Dr David Jukes, The University of
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21 September, 2017
'Brexit' - The Process of the UK withdrawing from the European Union
| On this page:
- Summary - A brief outline of the background to Brexit
- Documents - Links to some of the key legal documents relating to Brexit
- News items - Links to relevent items of news given on this sites news pages
There had been a strong political movement for many years for the UK to withdraw from the European Union. Eventually the UK government agreed to allow a referendum to be held to allow the people of the UK to decide the issue. This was held on the 23rd June 2016 and the result was that about 52% wished to withdraw and 48% wished to remain. The government accepted this result and was committed to withdrawing from the Union.
The Treaty on the European Union has an Article on allowing a country to become a new Member State (Article 49) but also includes a single Article on the process of leaving. This is given in Article 50:
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 If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.
Under Article 50(2), a Member State is required to notify the European Council of the decision to withdraw. Following the UK referendum it was necessary for the UK government to undertake some planning and so formal notification only took place on the 29 March 2017. Under the terms of Article 50(2), this triggers a process of discussion to agree the 'arrangements for .. withdrawal'. Under Article 50(3), this process is expected to last up to two years. However if no agreement is reached after two years, the UK will automatically cease to be a Member State - on the 29 March 2019. Also in Article 50(3) there is a posssibility of extending this limit but this requires the unanimous agreement of all the remaining 27 Member States.
As the UK has been a Member State since 1973, there is a huge amount of national legislation that either is derived from EU legislation or is based on the assumption that the UK is a Member State. It is therefore a massive task to establish a revised legal status that is consistent and which meets the needs of the UK to maintain close relationships with the remaining 27 Member States. The precise nature of that 'close relationship' will though be subject to the negotiations and any subsequent agreement.
Within the context of food law, there are many things which will need to be decided either in the context of the overall agreement (e.g. any continuing access to the internal market for trade in goods) or with the detail of food law requirements. The following are a few examples of issues needing consideration:
- What is the UK's relationship with the Opinions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). As EFSA is the EU's risk assessment body providing scientific advice to the EU, will the UK continue to base its own risk management decisions on those Opinions? Or will the UK revert to having equivalent UK assessments?
- How will the UK grant approval for imports into the country of foods and in particular those subject to veterinary approval? Currently the EU has a system of auditing food safety standards and procedures established by third coutries and grants EU-wide approval based on the requirements of EU law. Will the UK be able to establish a seaparate system for approving other countries procedures - and presumably this will include imports from the EU. Linked to this, what new health mark will be included on animal-based products manufactured within the UK?
- What will be the status of UK products which have been granted protection under the EU-wide system of protected origins?
- Will UK exports of food products to the EU need to have the name and address of an EU importer on their labels?
This page aims to bring together material linked to the process of 'Brexit'. It will be developed and extended as the events unfold...
- 19 September 2017: Biocides - Commission Information papers:
- 8 September 2017: FSA Board Paper: Preparations for the UK’s Exit from the European Union This paper, prepared for discussion by the FSA Board on 20 September, explains some of the actions being taken by the FSA to prepare for the impact of Brexit on food safety and food control in the UK. A supporting document setting out some research findings based on discussions with both industry and public has been provided to the Board - see: The UK's Views on the EU Exit and Food
- 13 July 2017: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - A Bill to Repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and make other provision in connection with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. The published Bill to allow for EU law to be incorporated into UK when the UK leaves the EU The Government also published some 'Explanatory Notes' to assist readers and help inform the debate. A copy is available here: Explanatory Notes
- 22 May 2017: ANNEX to Council decision (EU, Euratom) 2017/... authorising the opening
of negotiations with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland for an agreement setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal
from the European Union
- Directives for the negotiation of an agreement with the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland setting out the
arrangements for its withdrawal from the European Union Council document containing the approved 'Directives'
- 30 March 2017: White Paper - Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union - A White Paper on the 'Great Repeal Bill' was published, setting out the Government’s approach to converting existing EU law into domestic law on the day the UK leaves the European Union.
News items linked to the process of negotiating withdrawal - both general and food law related:
- 20 September 2017 Summary of discussions at FSA Board meeting 20 September 2017
- 8 September 2017The Food Standards Agency’s Preparations for the UK’s Exit from the European Union
- 13 July 2017 Guidance for businesses and organisations on the Repeal Bill: Information for businesses on the Bill to convert EU law to UK law
- 13 July 2017 Latest news on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 [Bill published]
- 19 June 2017 Opening of negotiations: European Parliament reactions
- 19 June 2017 Speech by Michel Barnier, the European Commission's Chief Negotiator, following the first round of Article 50 negotiations with the UK
- 22 May 2017 Council (Art 50) authorises the start of Brexit talks and adopts negotiating directives
- 30 March 2017 Certainty and stability for UK businesses as negotiations begin on new relationship with Europe [White Paper published]
- 29 March 2017 MEPs set out conditions for approving UK withdrawal agreement
- 29 March 2017 Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union – Q&A
- 29 March 2017 Statement by the European Council (Art. 50) on the UK notification
- 29 March 2017 Prime Minister’s letter to Donald Tusk triggering Article 50
- 30 June 2016 FSA Letter: EU referendum and the Regulating our Future Programme
- 29 June 2016 EU Council Statement and Remarks Following Informal Meeting of Heads of State/Government
- 24 June 2016 Statement by the EU leaders and the Netherlands Presidency on the outcome of the UK referendum
This page was first provided on 25 May 2017
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