Brexit: how the European Parliament will play a key role in deciding what happens next
After a majority of voters in the UK voted in favour of taking their country out of the EU on 23 July, the focus has been on what will happen next. The UK and the EU are now expected to negotiate to determine the terms of their new relationship and the European Parliament will play a key role in determining the outcome.
The right of a member state to withdraw from the EU is set out in article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. It describes how the EU and the withdrawing state need to negotiate a withdrawal agreement to define the country’s future relationship with the EU. Any agreement would have to be approved by both the European Parliament and the Council. The latter needs to approve it with a majority of at least 72% of Council members, comprising at least 65% of the EU’s
The European Parliament’s position
Parliament President Martin Schulz and the leaders of the political groups held an extraordinary meeting on 24 June after the result of the UK referendum became known.
Shortly afterwards Parliament President Martin Schulz met with European Council President Donald Tusk, European Council President Jean-Claude Juncker and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to discuss the outcome of the referendum. Afterwards they released a joint statement, saying that although the regretted the decision, they respected it. They also called on the UK government to act on the outcome: “We now expect the United Kingdom government to give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible, however painful that process may be. Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty.”
The European Parliament held an extraordinary plenary session in Brussels on Tuesday 28 June for MEPs to discuss and vote on a resolution assessing the outcome of the UK referendum and its consequences for the European Union.
In a resolution adopted the same day, MEPs called on the UK to officially withdraw from the EU before any new relationship arrangements can be made. They also stressed the urgent need for reforms to ensure that the EU lives up to its people’s expectations.
In a speech at the start of a Council summit on 28 June during which Brexit was discussed, European Parliament President Martin Schulz reiterated his call for the UK to act swiftly. He said he regretted the choice made by UK citizens but that their will needed to be fully respected and implemented as soon as possible. Schulz also added that Parliament would have to give its consent to the outcome of the negotiations with the UK and thus must be fully involved at all stages.
Schulz also stressed the need for the EU to change during his speech: “The European Parliament is convinced that things cannot go on as they have in recent years… We need to relaunch the European idea, to show a capacity for self-criticism, an awareness of where we should reform the EU to deliver more effectively and make it closer to citizens.”
MEPs already debated the UK referendum and its possible consequences during a plenary debate on 24 February. Most MEPs said the country would be better off in the EU, while others insisted it would benefit from leaving.
Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron visited the European Parliament in February to discuss a possible reform of the UK’s EU membership.