While most are aware of article 50 that paves the way for Britain to retreat from its involvement in the European bloc, few actually know that there is also a framework and process in place to allow the UK to return to the table whenever it wants.
As European leaders crank up the campaign to encourage the British public to rethink their stance on Europe, seizing on the growing uncertainty that exists within many areas to hold another national referendum over the impact of an exit, details have now emerged for the first time over article 49 which allows the UK to rejoin the Treaty at any given time.
In an interview, Adam Garrie, influential political commentator and director of Eurasia Future, believes the legal clause could now be utilized to keep the European family together as growing numbers of Brits are starting to realize the full impact of a split away from the other 27 states.
To succeed in #Europe, we have to put an end to the eternal artificial opposition between the #Union and its Member States. Our Union can only be built with our Member States, not against them. #FutureOfEurope debate with @Europarl_EN, @campaignforleo @BoykoBorissov @ratasjuri. pic.twitter.com/ifM21fW8Jf— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) 17 January 2018
absolutely love that there is something called ‘article 49’ that does the opposite of article 50 https://t.co/L3kA2UhyRW— Jon Stone (@joncstone) 17 January 2018
"The reason that most people aren't aware of article 49 is because the 2007 European Union Treat is an incredibly long and at time impenetrable legal document. It seems that no journalists writing about Brexit bothered to actually read the relevant parts of the treaty," he told Sputnik.
"The reason that Jean-Claude Junker brought the issue up is because he's trying to seize on the fact that many people in the UK have changed their minds about Brexit. While it remains a deeply polarizing subject there have been indications that if people were to vote on Brexit today, knowing what they know now, the remain vote would win, albeit not by a huge margin. Junker is clearly capitalizing on this trend." he added.
Details surrounding the legal clause that would allow Britain to rejoin Europe were revealed on January 17, 2018, by the European Commission president during a debate in the European Parliament.
Mr.Junker confirmed that Britain would still be welcome to reverse Brexit now if it chose to do so. His comments were also echoed by Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, who has also urged the UK to step back from the brink and reconsider its position.
Escapees from prison don't usually turn round immediately and bang on the door, demanding to go back inside. Juncker is off his head, if he thinks there is any chance of Britain re-joining the EU. #UKIP #ForTheNation #DrosYGenedl @UKIP https://t.co/B42iYQKvOf— Neil Hamilton AC/AM (@NeilUKIP) 17 January 2018
Oh Here We Go… Now there's an Article 49 that says that we could join again after #Brexit… Knowing what we all know now, who in their right mind would join the EU today? I say #BrexitForeverhttps://t.co/KiSV2YrKm3— The_Fogeys (@TheFogeys) January 17, 2018
Until now, article 50 — which allows a state to leave the EU — is the far more famous cousin of article 49. Article 50 spells out the process by which a state leaves.
By contrast, article 49 is the opposite as it spells out how countries may actually join the EU.
It specifies that a country wishing to join must submit its request to the European Council — the heads of state and government of the members of the EU. Currently there are 28, when Britain leaves this will fall to 27, though there could be more if other countries such as Turkey join after the UK quits.
The council must approve the application unanimously. It also requires the consent of the European Parliament — essentially a vote of all the MEPs.
Article 49 also states that the decision must be taken in consultation with the European Commission — Mr Juncker's institution, which is essentially the EU's combined bureaucracy and executive.
Britain could, of course, decide to halt Brexit negotiations at any given time. This would involve revoking article 50, rather than triggering Article 49.
There remains differing legal opinions, however, on whether article 50 can be unilaterally revoked by a member state, but Mr Juncker and Mr Tusk have said they would support Britain remaining if it decided to do so today, so this should not be a problem, as long as both sides agree.
On paper, the EU would be under no obligation to offer Britain its budget rebate, or its opt-outs from various areas of EU law, such as joining the euro — the UK would be treated as a new country joining the bloc.
However, nobody in the Commission has actually explicitly spelled out whether Britain would keep either of these things. It is likely that they would be up for negotiation.
Conversely, revoking Article 50 before Britain has left would likely see the UK retain its existing special deal.