The only way for a nation state to leave the European Union is by enacting article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Widespread expectation in the UK prior to Friday was that this would be enacted on Friday assuming we voted to leave, as much because of the way in which the Brexit camp presented the day as being the first working day after what some of them called Independence day. However David Cameron and some of his Government colleagues made it clear that they had other ideas and they did not plan for this to happen on Friday or indeed any time soon, indeed some commentators have suggested this may never happen. As we have heard in our news the EU leaders have called on the UK to enact this as soon as possible. However this may be easier said than done.
1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
There is no other way out, even if all 27 current members voted for us to be thrown out, that would have no impact. The problem is that our own constitution is a great deal less clear than might be assumed, and famously is not written down. It is partly because of this lack of clarity that on 4th May the House of Lords, European Union Committee published a document titled “The process of withdrawing from the European Union” As part of the process of preparing this document the Committee spoke to two experts, one of whom was Sir David Edward, a former Judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union and Professor Emeritus at the School of Law, University of Edinburgh. He is mentioned in paragraph 70 of the document:
The role of the devolved legislatures in implementing the withdrawal agreement
70. We asked Sir David whether he thought the Scottish Parliament would have to give its consent to measures extinguishing the application of EU law in Scotland. He noted that such measures would entail amendment of section 29 of the Scotland Act 1998, which binds the Scottish Parliament to act in a manner compatible with EU law, and he therefore believed that the Scottish Parliament’s consent would be required. He could envisage certain political advantages being drawn from not giving consent.
It is clearly far too early to make sense of what this means for a Government that appears to be in melt down, with an impoverished opposition. However this seems to be at the heart of why Nicola Sturgeon is seen as something of an article breaker or maker. Her willingness and that of the Scottish Parliament to consent to article 5o being enacted seems unlikely. So where does that leave us?