Episode 743: 50 Ways to Leave Your Union : Planet Money Today on the show, two unions separated by 200 years, an ocean and an exit clause. The United States has no exit clause. It led to civil war. Europe, on the other hand, has Article 50.
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Episode 743: 50 Ways to Leave Your Union

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Episode 743: 50 Ways to Leave Your Union

Episode 743: 50 Ways to Leave Your Union

Episode 743: 50 Ways to Leave Your Union

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/506502394/506505546" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

British Prime Minister Theresa May, looks out from her car window as she arrives for an EU Summit in Brussels on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. Virginia Mayo/AP hide caption

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Virginia Mayo/AP

British Prime Minister Theresa May, looks out from her car window as she arrives for an EU Summit in Brussels on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016.

Virginia Mayo/AP

In the 1950s, when the European Union was just coming together, not every country was so eager to join. The people pushing for it, like Kimmo Kiljunen, a member of parliament from Finland, had to do some convincing. There were years of negotiations, each one filtered through tedious layers of translation into over 20 languages.

So by the end of it, to close the deal, Kimmo and others added a law to the E.U. constitutional documents: Article 50, an exit clause. Kimmo never thought anyone would use it. It was meant to be a way to make skeptics worry a little less.

Now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union, this little clause the authors didn't expect would ever get used, will be helping shape the future of Europe.

The United States chose not to include an exit clause and that led to the civil war.

Today on the show, we tell the story of why Article 50 was added and ask if it has made Europe more or less stable. Does an exit clause strengthen a union, or make it fragile?

Music: "Slide by Slide" and "Wild Side." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.