The UK might be inclined to not start article 50 in order to have negotiating power in the bilateral agreements. The negotiation power derives from the fact that Britain could block EU policies as a yet member. Can the EU force the UK to start the exit procedure? For example by using article 7 of the Lisbon treaty, stating that there are reasons for temporarily block the membership?

EU is investigating

“I doubt it is only in the hands of the government of the United Kingdom,” he said. “We have to take note of this unilateral declaration that they want to wait until October, but that must not be the last word.”

Martin Schulz to the Guardian


The Question is not only about the laws, but also about diplomacy and political strategy. It is particularly targeted for the specific brexit situation and what possibilities each actor (UK and EU) has.

  • Good question. I think they have no interests in doing that. Which bilateral agreements are you speaking of ? – Gautier C Jun 25 '16 at 9:39
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    Possible duplicate of Can a state be forced to leave the European Union? – Philipp Jun 25 '16 at 10:59
  • @GautierC the treaties that now must be held in order to define the relationship btw. UK and EU. – Roland Kofler Jun 25 '16 at 11:01
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    @Philipp the situation is more particular here I think. – Roland Kofler Jun 25 '16 at 11:03
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    @RolandKofler no I mean, you can start negociate, but no papers will end out of it. And yeah I don't like it ahah. – Gautier C Jun 25 '16 at 12:00
up vote 10 down vote accepted

The EU laws don't allow any official procedure to expel a member state from the union (they only make it possible to strip a nation of some voting rights etc.). The EU leaders are currently very impatient because a prolonged uncertainty about the status of the U.K. will energize "exit" movements in other countries. (Angela Merkel differs from the EU Commission etc., she says that there's no reason to hurry.)

But they can only use "unofficial" methods to persuade, pressure, threaten the U.K. by ad hoc sanctions etc. to act quickly, not any "standard" procedure. From the viewpoint of the EU law, the result of the U.K. referendum means absolutely nothing. As far as the EU laws are concerned, the British government could very well ignore the result of the referendum, too.

In fact, even within the U.K., the referendum is officially just an advisory one and its result will only become binding once it's confirmed by the U.K. Parliament. And there exist various efforts to organize new referendums about the return of the U.K. to the EU, separation of London and Scotland, and several other things, so things could be a bit ambiguous for a while.

At the same moment, politically, everyone who matters agrees that the result of the referendum is rather clear and cannot be ignored.

The legally expected steps now are the following: At one moment, the British government must send a letter to the European Council or make a speech saying that they formally activate the "Article 50" of the EU treaty (which is about the exit). From that moment, a 2-year window will be dedicated to negotiations. Some majorities of EU countries have to agree with the proposals, and so on. If the agreement isn't completed within the 2-year deadline, the treaties with the U.K. will cease to apply regardless of consequences at that moment of the year 2018.

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