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Brexit When?
Publication date: 2016-08-18

The Earliest Date of the UK Leaving the EU

On 24 June 2016, it was announced that the people of the UK voted in a referendum for the UK to leave the EU. But this decision, in itself, is not the act of leaving the EU, but an instruction to the British government to perform the necessary steps which will result in Britain becoming independent of the European Union.

And now there are arguments and uncertainties when will Britain cease to be a member of the European Union.

To leave the European Union the British Government has to give to the European Council a formal notice of its intention to leave the EU. Following which the parties shall negotiate a withdrawal agreement. And the date of entry into force of that agreement will be the date when Britain will cease to be a member of the EU. But, if no agreement is reached within 2 years of the notification date, Britain will cease to be member of the EU, without any agreements, unless the parties agree to continue negotiations for an unspecified period of time.

This we have the following timeline, with the possible outcomes shown in the table below it.

Brexit Timescales Image
Brexit Timescales
No. Event Meaning Date
1

Referendum Decision

The British People decided to leave the EU, and the UK government is obliged to implement this decision.

2016-06-24

2

Article 50 Notification

The European Union given official notification of the UK decision to leave the EU. Start of the leave procedure.

Anytime

3

Agreement Date

The entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU.

Anytime before 2 years from Article 50 Notification.

4

2 years from Article 50 Notification

If no agreement reached, UK ceases to be EU member, unless the parties agree to continue negotiations.

2 years from Article 50 Notification

5

Open-ended Negotiations

The parties agree to continue negotiations after 2 years from Article 50 Notification for any time they choose, or until agreement is reached.

Anytime after 2 years from Article 50 Notification

As it can be seen from the graph and the table above, the earliest date of UK becoming independent of the EU depends on (1) the length of time before the UK government notifies the EU and (2) the length of time of the "negotiations".

There is nothing to prevent the UK government to notify the EU of their intention to exit the EU as soon as possible - 3 weeks from today (2016-08-18) should be more than enough.

But how long should the negotiations continue?

There is some confusion relating to the negotiations. Are they about the post-Brexit future relationships? Or are they about the current commitments continuing past the cessation of the membership date (to prevent problems arising out of an abrupt termination)?

We considered this issue in Brexit Mess and showed that the negotiations should be limited only to the continuation of the current commitments by the parties.

Negotiations about post-Brexit relationships have the potential of continuing for decades. But, if the negotiations are limited to the current commitments, then all that needs to be decided is "how long the current commitments should continue after the official leave date". This should be minimum 1 year, maximum 2 years. This can be decided in one day. But as it needs (1) consent of the European Parliament and (2) approval by a qualified majority of the European Council, three months from the Notification Date should be sufficient.

Thus we get the following graph for the earliest Brexit date:

Earliest Brexit Image
Earliest Brexit Dates
No. Event Meaning Date
1

Referendum Decision

The British People decided to leave the EU, and the UK government is obliged to implement this decision.

2016-06-24

2

Article 50 Notification

The European Union given official notification of the UK decision to leave the EU. Start of the EU leave procedure.

2016-09-12

3 Agreement Date

The entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU.

The Leave Date: UK becomes independent of the EU, and starts being governed by UK laws.

But the pre-Leave commitments shall continue to be discharged by the parties.

2016-12-12
4

Existing Commitments Continue after the Leave Date.

The UK government starts introducing UK laws to replace the EU ones, and setting up administrative framework for their implementation.

The new UK laws are coming into force, except for the pre-Brexit commitments which continue in accordance with the pre-Brexit arrangements.

Having become independent of the EU, the UK government starts making any deals they wish with the EU and any other countries.

All new UK interactions with the EU become subject to the post-Brexit arrangements.

2016-12-12

5

End of Existing Commitments

All EU laws cease to apply to all the pre-Brexit commitments and are replaced with UK laws.

Total clean break.

2018-12-12

Thus, if the UK government notifies the European Council of its decision to leave the EU on 12 September 2016, the EU withdrawal agreement can be finalized in 3 month. And this means that the UK can become independent of the EU on 12 December 2016.

This would put an end to all the uncertainties concerning the Brexit date.

For more articles to make sense of Brexit see:

Sample Notice to Terminate Membership of the EU

Brexit Deal and the Life After

Brexit Mess - How to Sort It Out

Brexit Uncertainties and How to Remove Them

The Practical Consequences of UK Leaving the EU


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