Article 50 is a formal mechanism that the UK has to trigger to leave the European Union. It is part of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), often referred to as the Lisbon Treaty.
How and when it is triggered is hugely significant to Unite members because it is fundamental to the UK’s future trade arrangements, and therefore to members’ jobs.
Article 50 is activated when a member of the EU gives notice for negotiations on withdrawal to start. There is no going back when this happens - Article 50 cannot be reversed.
Once Article 50 is triggered, there are just two years for the exit terms to be negotiated, unless every other EU member country agrees it can be longer. If agreement has not been reached by the end of those two years, the UK will simply stop being a member of the EU, without access to the single market and with no other trading relationship with Europe in place.
This is the worst case scenario, but could happen if the UK goes into those negotiations in a position of weakness, not knowing what will replace EU membership.
Unite says that Article 50 must not be triggered until it is a clear what future relationship with the EU the government wants and what the EU is prepared to give, including what replacement trade arrangements will look like.
Without knowing what will be in the exit agreement, triggering Article 50 could be a disaster for the British economy, jobs and workers’ rights.
Unite will campaign to stop it happening until we know exactly how our members’ jobs and living standards will be protected post-Brexit.