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EU withdrawal would be complex and daunting, Committee finds

4 May 2016

The EU Committee publishes a report stating that if the UK votes to leave the EU, negotiating withdrawal would be a "complex and daunting task".

Key findings

  • The Committee concludes that Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union provides the only method of withdrawal that is consistent with EU and international law.
  • Member States would be the key players throughout the negotiations, while the European Parliament's power to veto the final withdrawal agreement and any agreement on the UK's future relationship would give it significant influence.
  • Negotiations would be lengthy, needing to cover not only how the UK leaves the EU, but also the UK's new relationship with the European Union. While no exact precedent exists, comparable trade deals with the EU and non-EU states have taken between four and nine years.
  • Negotiations would need to cover the acquired rights of some 2 million* UK citizens resident in the EU, and a similar number of EU citizens in the UK.
  • The credibility of the UK within the EU, while negotiating its withdrawal, would be undermined; the Committee concludes that in the event of a decision to withdraw from the EU the Government should consider alternatives to the forthcoming UK Presidency of the EU, scheduled for the second half of 2017.

* Since publication of the Committee's report, it has been brought to the Committee's attention that the figure of 2 million citizens living in the EU, which was cited in evidence to the Committee, and which appears in paragraph 4.2 of the Government's report on The Process for Withdrawing from the European Union, has been superseded. More recent estimates from the United Nations put the figure at around 1.2 million.  

What next? 

The Committee has invited the Government to respond to the report, and a debate will be held in due course.

Further information

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