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Eeckhout, P.; Frantziou, E. (2016)
Publisher: UCL European Institute
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: UOW8
This article considers the constitutional requirements and implications of Article 50 TEU for the EU. It argues that it is essential to read Article 50 in light of the features of the Treaty of which it forms part together with its drafting context, that of the Convention on the Future of Europe, as well as the substantive protections of EU constitutional law. The article demonstrates that important constitutional constraints are in place in EU law, which can affect the most significant debates in the withdrawal process, namely: the manner in which notification to withdraw from the Union is given; the revocability of a decision to withdraw; and the legal basis and content of the withdrawal agreement. Most importantly, a reading of Article 50 informed by key constitutional features of the EU legal order stipulates clear duties for the EU to respect the UK’s constitutional requirements and to protect, in any eventual agreement, acquired rights for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, by emphasizing the illegality of a non-compliant withdrawal agreement from the EU perspective.
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    • 2. On the difference with prior withdrawals, see Tatham, “Don't mention divorce at the wedding, darling!: EU accession and withdrawal after Lisbon” in Eeckhout, Biondi, and Ripley (Eds.), EU Law After Lisbon (OUP, 2012), p. 148.
    • 3. R (Miller) v. Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) (“Miller Divisional Court”); R (on the application of Miller and another) (Respondents) v. Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Appellant) [2017] UKSC 5 (“Miller Supreme Court”).
    • 4. Weiler, “Editorial: The case for a kinder, gentler Brexit”, 15 I-CON (2017).
    • 5. See further Fabbrini, “How Brexit opens a window of opportunity for Treaty reform in the EU”, (2016) Delors Institut/Bertelsmann Stiftung: Spotlight Europe, (last visited 29 Mar. 2017).
    • 6. Case C-26/62, Van Gend en Loos v. Nederlandse Administratie der Belastingen, EU:C:1963:1.
    • 7. Case C-294/83, Parti Ecologiste “Les Verts” v. Parliament, EU:C:1986:166, para 23.
    • 8. Grimm, “The democratic costs of constitutionalisation: The European case”, 21 ELJ (2015), 469-471.
    • 9. Loughlin, The Idea of Public Law (OUP, 2003), pp. 5-7.
    • 10. Kostakopoulou, “Brexit, voice and loyalty: Reflections on Article 50 TEU”, 41 EL Rev. (2016), 488.
    • 11. The right of voluntary withdrawal from the Union was initially envisaged as Art. 46 in Ch. X of the first part of the Constitution entitled “Membership of the Union”. It was renumbered Art. 59 in the Constitution's final draft.
    • 12. The Presidency Conclusions of the Brussels European Council of 21-22 June 2007, in which the main reforms to the Constitutional Treaty are discussed mention the withdrawal clause only in passing: see Brussels European Council Presidency Conclusions, 20 July 2007, 11177/1/07 REV 1, para 16.
    • 13. Dowdle and Wilkinson, “On the limits of constitutional liberalism: In search of a constitutional reflexivity”, (2015) NUS Law Working Paper, 6-7.
    • 14. Ackerman, “The Storrs lectures: Discovering the constitution”, 93 Yale Law Journal (1984), 1040.
    • 15. Art. 2 TEU.
    • 16. Case C-26/72, Van Gend en Loos.
    • 17. See Letsas, “The Constitution and the folly of majoritarianism”, UK Constitutional Law Blog, 20 Feb. 2017, (last visited 10 Mar. 2017).
    • 18. See Mantouvalou, “EU citizens as bargaining chips”, UK Constitutional Law Blog, 14 July 2016, (last visited 10 Dec. 2016).
    • 19. Case C-26/72, Van Gend en Loos.
    • 20. Perhaps most illustratively, see the creation of rights in the Kadi litigation: Joined Cases C-402 & 415/05 P, Kadi and Al Barakaat v. Council and Commission, EU:C:2008:461; Joined Cases C-584, 593, & 595/10 P, Commission and Others v. Kadi, EU:C:2013:518.
    • 21. Case C-26/72, Van Gend en Loos.
    • 22. Case C-36/74, Walrave and Koch, EU:C:1974:140; Case C-415/93, Bosman, EU:C:1995:463; Case C-43/75, Defrenne v. Sabena, EU:C:1976:56.
    • 23. See Case C-8/74, Dassonville, EU:C:1974:82; Case C-171/11, Fra.bo, EU:C:2012:453.
    • 24. Andrew Duff notes that over 1200 regulations and directives currently apply to the UK: Duff, “After Brexit: A new Association Agreement between Britain and Europe”, Policy Network Paper, Oct. 2016, (last visited 11 Dec. 2016), 8.
    • 25. Arts. 34 and 56 TFEU respectively.
    • 26. Arts. 56 and 49 TFEU respectively.
    • 27. Arts. 45, 21, 18 TFEU; Regulation (EU) 492/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 Apr. 2011 on freedom of movement for workers within the Union, O.J. 2011, L 141/1.
    • 28. Arts. 21-26 Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, O.J. 2012, C 326/02 (EUCFR); Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 Nov. 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, O.J. 2000, L 303/16.
    • 29. Arts. 20 and 22 TFEU.
    • 30. Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers, O.J. 1989, C 120/52; Arts. 27 et seq. EUCFR.
    • 31. Art. 12 TFEU; Art. 38 EUCFR.
    • 32. Art. 191 TFEU; Art. 37 EUCFR.
    • 33. Art. 171 TFEU.
    • 34. Council Regulation (EC) 44/2001 of 22 Dec. 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, O.J. 2011, L 12/1 (“Brussels Regulation”).
    • 35. Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 Apr. 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, O.J. 2004, L 229/35.
    • 36. Arts. 7-8 EUCFR; Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 Oct. 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, O.J. 1995, L 281/31.
    • 37. Art. 51 EUCFR; Art. 6 TEU.
    • 38. Department for Exiting the European Union White Paper, “Legislating for the United Kingdom's Withdrawal from the European Union”, Cm. 9446, Mar. 2017, (last visited 3 Apr. 2017); see also Douglas-Scott, “The 'Great Repeal Bill': Constitutional chaos and constitutional crisis?”, UK Constitutional Law Blog, 10 Oct. 2016, (last visited 11 Dec. 2016); Simpson-Caird, “Legislating for Brexit: The Great Repeal Bill”, House of Commons Library Briefing Paper No. 7793, 23 Feb. 2017, (last visited 9 Mar. 2017).
    • 39. Miller Divisional Court, para 61; Miller Supreme Court, paras. 69-72.
    • 40. For a detailed analysis of the legal effects of withdrawal on different types of EU law rights in the UK, see Łazowski, “EU withdrawal: Good business for British business?”, 21 EPL (2016), 121-126.
    • 41. Art. 48 TEU.
    • 42. McCrea, “Forward or back: The future of European integration and the impossibility of the status quo”, 2017 ELJ, forthcoming.
    • 43. Weiler, “The transformation of Europe”, 100 Yale Law Journal (1991), esp. 2417-19. See also Stone Sweet, The Judicial Construction of Europe (OUP, 2004), p. 53.
    • 44. Streinz, “Cooperative Brexit: Giving back control over trade policy”, (2017) I-CON, forthcoming.
    • 45. See Art. 3(5) TEU.
    • 46. O'Brien, “Article 50 was designed 'NEVER to be used' - says the man who wrote the EU divorce clause”, Sunday Express, 23 July 2016, (last visited 10 Dec. 2016).
    • 47. Lenaerts and Gutiérrez-Fons, “To say what the law of the EU is: Methods of interpretation and the European Court of Justice”, (2013) EUI Working Paper AEL 2013/09, 21.
    • 48. Ibid.
    • 49. Ibid., 24.
    • 50. See List of proposed amendments to the text of the Articles of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, “Part I of the Constitution: Article 59”, 39, (last visited 19 Dec. 2016).
    • 51. Ibid., 18.
    • 52. See ibid; e.g. the Dutch, Portuguese, Luxembourgish, German, Greek, and Austrian representatives had sought its deletion.
    • 53. Ibid., 5.
    • 54. Ibid.
    • 55. Ibid., 7.
    • 56. Ibid., 24, 20 and 26.
    • 57. Ibid., 8.
    • 58. Ibid., 4.
    • 59. Ibid.
    • 60. European Convention, “The European Union: Four possible models”, contribution by Mr Lamassoure, member of the Convention, 3 Sept. 2002, CONV 235/02.
    • 61. Tatham, op. cit. supra note 2, 148.
    • 62. European Convention, “A European Constitution”, contribution from M. Robert Badinter, alternate member of the Convention, 30 Sept. 2002, CONV 317/02.
    • 63. European Convention, “Document from the Praesidium: Preliminary draft Constitutional Treaty”, 28 Oct. 2002, CONV 369/02.
    • 64. European Convention, “Draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe”, 18 Jul. 2003, CONV 850/03.
    • 69. For debate on the merits, see Klabbers, “Continent in crisis”, 27 EJIL (2016), 553; Costa, “Interpreting Article 50: Exit and voice and… What about loyalty?”, (2016) EUI Working Papers RSCAS 2016/71.
    • 70. Hillion, “Leaving the European Union, the Union way: A legal analysis of Article 50”, (2016) Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies: European Policy Analysis, 2016-8, 6 (last visited 29 Mar. 2017). See also Medhi, “Brèves observations sur la consécration constitutionnelle d'un droit de retrait volontaire” in Demaret, Govaere and Hanf (Eds.), 30 Years of European Legal Studies at the College of Europe/30 ans d'études juridiques européennes au Collège d'Europe: Liber Professorum 1973/74-2003/04 (P.I.E.-Peter Lang, 2005).
    • 71. Council of the European Union, “Draft guidelines following the United Kingdom's notification under Article 50 TEU”, 31 Mar. 2017, XT 21001/17, 5, para 6.
    • 72. This can be contrasted with the position detailed in the Guidelines, ibid., 3, para 1, emphasizing that there can be no “cherry picking” on the part of the UK.
    • 76. Miller Supreme Court, para 101.
    • 77. See R (Jackson) v. Attorney General [2005] UKHL 56.
    • 78. Miller Supreme Court, para 121.
    • 79. Ibid., para 122.
    • 80. Edward, Jacobs, Lever, Mountfield and Facenna, “In the matter of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union”, Opinion for Bindmans LLP, 10 Feb. 2017, (last visited 3 Apr. 2017).
    • 85. Gordon, “Brexit: A challenge for the UK constitution, of the UK constitution?”, 12 EuConst (2016), 411.
    • 86. Ibid., 436-437.
    • 87. Transcript of Miller Divisional Court hearing, 19, (last visited 1 Dec. 2016).
    • 88. The Supreme Court affirmed the Divisional Courts finding on this, at para 26.
    • 89. Eeckhout, “Miller and the Art 50 notification: Revocability is irrelevant”, London-Brussels One-Way or Return: A cross-channel Europe blog by Piet Eeckhout, 14 Nov. 2016, (last visited 11 Dec. 2016).
    • 95. Ibid.
    • 96. Phillipson, “A dive into deep constitutional waters: Article 50, the prerogative and parliament”, 79 MLR (2016), 1069.
    • 97. On the latter point see Gordon, op. cit. supra note 85 at 429.
    • 98. See Saydé, “Defining the concept of abuse of Union law”, 33 YEL (2014), 138 and, more generally, Saydé, Abuse of EU Law and Regulation of the Internal Market (Hart, 2014). The concept of abuse in EU law so far has mainly concerned issues such as the abuse of welfare protections (see e.g. Case C-333/13, Dano, EU:C:2014:2358) and questions of a regulatory “race to the bottom” due to convenient choice of law - a question that became particularly clear in Case C-438/05, ITWF v. Viking Line, EU:C:2007:772.
    • 103. Draft guidelines, cited supra note 71, para 4. For a useful summary of this view, see Flavier and Platon, “Brexit: A tale of two agreements?”, European Law Blog, 30 Aug. 2016, (last visited 11 Dec. 2016).
    • 104. See e.g. Maresceau, “A typology of mixed bilateral agreements” in Hillion and Koutrakos (Eds.), Mixed Agreements Revisited: The EU and its Member States in the World (Hart, 2010), p. 17.
    • 105. See e.g. Eeckhout, EU External Relations Law, 2nd ed. (OUP, 2011), chapters 2-5.
    • 109. Art. 79 TFEU.
    • 110. See, for the latest account of implied powers, Opinion 3/15, Marrakesh Treaty, EU:C:2017:114.
    • 111. Opinion of A.G. Sharpston in Opinion 2/15, FTA with Singapore, EU:C:2016:992.
    • 112. See also Case C-431/11, UK v. Council EU:C:2013:589; and Case C-656/11, UK v. Council EU:C:2014:97 (confirming Art. 48 TFEU as the legal basis for new provisions on social security in the context of, respectively, the EEA and the EU-Switzerland agreement on free movement of persons).
    • 113. E.g. see Danish amendment, List of proposed amendments, cited supra note 50 at 20.
    • 114. See also the Draft guidelines, cited supra note 71.
    • 115. Opinion 2/13, EU:C:2014:2454; Joined Cases C-402 & 415/05 P, Kadi and Al Barakaat.
    • 116. We note that existing rights under EU law do not pertain merely to the doctrine of acquired rights under international law and, particularly Art. 70(1)b of the VCLT, which has a narrower reach. The latter doctrine would likely have a limited impact on the conduct of the negotiations: see Lalive, “The doctrine of acquired rights” in Rights and Duties of Private Investors Abroad (Matthew Bender, 1965), pp. 145 et seq.; Douglas-Scott, “What happens to 'acquired rights' in the event of a Brexit?”, UK Constitutional Law Blog, 16 May 2016, (last visited 19 Dec. 2016); Piris, “Should the UK withdraw from the EU: Legal aspects and possible options”, Foundation Robert Schuman Policy Paper
    • 120. Human Rights Committee, “The human rights implications of Brexit: Written evidence from Dr Kirsty Hughes”, HRB0009, (last visited 11 Dec. 2016), paras. 5-25.
    • 121. See Case C-11/70, Internationale Handelsgesellschaft, EU:C:1970:114, para 4; see also Case C-4/73, Nold v. Commission, EU:C:1974:51, para 13; Case C-44/79, Hauer v. Land Rheinland-Pfalz, EU:C:1979:290, paras. 15-17.
    • 122. Case C-501/10, Kamberaj, EU:C:2012:233, paras. 62-63 and 80.
    • 123. Directive 2004/38/EC, cited supra note 35, Arts. 2-3.
    • 124. Hughes, cited supra note 120, paras. 27-31. See ECtHR, Abdulaziz, Cabales and Balkandali v. United Kingdom, Appl. Nos. 9214/80, 9473/81 and 9474/81, judgment of 28 May 1985; ECtHR, Gül v. Switzerland, Appl. No. 23218/94, judgment of 19 Feb.1996; ECtHR, Ahmut v. Netherlands, Appl. No. 21702/93, judgment of 28 Nov. 1996; ECtHR, Sen v. Netherlands, Appl. No. 31465/96, judgment of 21 Dec. 2001; ECtHR, Senchishak v. Finland, Appl. No. 5049/12, judgment of 18 Nov. 2014; ECtHR, AS v. Switzerland, Appl. No. 39350/13, judgment of 30 June 2015.
    • 125. Directive 2004/38/EC, cited supra note 35, Arts. 2, 3 and 7.
    • 126. See, by analogy Case C-413/99, Baumbast, EU:C:2002:493; Case C-200/02, Zhu and Chen, EU:C:2004:639; Case C-127/08, Metock and Others, EU:C:2008:449; Case C-34/09, Ruiz Zambrano, EU:C:2011:124.
    • 127. ECtHR, Chapman v. the United Kingdom, Appl. No. 27238/95, judgment of 18 Jan. 2001, para 102.
    • 128. ECtHR, Tyrer v. the United Kingdom, Appl. No. 5856/72, judgment of 25 Apr. 1978, para 31.
    • 129. ECtHR, Sidabras and Dziautas v. Lithuania, Appl. No. 55480/00, judgment of 27 July 2004; see further Mantouvalou, “Work and private life: Sidabras and Dziautas v. Lithuania” 30 EL Rev. (2005), 573; Mantouvalou, op. cit. supra note 18.
    • 130. ECtHR, Goodwin v. the United Kingdom, Appl. No. 28957/95, 27 Mar. 1996, para 100. See also, for a more detailed analysis, Dickson, “The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights” (2015) European Human Rights Law Review, 40.
    • 131. Art. 3(5) TEU.
    • 132. Ibid., Art. 3(1).
    • 133. Mantouvalou, op. cit. supra note 18.
    • 134. Ibid.; Lock and Patel, “Brexit: Constitutional and legal requirements”, UCL Public Policy Research Insights, July 2016, (last visited 11 Dec. 2016). See also House of Lord European Union Committee, Brexit: Acquired rights, 10th Report of Session 2016-17, HL Paper 82, paras. 88-92, (last visited 15 Dec. 2016).
    • 135. Case C-617/10, Åkerberg Fransson, EU:C:2013:105, para 19.
    • 136. House of Lord European Union Committee, Brexit: Acquired rights, cited supra note 134, paras. 147-148.
    • 137. See e.g. Ross and Rankin, “European Parliament Brexit chief: 'Let Britons keep freedom of movement'”, The Guardian, 10 Mar. 2017, (last visited 11 Mar. 2017).
    • 138. European Council Press Releases and Statements, “Statement by the European Council (Art. 50) on the UK notification”, cited supra note 1; European Council Press Releases and Statements, “Remarks by President Donald Tusk following the UK notification”, No. 160/17, 29 Mar. 2017, (last visited 29 Mar. 2017).
    • 139. Draft guidelines, cited supra note 71 at 5, para 8.
    • 140. Craig, op. cit. supra note 92 at 455.
    • 141. In the UK, these concerns are severe: the UK Government itself has sought to collect data relating to EU status in the latest school census (Department for Education, “National statistics: Schools, pupils and their characteristics”, Jan. 2016, ), for which it has been
    • 148. As Schonberg points out, a distinction can be made between prospective revocation of rights and retrospective revocation, in the sense that the latter has far more profound implications for the right-holders: op. cit. supra note 146 at 258-259.
    • 149. 33R (SG & Ors) v. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2015] UKSC 16, para 235; Fredman et al., “The human rights implications of Brexit”, Oxford Human Rights Hub Submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on Brexit, 12 Oct. 2016, 15-16, (last visited 13 Apr. 2017).
    • 150. Opinion of A.G. Jacobs in Case C-168/91, Konstantinidis, EU:C:1992:504, para 46.
    • 151. Case C-184/99, Grzelczyk, EU:C:2001:458, para 31; see also Case C-413/99, Baumbast; Case C-34/09, Ruiz Zambrano.
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