Could the UK re-join EU after leaving?
Let's assume that
Article 50 is invoked and UK officially leaves EU
For some reason, both UK populace (a large share) and enough powers that be or popular will in EU, decide that UK ought to re-join EU, 1,2 or 5 years down the road.
So far I heard tons of people asserting that this cannot happen, that you can't re-enter EU. But none of them backed it up with any facts.
So... are there actual rules/laws in place that would prevent UK from re-joining EU, if both sides are willing/interested?
If the assertion is incorrect, what are the minimal requirements for that to happen?
(I can split #2 into a separate question if it makes this question too broad)
No laws to prevent it. But it will have to go back from the beginning, which will never be accepted by the UK ^^.
Article 50 of the Treaties of the European Union (the article which governs leaving the EU) has a clause which explicitly mentions that rejoining the EU is possible after leaving it:
- If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.
Article 49, in case you wonder, is the general admission process which applies to all would-be new EU members. It requires unanimous consent from the EU council members and simple majority from the EU parliament. That means any EU member could veto the UKs re-admission, but currently I wouldn't know of any EU state having a good reason to do so.
So you can dismiss the statement "UK will never be able to rejoin the EU" as FUD.
You can of course consider the political problems of re-joining the EU after a referendum just came to the conclusion that the UK population does not want to be a part of the EU. While referendums in the UK are non-binding due to parliamental sovereignty it would theoretically be possible to act against it. But doing so might be considered political suicide. It will likely take a new referendum to rejoin the EU, and until circumstances have considerably changed there will likely be harsh resistance against another one.
On the other hand, there are also all the special privileges the UK used to have in the EU, like opting out of the Schengen agreement, opting out of the Euro zone, a rebate on financial contributions to the EU and many more. All of that would need to be renegotiated in case of a readmission.
So while it is wrong to say "The UK can not rejoin the EU", one might say that "The UK can not rejoin the EU and regain all the special privileges it had".
As for the opt-outs... It's one thing when a current and long-standing member of a club opts-out of changes to the club... It's something completely different for a "new" member who wants to join - they pretty much must accept everything a membership entails. So if the UK leaves and later wanted to re-join, they'd probably can forget about their old opt-outs, and have to accept everything the EU throws at them.
This answer seems incomplete to me. (1) While the UK could re-join the EU in theory, in practice this is about as unlikely as Turkey joining. Over recent decades, discontent in the EU with its uncooperative member has been almost as strong as discontent in the UK with the EU. It is extremely likely that someone will veto a new application even without the privileges.
(2) I doubt that joining the EU without *any* special privileges is consistent with staying a Commonwealth member. The EU would no doubt take this into account to some extent, because contrary to certain irresponsible UK politicians, they don't take peace and political stability completely for granted. But I hope that the UK would be required to join without any *economic* privileges and would get them granted separately later, to prevent a repetition of the British disinformation campaign.
A reason for a veto could be fear that they'd exit again a few years later, especially if the economic damage caused by this exit turns out to be large.
That word, "political suicide", is being thrown around quite a lot. I've seen it at least five times in articles talking about the Brexit and what Parliament could do to negate it.
The question is: Do they really have to renegotiate their special rules? - Those are written down in EU treaties and such and could be taken out of order by the UKn ot being a member anymore without changing the treaties. Thus if the UK would rejoin they'd still be there .... (realistically I doubt remaining EU members would be happy about UK leaving and then coming back as if nothing happened, I'd assume they'd expect some concession and regret from UK)