and EU, and to require that the rights of EU and EEA citizens who are legally resident in the UK be guaranteed, were eventually defeated and the Bill was passed in un-amended form.
CONTENT OF THE ARTICLE 50 NOTICE
As expected, the six-page Article 50 notice confirmed that the UK intends to leave the EU and the European Atomic Energy Community. Key points made by Theresa May were as follows:
- the UK wishes to negotiate the terms of its future trade deal with the EU in parallel with negotiating the terms of its withdrawal;
- the UK Government will publish its White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill on 30 March 2017;
- the UK Government expects that Brexit will result in increased decision-making powers for each of the devolved administrations; and
- a 'no deal' outcome is not desirable: the UK Government would prefer not to default to trading with the EU on WTO terms.
A number of principles for the Brexit negotiations were suggested in the notice, including constructive and respectful engagement; putting citizens first; agreeing the future deal between the UK and EU at the same time as negotiating the terms of Brexit; minimising disruption by agreeing on implementation periods; and prioritising arrangements for a "fair and open trading environment" and dispute resolution. Notably, particular importance was attached to maintaining the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK and avoiding a return to a hard border. The EU's lead negotiator, Michel Barnier, also referenced this issue in a recent speech (see further detail below).
This article contains a general summary of developments and is not a complete or definitive statement of the law. Specific legal advice should be obtained where appropriate.