9th Apr 2020

Convention unveils opt-out clause for EU states

  • The constitutional treaty is set to be handed over at a special summit in Brussels on June 30. (Photo: European Commission)

The Convention on the Future of Europe today has revealed the long-awaited ratification and withdrawal from the Union articles - laying out the future nature of the European Union.

On retiring from the Union, article 46 suggests that member states should decide by qualified majority how the new relationship with the Union should be defined.

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This means that the remaining states decide on the nature and withdrawal from the Union - for example what sort of trade relationship could be maintained.

"The withdrawing state shall not participate in the Council's discussions or decisions concerning it," states the draft article.

However, it leaves open the question of what should happen if the 'withdrawing' member state refuses to agree to the terms of the new agreement - it simply says that two years after notification of wanting to leave the Union, "the constitution shall cease to apply to the state in question."

Help yourself

In the original draft treaty outline drawn up by the Convention last year, it was suggested that member states might have the chance to leave the EU "voluntarily."

But the Commission has strongly spoken against this, arguing that it would lead to a "self-service club."

The other article which has caused much interest is the ratification clause - since several countries are likely to hold a referendum on the final constitution .

The Convention draft says that if more than two years go by after the treaty has been signed and some countries have still not ratified it, then all member states will decide as a whole how to proceed. Each member state will have the power of veto.


This proposal has been watered down from previous suggestions in the presidium whereby once a certain number of states have ratified the treaty, it could come into being.

This is strongly along the Commission's line of thinking which suggested in its constitutional feasibility study that 5/6 of member states would be enough to get the new treaty off the ground.

"Thankfully, that has been stopped," said John Bruton, Irish member of the presidium mindful of the rejection by Irish citizens of the Nice Treaty.

The new article suggests that once "four fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or member states have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter shall be referred to the European Council" – where unanimity rules.

Unusually for the UK, as the government representative Peter Hain himself admitted, it is very approving of the articles. Mr Hain enthusiastically called them "excellent" on Friday morning.

The articles will be debated at the Convention plenary session on 24 and 25 April.


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