Revoking Brexit: Can Member States Rescind Their Declaration of Withdrawal from the European Union?
40 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2017 Last revised: 28 Nov 2018
Date Written: September 10, 2016
In June 2016, British voters did the unthinkable: by a narrow margin, they voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. While this referendum was not legally binding, the new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has left no doubt that she will abide by the outcome and declare the United Kingdom’s withdrawal in 2017.
Such a move is entirely legal. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) explicitly authorizes Member States to declare their unilateral withdrawal from the European Union. By default, the country’s membership ends two years after such a declaration. But does — and should — a Member State have the right to change its mind and rescind its declaration before the withdrawal takes effect?
While the existing literature essentially ignores this issue, I argue that the answer to both questions should be yes. Using insights from game theory, I show that a Member State’s ability to rescind its declaration of withdrawal plays an essential role in securing outcomes that are desirable for the European Union as a whole. Moreover, one can also make a strong doctrinal case in favor of such a right.
Keywords: Brexit, Withdrawal, European Union, Revocation, May
JEL Classification: K2, K33, K10, K19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation