Top EU legal official says United Kingdom can unilaterally cancel Brexit

Frederick Owens
December 4, 2018

Scottish MPs and MEPs had brought the case on Article 50 - a 250-word clause inserted into the EU charter eight years ago, which had never been used until the United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union in the summer of 2016. We await the Court's ruling in due course followed by the final decision of the Court of Session.

The advice from advocate general Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona comes as the House of Commons begins five days of debates on Prime Minister Theresa May's proposed Brexit deal, with a vote due to be held next Tuesday.

Jo Maugham, a British lawyer who helped bring the case, said it "puts the decision about our future back into the hands of our own elected representatives - where it belongs".

The news comes as the United Kingdom prime minister, Theresa May, gears up for a week of debates to try and pass her withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons - which is being seen as an uphill task.

Although the advocate general's opinion is not binding on the European Court of Justice, the latter usually follows this advice.

According to British barrister Jolyon Maugham, one of the petitioners in the "Wightman case", this is a crucial point as if this was not the case then any cancellation (such as following a "People's Vote" or a general election or a decision by British MPs) could depend on the agreement of the other European Union leaders who might decide to set conditions such as the United Kingdom giving up various opt-outs.

"On this critical issue I'm sure MP's will now search their consciences and act in the best interests of the country", he added.

"If the CJEU judgment does follow the advocate general's approach, it would confirm that the United Kingdom government has the option of revoking unilaterally the UK's Article 50 notification before 29 March 2019, with the effect that the United Kingdom would continue as an European Union member state on current terms".

It should be noted that the statement and the case concerns revocation of notice to leave, and not a delay or extension of the two-year period provided for under Article 50.

More news: Bouteflika, citing flu, scraps talks with Saudi crown prince

The case was brought before the ECJ by Scottish politicians opposed to Brexit.

Noting the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the legal opinion states "notifications of withdrawal from an global treaty may be revoked at any time before they take effect".

She said: "He has made clear that the United Kingdom can stop the ticking clock of Brexit before it is too late".

The jurist also zoomed in on the language of Article 50.

"It is now highly likely that, if the people of the United Kingdom were to change their minds and decide to remain in the European Union, there is now a route to doing so".

He also rejected the United Kingdom government's position that the case is purely hypothetical and therefore inadmissible.

However, the court decided that "the dispute is genuine, the question is not merely academic, nor premature or superfluous, but has obvious practical importance and is essential in order to resolve the dispute".

The EU's governing European Commission and European Council oppose unilateral revocation, arguing it requires unanimous agreement of the 27 remaining members of the bloc.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

Discuss This Article