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The letter that invoked Article 50.

The procedure for a Member State to withdraw from the European Union is set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The Member State has to formally notify the European Council and start a negotiation period of up to two years. After this period the European treaties cease to apply, although a leaving agreement may be agreed. Aspects such as trade may be difficult to negotiate until the UK has left the EU.[1]

After the referendum

The 2016 Referendum Act did not specifically state that Article 50 had to be invoked.[2] However, the Government expected that a leave vote would be followed by withdrawal,[3][4] but no contingency plans were drawn up for a leave vote.[5] Following the referendum result David Cameron resigned and said that it would be for the incoming Prime Minister to invoke Article 50.[6][7]

Miller case

In January 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in R (Miller and Dos Santos) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that Parliamentary approval was necessary before triggering Article 50.[8]

Question: Do you think the Government needed Parliamentary approval to invoke Article 50?

Article 50 Bill

The House of Commons overwhelmingly voted, on 1 February 2017, in favour of the Bill to invoke Article 50,[9] it passed into law as the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.

Theresa May signed the letter invoking Article 50 on 28 March 2017, which was delivered on 29 March to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, thereby triggering the negotiation period.[10]

Divorce bill

There have been suggestions that the UK might have to pay a "divorce bill" of up to £52bn, although the European Union Committee of the House of Lords reported on 4 March 2017 that the UK could withdraw without payment if there is no post-Brexit deal.[11]

Question: Why might the UK have to pay to leave?


Subsequently President Tusk sent draft guidelines for the negotiations to EU delegations from the 27 other member states (EU27), setting out the overall positions and principles that the Union will pursue.

The overall objective will be to preserve the interests of the EU, those of its Member States, its citizens and its businesses, and, in the best interest of both sides, the Union will be constructive throughout and strive to find an agreement.

Negotiations are likely to be delayed until after the snap UK general election, which takes place on 8 June 2017.


  1. Wintour, P. (22 July 2016). "UK officials seek draft agreements with EU before triggering article 50". The Guardian.
  2. Renwick, A. (19 January 2016). "What happens if we vote for Brexit?". The Constitution Unit Blog.
  3. Wright, B. "Reality Check: How plausible is second EU referendum?". BBC.
  4. HM Government (23 June 2016). "Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK" (PDF).
  5. Wintour, D. (20 July 2016). "Cameron accused of 'gross negligence' over Brexit contingency plans". The Guardian.
  6. "Brexit: David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU". BBC.
  7. Cooper, C. (27 June 2016). "David Cameron rules out second EU referendum after Brexit". The Independent.
  8. Bowcott, O.; Mason, R.; Asthana, A. (24 January 2017). "Supreme court rules parliament must have vote to trigger article 50". The Guardian.
  9. "Brexit: MPs overwhelmingly back Article 50 bill". BBC. 1 February 2017.
  10. "Article 50: May signs letter that will trigger Brexit". BBC News. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  11. "Brexit: UK 'not obliged' to pay divorce bill say peers". BBC. 4 March 2017.