Britons cast their votes in favor of leaving the European Union, but they haven't departed from the politico-economic coalition just yet. Before that can happen, the U.K. still needs to invoke something called "Article 50."
The Treaty of Lisbon forms a constitutional basis for EU member states, which signed it in 2007. A small section of the treaty is called Article 50, which details what happens when a member leaves the group. It has never been invoked before, but it's about to be.
These are the initial details:
The next part of the process can take up to two years:
While the affair is ongoing, the U.K. is still affiliated with the EU. The departing state will also still be able to exercise input power on other EU acts during this limbo period, starting from its formal declaration and on to its actual withdrawal.
Because Article 50 has never been invoked, some details of the process have never been firmly established. For example, details are fuzzy on how much the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, will be involved with negotiations. While European Council members who represent the U.K. can't take part in negotiations, it's not written down that the same restrictions are true for those who represent the U.K. in the European Parliament.
Article 50's language is vague because the EU never envisioned anybody leaving, Chris Bickerton, a lecturer at Cambridge University told the Independent last week. It "was drafted with the idea that (Article 50) would not be used, and to make it pretty hard to exit in a smooth way," he told the London newspaper.
Correction: The European Commission is the executive arm of the EU. An earlier version mischaracterized its role.