http://www.lindamcavanmep.org.uk/other-issues/brexit.php says

The government has decided that both British Ministers and MEPs will continue to play a full role in EU affairs up until Brexit. I was, therefore, pleased to be re-elected chair of the development committee and to see my Labour colleague Claude Mores re-elected chair of the civil liberties committee. In addition to our normal parliamentary and constituency duties, part of MEPs' role now will be to scrutinise the Brexit deal. We will also get a vote on the final Brexit deal, probably in the spring of 2019.

It's not too clear to me what that is talking about, especially the first sentence. Clearly this is a hypothetical question (given the British government's decision not to do anything to the contrary), but what else could the British government could have done (that would have still been legal), with respect to British MEPs? Could they have withdrawn them? Or maybe just the majority (Conservative) party could have done that just with their own Conservative MEPs?

1 Answer 1


It would be against the law to do anything like that. The European Parliament is regulated by the Treaty on European Union:

Article 10

  1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.

  2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.

  3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.

  4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.

Article 14

  1. The European Parliament shall, jointly with the Council, exercise legislative and budgetary functions. It shall exercise functions of political control and consultation as laid down in the Treaties. It shall elect the President of the Commission.
  2. The European Parliament shall be composed of representatives of the Union's citizens. They shall not exceed seven hundred and fifty in number, plus the President. Representation of citizens shall be degressively proportional, with a minimum threshold of six members per Member State. No Member State shall be allocated more than ninety-six seats. The European Council shall adopt by unanimity, on the initiative of the European Parliament and with its consent, a decision establishing the composition of the European Parliament, respecting the principles referred to in the first subparagraph.
  3. The members of the European Parliament shall be elected for a term of five years by direct universal suffrage in a free and secret ballot.
  4. The European Parliament shall elect its President and its officers from among its members.

Therefore, if the UK tries to remove its MEPs or order them how to vote, not only would it breach the TEU (which is still binding law for the UK), but it would be gravely undemocratic.

  • 2
    Against international law. Which is a collection of treaties, the only penalty for not following their rules being a risk of losing membership in that treaty. If you want out of it anyway, it's just paper.
    – Therac
    Aug 4, 2018 at 9:48
  • 5
    Well, yes, ultimately, all international rules end up in this category, including human rights. If the UK ordered those MEPs arrested and jailed for the rest of their mandate, technically nothing can happen to the state, except for it will be perceived and treated like a dictatorship. The whole idea around Brexit is "let's negotiate our ow better trade deals with the rest f the world". To negotiate international contracts, you need to be a trusted partner, since they cannot be enforced. If the UK starts to breach current contracts, it will have VERY hard time negotiating new ones.
    – MikiRaven
    Aug 4, 2018 at 11:39
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    They are all in this category, so a good litmus test for "will there be consequences for breaking this" is to ask if there would be any if you weren't part of any treaty. Severe human rights breaches are a "yes". Withdrawing your MEP, and disavowing them should they ignore it, would be an easy "no", and would achieve the goal the same. (That said, I've upvoted your answer, because it at least gives a reason.)
    – Therac
    Aug 4, 2018 at 14:26
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    @Therac "a collection of treaties, the only penalty for not following their rules being a risk of losing membership in that treaty": treaties can specify other penalties and mechanisms of enforcement. Furthermore, there are political penalties to consider: how well would the government survive after undermining the TEU?
    – phoog
    Aug 6, 2018 at 15:43
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    @phoog They can specify, but things on international scale only happen when other national actors want them to happen (in contrast to national law, which is enforced for its own sake). Seeing how UK is exiting the Union, that's... not unrealistic. I would wager the real reason is, they don't feel a need to pull the MEPs or burn the bridges. After all, Brexit was a close vote that decided the Union isn't a deal worth the cost for Britain, not a ragequit.
    – Therac
    Aug 6, 2018 at 17:39

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