Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Britain and EU: Cameron’s exit route

What happens if the probable next Conservative government fails to charm the other EU member states into treaty changes further diminishing the United Kingdom’s patchy contribution to the European project?

What happens if the other EU member states decide to grin and bear it, if Britain turns to political blackmail in order to opt out of additional policy areas?

Sooner or later the Tory leaders would have to report back that they have failed. What could they do?

Would they have any alternative but to decide on the UK’s relation with the European Union (with or without a referendum)?

Is this the reason why some brainy anti-Europeans have remained relatively calm, leading David Cameron down the garden path towards an inevitable referendum on withdrawal?

Exit route

A referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is clearly nonsense, and has been for some time, but the Lisbon Treaty clearly says that the European Union is based on voluntary cooperation, by laying down the modalities for secession. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union tells us that the exit route is free:

Article 50 TEU

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

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.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.



The European Union is no dictatorship, but a voluntary union of states (but with some democratic elements). No occupying forces, secret police or Gulag camps keep the countries or their citizens subdued.

If Britain, or any other member state, wants to leave, the treaty shows where to find the door. Staying or leaving is a British decision, to be taken under British rules.

Like any organisation, the European Union needs constructive and contributing members. Given Britain’s membership history and future prospects, it might be better if the UK left, for the others to get on with the work.

Does David Cameron really want a painful marathon, when he could head for the exit door today?

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Read interesting Euroblogs on multilingual