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Article 50 in five questions

29 March 2017

1 What is article 50?

  • Article 50 is part of the Treaty of Lisbon, which is one of the treaties that sets up the European Union.
  • To leave the EU, a country must invoke article 50, which is when the EU starts the process to leave.
  • The article 50 process sets a time limit of two years for exit negotiations.

2 What happens now it's triggered?

  • The government has a maximum of two years to plan for our departure and negotiate with the EU.
  • During this time, the government will need to agree the terms of the UK withdrawing from the EU.
  • The UK wants to establish what its new relationship with the EU will be on a range of issues such as travel, immigration and trade in this two-year period. The EU has debated whether this is possible in two years.
  • The government will also need to change UK laws to include, replace or alter EU laws we currently have - it is planning to include EU law in UK law through a bill called the Great Repeal Bill.

3 What does article 50 change?

  • Article 50 just starts the formal process of the withdrawal process and gives effect to the June referendum decision.
  • All our rights and laws associated with EU membership stay in place while the government negotiates with the EU.

4 What does it mean for individual citizens?

  • For now, the individual rights of citizens will not change. The government says it will bring all current EU laws into UK law ready for when we exit the EU.
  • After the UK has left the EU, likely to be in March 2019, the UK Parliament can change these laws.

5 What does it mean for lawyers?

  • As with citizens, nothing has changed. Even after Brexit, the law of England and Wales will retain its international commercial appeal and remain an attractive and stable jurisdiction with a high-quality legal profession, internationally respected courts, and the best law firms in the world that have attracted clients from across the globe for many years.
  • The Law Society has been working with the government to put forward the priorities of the legal services sector for the negotiations. These are:

    - Continued mutual access for lawyers to practise law and base themselves in the UK and EU member states, and for their clients to have legal professional privilege
    - Maintain mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments and respect for choice of jurisdictions clauses across the EU
    - Maintain collaboration in policing, security and criminal justice
    - Ensure legal certainty is maintained throughout the process of withdrawal
    - Ensure the government works effectively with the legal services sector to continue to promote England and Wales as the governing law of contracts, the jurisdiction of choice and London as the preferred seat of arbitration.

  • Read more about the priorities and our influencing work in our report Brexit and the Law.