European Union – Can no one country escape?

EU – no revolving door policy?

The EU – A fine mess the original planners made

I received an email from a reputable source, which stated that once in the EU, you cannot voluntarily withdraw, nor can you be involuntarily ejected.

So me thinking that this was bullshit, surely ‘entrance and exit’ are in any legal document – so I decided to do some research on the The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which he quoted. (1)

Cartoon from Telegaph UK. Click on to enlarge

Well did not take long – a member country can withdraw in accordance with EU law.

That law says that every member state has the right to withdraw from the Union (the idea that the EU can stop a country leaving is therefore a myth) – its departure must take place in a particular way.

The process is set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. (2)

It basically says that any member state that wants to leave—can notify the European Council of its intention to withdraw once the decision has been made internally. In practice, that would happen by referendum in most countries.

Once it notifies the Council, Article 50 envisages that the EU and the nominated country will enter into negotiations in order to arrive at a “withdrawal agreement”. Once activated a fixed date two years ahead is set and amicable negotiations commence.

An earlier departure date can be agreed upon by both parties.

Now another way would be to repeal the European Communities Act – which was passed by parliament in order to join the EU – then invoke Article 50. Easy way to by-pass a referendum and waste a lot of money.

But – love buts – It was interesting in reading the TFEU, the associated treaties that they don’t talk about involuntary departure.

The most that’s provided for is suspension (in these circumstances bare in mind that this is not relevant to Greece’s current situation). (3)

Countries can’t formally be kicked out of the euro either; nor are they supposed to leave on their own initiative:

So legally speaking, member countries can’t directly jump other than by Article 50 TFEU or be pushed from the single currency”. (3)

There’s a good practical reason for this: confidence in the permanent nature of the euro might have been undermined if there had been a mechanism for countries to leave it.

Anyway all is good – a practical guide link to help the planners of Greece – Austria – Britain – and ? (4)


1. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union came into force on December 1, 2009 following the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon, which made amendments to the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC). The TFEU is an amended and renamed version of the TEC.





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