Britain in Brussels after the Referendum: Insider or Outsider?

Michael Shackleton


For the first time in its history the European Union (EU) is faced with the prospect of losing one of its member states. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union lays down the formal provisions that have to be respected to manage such a loss but it is silent on the precise status of the departing member state during that period. In practice, following the 23 June referendum, the United Kingdom has become both an insider and an outsider. It will be negotiating its departure with the 27 other states, seeking to define its future position as a non-member and yet until that departure has been ratified, it will remain legally a full member of all EU institutions, with the corresponding rights and duties. This commentary will consider the impact of this unique intermediate position on the role of Britain and its behaviour in Brussels. It will suggest that it will inevitably find itself in an ever weaker position, no longer enjoying the trust and confidence afforded to other states within the EU. The give and take of bargaining and compromise that marks out the way the EU operates will be rapidly superseded by the less forgiving, more confrontational world of interstate bargaining.


Article 50; UK referendum; EU institutions; withdrawal from the EU

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