UK opt-outs from EU legislation

The UK has negotiated a number of exceptions (called opt-outs) from parts of EU legislation since it joined the EEC in the 1970’s.

Where the UK has negotiated such exceptions, the UK is not bound by EU rules in these areas, or has other special arrangements.

Economic and Monetary Union (EMU)

The UK has special status within the Economic and Monetary Union and retains control over its own economic and monetary policy:

  • the UK is under no obligation to join the euro and will not join the euro;
  • the UK does not participate in the Banking Union, and therefore retains responsibility for the supervision of UK banks;
  • the UK cannot be penalised under EU rules, unlike other Member States who are part of the Economic and Monetary Union;

The UK’s voting rights in the European Council are suspended for issues relating to eurozone matters.

EU Budget rebate

The UK benefits from a reduction in the amount it pays into the EU budget;

Schengen Area

The UK is not a member of the Schengen border-free area, retaining control overs its own borders. (Protocol 19)

As a consequence, it is necessary to have your passport checked when entering the UK and possibly when entering other EU countries.

Justice and Home Affairs

The UK can choose whether or not to participate in new EU measures in the Justice and Home Affairs field. This means that the UK does not automatically take part in measures but can opt in to those that it considers to be in the national interest. (Protocol 21)

Charter of Fundamental Human Rights

The UK obtained a clarifying protocol, Protocol 30, which clarifies that the Charter does not extend the ability of the European Court of Justice to find UK law inconsistent with the Charter.

This exemption was obtained because of fears the Charter would infringe on UK labour law.


Leaving EU

Leaving the EU – Lisbon Treaty Article 50 etc

The process for a member country to leave the EU is covered by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, as amended by the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.

Reference: The Lisbon Treaty – Article 50

Article 50 states
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.

Process for withdrawing from the EU

The UK government has produced a document which outlines the actual process for withdrawing from the European Union. The document was presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

The process for withdrawing from the European Union

update: 27th June 2016
I also noticed some posts from the UK Constitutional Law Association which discuss various legal aspects of the withdrawal process:

Nick Barber, Tom Hickman and Jeff King: Pulling the Article 50 ‘Trigger’: Parliament’s Indispensable Role

Kenneth Armstrong: Push Me, Pull You: Whose Hand on the Article 50 Trigger?

update: 29th June 2016
Richard Ekins: The Legitimacy of the Brexit Referendum

update: 08 July 2016

The legal consequences under international and EU Law – a collection of blog posts, papers prepared by the UK government, legal advice issued by leading lawyers, journal articles, and book chapters. Its purpose is to collect together legal analysis of the consequences of the Brexit under international law and EU law. Provided by the Oxford Public International Law

update: 14 July 2016

The future of the United Kingdom in Europe: Exit scenarios and their implications on trade relations.

This memorandum is a research paper prepared on a pro bono basis by students at the Graduate Institute of
International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva. It is a pedagogical exercise to train students in the
practice of international trade and investment law, not professional legal advice. As a result, this memorandum
cannot in any way bind, or lead to any form of liability or responsibility for its authors, the supervisor of the IHEID
Trade and Investment Law Clinic or the IHEID