How the EU divorce process work?

It is enshrined in Article 50 of the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, which sets out the procedure to be followed if a member state decides to leave the EU.

It says: "The Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that state, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the union.

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"It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the[European] Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament."

When does the process begin?

It takes two years and starts when a member state informs the European Council of its intention to leave. It can be extended by a unanimous vote of the Council members.

What about the nitty-gritty?

The terms of Brexit will be negotiated between Britain’s 27 counterparts; each will have a veto over the conditions. It will also be subject to ratification in national parliaments, which means the MPs of any one country could stop the whole process in its tracks.

So what happens when the divorce papers are finally signed?

If a deal is reached within the two year time frame, then EU treaties cease to apply from the date that agreement becomes operational.

However, if no deal on withdrawal is reached - and any one of the other 27 states could block an extension of talks - membership would end automatically after the two-year period, leaving the exited member state to operate under international rules set by bodies such as the World Trade Organisation.