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What constitutes “notice” for the purpose of Article 50?

Claire Berwick
June 27, 2016

Article 50(2) states that:

“A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention.”

There has been some debate following the referendum result on Friday June 24 as to what constitutes “notice” by the UK under Article 50 of the TEU to trigger the formal legal process for withdrawal from the EU.

Only the UK, as the departing EU member state, is able to serve notice to trigger Article 50 but the form of such notice has quickly became a topic of speculation, including whether the announcement of the referendum result itself could be construed as notice for the purpose of Article 50. The debate has become political as EU ministers push for a quick exit by the UK. However David Cameron as UK prime minister has stated that notice will not be served immediately and that the timing of such notice is a decision for a new leader, to be appointed within the next three months.

A spokesman for the European Council on Saturday June 25 put a stop to further speculation by confirming that triggering Article 50 was a formal act which must be "done by the British government to the European Council" and that notice must be given in an “unequivocal manner with the explicit intent to trigger Article 50”. In practice this would mean notice either by “a letter to the president of the European Council or an official statement at a meeting of the European Council duly noted in the official records of the meeting."

The debate about “notice” perhaps illustrates the problem for all parties of not having a clear precedent to point to of how the legal process should evolve under Article 50 (see question 3, June 24).

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