Leave campaigner Michael Gove appears to have conceded that in the event of a Brexit the UK will not actually leave the European Union by the end of Parliament in 2020.
Speaking on Sunday he set out his ambition to see immigration come down to the tens of thousands under an Australian-style points system. But Mr Gove said he would not put a time limit on it as “we wouldn’t have left the European Union by the end of this Parliament”.
He added: “We would in due course bring it down to tens of thousands. Yes. “
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty stipulates a withdrawal from the EU must be within two years, which would be by 2018.
Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union allows a member state to notify the EU of its withdrawal and obliges the EU to try to negotiate a ‘withdrawal agreement’ with that state – it involves five points laid out below.
2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.
5. A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The form of any withdrawal agreement would depend on the negotiations and there is therefore no guarantee the UK would find the terms acceptable. The EU Treaties would cease to apply to the UK on the entry into force of a withdrawal agreement or, if no new agreement is concluded, after two years, unless there is unanimous agreement to extend the negotiating period.
During the two-year negotiation period, EU laws would still apply to the UK. The UK would continue to participate in other EU business as normal, but it would not participate in internal EU discussions or decisions on its own withdrawal. On the EU side, the agreement would be negotiated by the European Commission following a mandate from EU ministers and concluded by EU governments “acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.” This means that the European Parliament would be an additional unpredictable factor in striking a deal.
However, if the final agreement cuts across policy areas within the preserve of the member states, such as certain elements of services, transport and investment protection – as many recent EU FTAs have done (for example with Peru and with Columbia) – it will be classed as a ‘mixed agreement’ and require additional ratification by every national parliament in the EU. The EU Treaties would also need to be amended to reflect the UK’s departure. In effect, this means that the final deal at the end of a negotiated UK exit from the EU would need to be ratified by EU leaders via a qualified majority vote, a majority in the European Parliament and by the remaining 27 national parliaments across the EU.