Farage on Brexit: ‘The only mechanism by which we can withdraw is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty’

It is noteworthy that when it comes to discussion about how the UK should go about leaving the EU in a legal and structured manner that , the only place where the mechanism was properly considered and investigated was by Richard North on the EU Referendum blog with support in the Telegraph and Daily Mail from Christopher Booker.  The conclusion was that the UK must invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon.

After many discussions with Richard and reviewing the information about the process, it became clear Richard was right and the legal exit process was clear and defined, even if it is only the start of a long and complex process.  It is the only provision that guarantees and requires the EU to discuss with a member state withdrawal from the union and negotiate what relationship that member state will have with the EU after exit – thus ensuring the UK can protect its economic and commercial interests, particularly with regard to trade.  Hence this blog began to advocate the Article 50 route in addition to a number of other blogs that had weighed in with support and additional analysis to advance the case.

So it has been frustrating thereafter to see a number of vocal Eurosceptics arguing that Article 50 is a ‘trap’ and arguing behind the scenes – only occasionally breaking cover on forums – that the mechanism for exit should be a simple repeal of the European Communities Act (ECA).  Overnight, via this scorched earth approach, the UK would be independent in so much as all treaties that bind us into adhering to EU law would fall.

However, it would also mean the UK would have no trade agreement with the EU – or any country or bloc with whom trade agreements have been made by the EU on the UK’s behalf – and no customs arrangements enabling our goods to enter the customs union.  ‘Ha, it doesn’t matter.  They sell more to us than we do to them, so a trade agreement would be in place within 24 hours,’ runs the argument of the scorched earthers, pretending the complexities of international trade and product standards with a bloc representing 27 other countries can be sorted out in a day.  In fact, Lord Digby Jones, the former Labour trade minister in the House of Lords, made this very argument at the UKIP conference the other day, demonstrating a capacity for delusion and level of ignorance that is truly breathtaking and disturbing in equal measure.

North’s hard work and detailed argument was however of interest to many Eurosceptics and UKIP members.  Ploughing a lonely furrow for a long time, EU Referendum (with minor assistance from Autonomous Mind) continued to explain the merits and protections of the Article 50 route to raise awareness among those who wanted to answer that longstanding question about Brexit – how it could be done. It was therefore extremely gratifying to see at Farage’s Q&A session at the UKIP conference that the first two questions raised by UKIP members concerned the ‘how‘ and focused on Article 50.

It was a measure of North’s success in bringing the mechanism issue to the forefront of the Brexit agenda, when even UKIP’s leadership was refusing to define the approach it endorsed and was planning for.  In answer to the question, Nigel Farage finally came off the fence and told the UKIP audience (as you can see in the first five minutes of the video below):


“The only mechanism by which we can withdraw is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.”

Farage did explain he is not comfortable with it because the Lisbon Treaty was not put to the British people, and applied a caveat that if the EU messed the UK around he would make a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, but he accepts it as the only appropriate and legal mechanism for starting Brexit.  This is a huge step forward.

We now have clarity about the mechanism and the approach UKIP accepts must be taken, contradicting the scorched earth approach pushed by UKIP MEP Gerard Batten and UKIP’s economic adviser and former leadership hopeful, Tim Congdon.  An important part of the battle has been won.  The persistence of one blogger, supported by some other blogs and a continuously growing number of Eurosceptics convinced by arguments for Article 50, has brought us to this point.  Richard deserves recognition and huge thanks for this.

The next step is for UKIP to start work on understanding what issues need to be negotiated and establishing the position the UK needs to take to get what it wants out of the negotiation.  It needs to engage people who understand what needs to be negotiated to ensure the UK is not adversely affected by withdrawal and formulate the approach to follow.  This has two benefits

  1. UKIP can genuinely declare to voters that it has a plan for leaving that does not harm UK interests
  2. UKIP can assure the business community that after exit, companies will not lose access to their European markets or ability to hire skilled employees from Europe

Only a high level explanation needs to be given, to give people confidence that there is a detailed plan behind the summary that covers the areas that concern people.  Polls have shown consistently that the greatest fear people have of Brexit are negative economic impacts.  The Europhiles have played on this remorselessly with spin, conjecture and outright lies to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt.  But if UKIP steps up, this FUD can be countered and more people will be reassured to vote to leave the EU should a referendum take place.

The comments made in a few moments from a stage in London might just now trigger a fightback by the Eurosceptic side, one that is backed with truth and evidence that destroys the arguments of the Europhiles.  This could be a seminal moment in the Brexit campaign.  It is now up to UKIP to use its platform to push this up the agenda for the benefit of the whole Eurosceptic side.-

Perhaps, just maybe, hope has been restored.  We have to wait and see if this Damascene conversion by Farage becomes more than words.=/

27 Responses to “Farage on Brexit: ‘The only mechanism by which we can withdraw is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty’”


  1. 1 TrT 22/09/2013 at 8:19 pm

    I would offer up the Iceland precedent
    When the EU thought Iceland was desperate enough to join entry was timetabled at 3 months, not more than a decade.
    If the UK could repeal ECA in a day, theres no reason it couldnt, peal, it the next.

    A50 is the better option of course, but negotiate in good faith or we’ll shut your communications traffic down, has to sit in the background.

  2. 2 Antisthenes 22/09/2013 at 9:01 pm

    You, EUreferedum and others harp on ad norsium about article 50. As far as I can see you are perpetually stating the obvious. If a referendum is held, unlikely and if the outers win it even more unlikely then the government of the day will follow the exit as set out in the various treaties. On the face of it that would appear to be by invoking article 50. The correct and lawful procedure will be insisted upon by the EU and UK’s legal eagles. So for the life of me I cannot understand why so much time and effort is expended upon debating the exit strategy as that is set in stone by the law. More useful would be to put all those energies into a strategy that will convince the intellectually challanged UK public to put their cross in the yes box. By my reckoning you may need to be a bit sharpish about putting a proper campaign together as a new treaty must be on the cards next year to push the euro-zone integration program which should automatically trigger a referendum. Unless of course before then the euro-zone falls apart under the weight of it’s dysfunctionality. Not an altogether unlikely scenario it only needs a slight nudge from rising interest rates, inflation and/or another financial crisis (looming).

  3. 3 Autonomous Mind 22/09/2013 at 9:50 pm

    “So for the life of me I cannot understand why so much time and effort is expended upon debating the exit strategy as that is set in stone by the law.”

    Because until Farage’s answer to the Q&A audience, UKIP would not articulate a formal party position on the strategy – and more than one of its MEPs, and its economic adviser reject Article 50 and say the strategy should be to simply repeal the ECA.

    It’s hard to put a strategy to the public to support when prominent Eurosceptics in UKIP call it a ‘trap’ and fight tooth and nail against it. As for a campaign, we have been pleading with UKIP for years to get their ducks in a row. You can see for yourself the miniscule distance they’ve travelled on that one. In any case, a referendum on the new treaty would be just that under the referendum lock, it would not be an in-out referendum.

  4. 4 Antisthenes 22/09/2013 at 10:09 pm

    I still say bugger the exit strategy as that is putting the cart before the horse. The need is to convince the electorate that out is where their best interest lie and for that it requires convincing arguments and the debate fully focused on the advantages and disadvantages anything else is a distraction. The only asset UKIP has is Farage and that is not for his intellect but because he can make a good speech and the voters like his plain speaking. Make the ammunition and get Farage to fire it. Use what resources you have wisely do not waste them on fruitless arguments.

  5. 5 Robert 22/09/2013 at 10:14 pm

    Farage has known about Article 50 for some time as being the orderly way of leaving the EU. I heard him say so on an edition of Radio 4’s The World Tonight at the time of the local elections when he appeared with a panel of politicians from other parties.

    If UKIP tied this into our joining the EEA/EFTA and therefore giving us access to the single market the this would give them a powerful argument to counter the FUD from the Europhiles. Why are the not doing this?

  6. 6 Richard North 22/09/2013 at 11:12 pm

    Antisthenes: it seems to me you want a cart without the horse.

    It is not sufficient to discuss our continued membership of the EU in simple terms of “in” or “out”, and whether we should get out. Properly to make the choice of which it should be, voters must be aware of the consequences of each decision.

    Drawing a parallel, imagine blindfolding someone and leading them to the end of a plank which, in the manner of a diving board, is suspended from one end only. You may then ask that person whether they should jump but, before they commit themselves, they will want to know the height of the fall, and what awaits them on the ground.

    Clearly, even if a person is motivated to jump, the willingness to do the deed will depend on whether the fall is a few inches or hundreds of feet. And even in the case of the former, the jump into a wilderness (even though survivable) will be less attractive than a short hop into paradise.

    In other words, the “yes-no” question is meaningless without knowing the consequences. Projecting the consequences is not ancillary to the debate but central to it.

  7. 7 Antisthenes 23/09/2013 at 1:40 am

    RN. Exit is only part of the equation and only deals with the whether there is a parachute or not. First however is the desire to jump. Is the need to jump so necessary that staying is not an option. If that is so then all that remains is to determine the best way to jump that will cause the least damage. It is like being in a malfunctioning airplane; stick with it and hope the crash landing will not be fatal or bail out and hope the parachute works. We believe that sticking with the plane is deadly but we must convince the passengers to exit now and secondly convince them by doing so the chances of surviving are extremely high. After all this plane does indeed have a working parachute called article 50 and also many other backup chutes.

  8. 8 Richard North 23/09/2013 at 10:59 am

    Antishenes: to develop your analogy, the pro-EU faction would argue the difference between staying in the aircraft and landing in comfort and safety, and jumping out into a alligator-infested swamp.

    You might believe that staying with the aircraft is deadly, but in a referendum what you believe doesn’t matter. It is what the bulk of the electorate believes that will decide the contest. They will be told that the flight is safe and they should stay with it. They will also be told that parachuting out to an unknown, perilous destination is suicide.

    Therefore, we have to convince the electorate that the aircraft is indeed plunging to disaster. Then we have to argue that parachuting out and landing will be safe (or safer). But even that is not enough. Crucially, we also have to convince them that the terrain will be favourable and that they can survive in it. Otherwise not enough people will decide to jump – we have to have a majority, don’t forget.

    It is not just a question, therefore, of a simple either or – jump or not jump. The odds are stacked against us. To win, we have to have all – not just some of – the arguments in place.

  9. 9 cosmic 23/09/2013 at 12:31 pm

    Antisthenes,

    Don’t forget that there’s a known tendency in referendums to vote for the status quo.

    In your plane analogy, the plane would need to be obviously breaking up and the parachutes ready before the passengers decided not to stay with it.

    The europhiles will go to all lengths to assure us that the plane is sound and we should stay on it.

    The eurosceptics have to argue that the plane was never sound, we were lied to to get us aboard. These are not slight technical hitches, it’s going to crash. Parachute, and here’s the place we’ll land (not shark infested waters), here are the parachutes, there’s just time for a short training film on how to use them.

  10. 10 blackswansblog 23/09/2013 at 12:42 pm

    Farage’s acceptance of Article 50 has restored my confidence in him.

  11. 11 Antisthenes 23/09/2013 at 12:49 pm

    RN. I agree that the exit strategy is important but I believe that is not the number one priority at this time. As you say voters will opt for the status quo if there is any doubt that the alternative is the better option. Therefore to me more energy should be spent on exposing the horrors current and future that membership of the EU holds for the citizens of the UK. Convince the electorate (returning to the analogy) that the plane is in danger of immediate destruction and the passengers will rush to the exits parachute or no parachute.

  12. 12 Autonomous Mind 23/09/2013 at 1:27 pm

    Antisthenes, pushing people to act on a ‘negative’ is ineffective compared to encouraging people to act to achieve a ‘positive’.

    People will not be convinced to support an ‘out’ campaign unless they can be certain the exit can be achieved without negative impacts for trade and the economy. So, the strategy needs to come first. People are more sceptical these days – and with good reason – so they need evidence, mere words and reassurances are no longer enough.

  13. 13 Richard North 23/09/2013 at 1:36 pm

    Antisthenes: I think we won the argument about the “horrors” of the EU a long time ago. The fact is, though, that they are not as bad as are made out by the extremes of the anti-EU movement, and the alternatives are not as clear cut.

    The trouble is then that your aeroplane analogy only goes so far. The EU is not an aeroplane – the issues are far more complex and subtle to allow their synthesis as a putative air crash. Thus, we have to cover all the bases.

    From a cart without a horse, therefore, you are now advocating putting all your eggs in one basket. That is not good strategy.

  14. 14 Antisthenes 23/09/2013 at 1:54 pm

    RN. In that case it is a very tough nut to crack especially as europhiles like climate change eco-morons, deists and socialists do live in a different universe to rationalists. They believe the means justify the end and mendacity and obfuscation are legitimate tools and being ignorant of the facts is no bar on pontificating on any subject. The tide of social democracy is sweeping over us benign at first but now turning into a tsunami. The West is a dying society it’s old best traditions, standards and values have been swept aside with the bad ones in the name of being progressive. In the EU we will become eventually members of the EUSSR a tried and failed system but then lessons of history or current ones come to that are never heeded. Outside only the English as they are predominately right of center can be successful and then only without the weight of the Scottish and Welsh socialists as they ensure time and again the return of Labour to government and their track record is abysmal as every time they wreck the economy and tear another whole into the decent fabric of our society.

  15. 15 Antisthenes 23/09/2013 at 2:03 pm

    RN. Just one final comment about ” putting all your eggs in one basket”. Is that not what I am talking about with your concentration on just the exit strategy.

  16. 16 JabbaTheCat 23/09/2013 at 11:01 pm

    Lolz…it will be interesting to see all those who vehemently argued against the Article 50 exit adopt revisionist positions, and then back pedal furiously to fall in line with the dear leader’s new position…

  17. 17 Richard North 24/09/2013 at 12:43 pm

    Antisthenes, you now say: “Is that not what I am talking about with your concentration on just the exit strategy”.

    Can you actually read? Have I not already written: “Thus, we have to cover all the bases”. Have I not already suggested that you want a cart without a horse?

    And your response is to turn this round on me, and suggest that all I am concerned with is an exit strategy. Yet, look at my blog … how many years have I been highlighting the evils of EU integration – how many thousands of pieces have a written on the subject?

    And you have the NERVE to suggest that I am concentrating “just” on an exit strategy. It is people like you that are the real problem here. You get a little idea in your mind, and then stick with it, though thick and thin – and then you expect to be taken seriously.

    In truth, you really don’t know what you are talking about. You need to read this thread again, as a whole and think very hard about where you are going.

  18. 18 Antisthenes 24/09/2013 at 1:46 pm

    RN. You do not need to expend energy on attacking me we are I believe on the same side. I am only trying some constructive criticism because if I interpret your posts the way I do so will others and maybe come to the same conclusion as me. Yes you do attack the EU constantly and for me that is more important than the current banging on about the exit strategy. Being defensive and a bit rude to your blog followers will not win you friends and influence people, which I suggest you are greatly in need of doing if we are going to win the exit fight. I lived and worked in France for nine years and that exposed me to what the EU is going to be like and what the UK citizens are going to have to suffer if we do not exit the EU. Currently I am living in Canada, retired now, and this is a place I want the UK to be more like. Eventually I must return to the UK and I do not look forward to that if we are to remain in the EU or if the excesses of social democracy are not drastically cut back or if the dysfunctional parliamentary democracy is not addressed.

  19. 19 Richard North 24/09/2013 at 3:01 pm

    Antisthenes: I don’t know you, and I don’t know who you are – you have a screen name and I use my real name.

    As for “attacking” you, I can only go on what I read on this thread, and the arguments made. You accuse me (attack me, even) of/for “just” concentrating on the exit strategy. That is what you have done … that is what you have written. You even go to the extent of turning round my own criticism of you and accuse me of putting all my eggs in one basket.

    Now you tell me. How I am supposed to react? Here I am telling you that “we must cover all the bases”, and your response is to attack me for my – and I quote you – “concentration on just the exit strategy”.

    How are we “on the same side”, if you are criticising me for something I am not doing? You claim to be “interpreting” my posts, but you are not … you are misreading plain English. “We must cover all the bases”. How do I make that any plainer? Tell me that.

  20. 20 Antisthenes 24/09/2013 at 3:27 pm

    RN. I want the outers to win and we wont do that arguing among ourselves because you are tetchy about a bit of criticism. I wanted to make a contribution in the fight to exit the EU. My observation was that discussion about the exit strategy was now starting to pale and things should move on to the specifics of our membership and why it was such a bad thing for the UK and it’s citizens. By doing so how we exit will naturally surface from time to time anyway. If you think my opinion is not worthy of consideration that is absolutely fine on the other hand if you had thought it worth due consideration then I would be pleased I have made a tiny contribution to the exit fight. You did once quote my comments on democracy on one of your posts so you have in the past considered my contribution helpful.

  21. 21 Autonomous Mind 24/09/2013 at 4:28 pm

    Antisthenes, what makes you think your approach is automatically correct? Don’t you think people with significant experience in campaigns and possessing extensive knowledge of historic campaigns and their failings, are well qualified to determine what works?

    Although you reject it, the fact is people can be told until campaigners are blue in the face about what’s wrong with EU membership and why we should leave. But unless you give them confidence that we can leave in a manner that preserves the things they wish to retain – economic and trade considerations – they will stick with the status quo.

    We can bandy this back and forth until the sun goes supernova, but experience and history shows us what the right approach is and I’m afraid it’s not your one.

  22. 22 Antisthenes 24/09/2013 at 4:58 pm

    AM. Indeed my opinion that the campaign is focusing too much on the exit strategy may be wrong. It is after all only my opinion. I have stated my reasons and I have commented previously that if it is rejected then I have no quarrel with that. Time may prove me right or wrong but that I doubt as there are far too many other factors involved that will effect the outcome of the campaign that proof in the end will not be conclusive. We need out but as you have just written in one of your articles that could be a Pyrrhic victory if we jump out of the frying pan into the fire. Because democracy as you and I understand it is shot to hell in the UK, Europe and now with Obama in charge going the same way in the USA. Briefly my vision of democracy is one where power rests with the people. To me I observe that once where politicians were the driving force of democracy they are now the problem in that they are holding it back and particularly the left are in fact driving it backwards. Politicians wrestled power away from kings the time is right for the people to wrestle power away from the politicians. It cannot be done abruptly and your Harrogate agenda is good place to start but is only a beginning not an end. I could explain further but then I would end up writing an article and not a comment and that I believe I am not qualified to do.

  23. 23 JW 25/09/2013 at 12:33 am

    I was struck by the reason Farage gave for his reluctance concerning Article 50 i.e. that Lisbon had never been put to the British people.

    Seriously? Was that the only reason he opposed it?

    If we were only allowed to utilise laws/procedures that had been put to the British people the situation would be truly hopeless since nothing in this country is ever put to the people!

    So was UKIPs previous position really just based upon a colossal sulk?


  1. 1 Britannia Radio » Brexit: Farage buys Article 50: EU regulation: playing the cost card: Media: getting UKIP wrong II: Booker: the EU no longer rules OK: UKIP: Bloom – be polite or I will hit you. Trackback on 23/09/2013 at 12:08 am
  2. 2 China’s growth affects future of Europe | China Daily Mail Trackback on 23/09/2013 at 12:26 pm
  3. 3 Britannia Radio » Germany: victory for Merkel: Brexit: Farage buys Article 50 Trackback on 23/09/2013 at 9:49 pm
  4. 4 The House of Lords | Orphans of Liberty Trackback on 24/09/2013 at 11:35 am
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