Here we provide a round up of what triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty means as we end our 44-year relationship with the EU.

On June 23, 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum. Currently consisting of 28 countries, members of the EU work cohesively to make processes such as buying and selling products to each other, as well as going to live and work in each other’s countries, easier.

Whilst this may be the case, many people believe the UK could have more control over how it operates as a nation, and that it would be better for decisions to be made in the UK rather than the EU, therefore leading to the majority Brexit vote.

Now, as the only full member state to have voted leave, the UK government has entered extensive discussions with the EU to determine their post-Brexit relationship following the UK’s impending departure.

What is Article 50?  

Article 50 – part of the Treaty of Lisbon – is an international agreement which forms the constitutional basis of the EU.

Created in December 2009, eight years after European leaders launched a process to make the EU ‘more democratic, more transparent and more efficient’, the Lisbon Treaty is an agreement signed by the heads of state and government of countries that are part of the EU.

Part of this agreement, Article 50, is a basic five-point plan part of European Union law that sets out the withdrawal process should any country wish to the leave the European Union.

On 29 March 2017 in a six-page letter to European Council president Donald Tusk, Theresa May triggered Article 50 confirming the UK’s impending departure from the European Union.

In a statement in the commons the prime minister said: “This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back.”

May’s letter set out the Government’s approach to the discussions and how the UK hopes to continue to enjoy a ‘special relationship’ with the EU as its ‘closest friend and neighbour’ following its departure. She stressed that it was in ‘the best interests of both the UK and the EU’ that the forthcoming process is used to deliver these objectives in a ‘fair and orderly manner and with as little disruption as possible on each side’.

As part of the proposed principles for discussion May stressed that despite the complexities, ‘we should always put our citizens first’. As there are many citizens of the remaining members’ states living in the UK and UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU, she stressed ‘we should aim to strike an early agreement about their rights’.

What happens when Article 50 is triggered?

Despite the results of the British referendum in June 2016, the triggering of Article 50 is the first formal notification of the UK’s desire to withdraw from the European Union. The UK now has two years to negotiate a new relationship with the trade bloc, which will potentially reduce or eliminate the UK’s regional barriers to trade with participating regions of the EU.

It is reported that the government is expected to publish its ‘Great Repeal Bill’ on 29 March that will aim to convert EU law into domestic legislation and repeal the European Communities Act, to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK.

The two-year negotiating window will close in March 2019, when the UK will leave the EU with or without an agreement.

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