Saturday 21 July 2018

'There is still Article 49...' - EU woos Britain to stay in EU for second day in a row

Jean-Claude Juncker in the European Parliament (FILE) AFP/Getty Images
Jean-Claude Juncker in the European Parliament (FILE) AFP/Getty Images

Jon Stone

The president of the European Commission has said he would like Britain to re-join the European Union after Brexit – using the little-known treaty clause “Article 49”.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg Jean-Claude Juncker said “the exit of Britain is a catastrophe” and suggested he would like Britain to stay.

But Mr Juncker added for the first time in public that even once Britain had left, it could still change its mind and return to the bloc by invoking another treaty clause.

“Once the British have left under Article 50 there is still Article 49 which allows a return to membership and I would like that,” he told MEPs.

“I would like us now to treat each other with respect and not abandon each other.”

Mr Juncker on Tuesday had endorsed a statement by European Council president Donald Tusk suggesting that Britain could still “change its mind” to leave, telling the British people that “our hearts are open to you”.

“Mr. Tusk and I once again reached out to the British government yesterday and said that if the British people, the British parliament, the British government, wish for another way than Brexit, we would be prepared to discuss it. We are not throwing out the British, we want them to stay,” he explained.

And if they want to, they should be able to. But I noticed that in London, they have reacted almost upset at this reaction. Be it as it may, once the British have left under Article 50 there is still Article 49 which allows a return to membership and I would like that. I would like us now to treat each other with respect and not abandon each other.”

Read more: Five things the Taoiseach said in his special address to the European Parliament

In March 2017 Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union, formally beginning the two-year legal process of Britain's exit, which is set to conclude in March 2019.

Article 49 is the normal way for a European country to join the union – a process that normally takes years. Any new member state requires the unanimous consent of the 27 member states on the European Council, the consent of the European Parliament, and consultation with the Commission.

It is unclear whether the EU would grant Britain its opt-outs and budget rebates were it to rejoin in this manner.

Polling suggests there has been little movement in how people would vote in a second EU referendum, were one called – with the results likely to be similar to the vote held in 2016.

Though there is still currently only minority support for holding a second plebiscite, polling reported earlier this week does suggest a majority would favour a second vote in the event of a 'no deal' Brexit.

Independent News Service

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