• Richard Brant

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis critically examines secession in the context of the EU. The work contributes to a topical, sensitive and important debate concerning the 'EU constitutional order of States': how EU law both deals and should deal with the secession of (a) part(s) of a territory of a Member State. The secession of a region from its metropolitan state and simultaneous accession to the EU is unprecedented. Notwithstanding this, it is a real and present concern for the Union. The current position of the EU, however, lacks clarity. The EU Treaties do not expressly address the legality of secession, nor its legal consequences. Where they do so, impliedly or implicitly, a number of conflicting, competing or intertwined concepts, principles, values, objectives, interests and legal norms come into conflict. Whilst the Union's political institutions have stipulated the procedural basis for re-entry into the EU, they have remained silent on the consequences of unilateral secession. The ECJ/CJEU has not yet been called upon to address a question of European law arising out of a case of secession. Thus, there is a need for a coherent, rational and systematic EU approach. This thesis compares the potential different methods/models for addressing secession: an amendment to the Treaties, a ruling of the CJEU; clarification on the hierarchy of the EU's values and their functional relationship, either in a CJEU judgment or the Treaties; soft law guidance, and; a role for the EU as a mediator in intra-state secessionist conflicts. In order to justify whether and why each model is a good and tenable idea or not, I explore whether each method is legally possible or doctrinally suitable, effective and politically viable. In particular, I evaluate each of them against the extent to which they meet/satisfy the rule of law criteria and, in particular, the sub-principles (procedural requirements) of the rule of law: legal certainty and democratic legitimacy. This thesis concludes that the ideal method/model for addressing secession would be by way of an amendment to the Treaties, which could be used as a way forward in dealing with this difficult and politically sensitive issue to help clarify the law on secession and EU membership.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorEleanor Aspey (Supervisor) & Dimitrios Doukas (Supervisor)


  • Secession
  • EU law
  • EU Treaties
  • EU constitutional order of States

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