European court rules Article 50 process could be stopped

European court rules Article 50 process could be stopped

December 10, 2018

Britain CAN cancel Brexit: European court rules Article 50 process could be stopped without approval from other states in boost for Remainer rebels

  • ECJ has ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 Brexit notification 
  • Previously thought that 27 EU states would need to sign off on revoking exit 
  • Parliament would need to vote for withdrawing Article 50 for it to happen 
  • The most likely scenario for its use would be after a second referendum 

EU judges delivered a boost for Remainer rebels today by ruling that Britain can unilaterally cancel Brexit. 

The European Court of Justice decided that Article 50 can be withdrawn by the UK without permission from other member states.

Britain would keep its current terms of membership if it quit the process – meaning keeping the rebate, the opt out from the Euro and exemptions from the Schengen passport-free zone.

The ruling by the 27 EU judges will fuel tensions ahead of the crunch vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal tomorrow. 

It will encourage hopes from pro-EU MPs that a second referendum can be held to stop the UK from leaving the bloc altogether. 

The case to decide whether an EU member state such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the Article 50 withdrawal process was brought by a cross-party group of Scottish politicians.

They are Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Joanna Cherry MP and Alyn Smith MEP of the SNP, and Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, together with lawyer Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project.

The ruling will fuel tensions ahead of the crunch vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal tomorrow as Remain supporter hopes of stopping Brexit rise 

European Court of Justice judge Carl Gustav Fernlund read out the ruling on Article 50 at the court in Luxembourg today (pictured) 

Ms Cherry said: ‘I’m delighted that we now know definitively that there is an option to stay in the EU.

‘The UK government has ignored Scotland’s vote to remain and all compromises suggested by the Scottish Government.

‘They also fought us every inch of the way in this case, so it’s a particularly sweet irony that Scottish parliamentarians and the Scottish courts have provided this lifeline to the UK parliament at this moment of crisis.’ 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: ‘Important judgment from ECJ – Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked by UK.’

She added: ‘So an extension of Article 50 to allow time for another vote, followed by revocation of Article 50 if the outcome is Remain seems to be an option that is now open to the House of Commons.’


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Liberal Democrat Tom Brake said: ‘The ECJ has made clear that the UK can stop Brexit unilaterally. The Government can therefore prevent a chaotic no-deal.

‘For the sake of people’s livelihoods, the Prime Minister must end the uncertainlty and rule out a no-deal.

‘It is clear any Brexit will make people poorer and reduce the UK’s standing in the world. MPs should not only vote down Theresa May’s deal, but back a People’s Vote with the option to remain in the EU.’

SNP MP Joanna Cherry was one of the politicians who brought the case and said today there was ‘definitively’ an option to stay in the EU 

Nicola Sturgeon said it was an ‘important judgement’ that could pave the way for a second referendum on EU membership 

The winners argued in court that unilateral revocation was possible. They believe it could pave the way for an alternative option to Brexit, such as a People’s Vote to enable remaining in the EU.

However, legal representatives for the UK Government claimed the case is inadmissible as it deals with a hypothetical situation, since the Government’s policy is not to revoke Article 50.

Lawyers representing the Council of the European Union and from the European Commission meanwhile argued that revocation is possible but would require unanimous agreement from all member states.

Last week the court’s Advocate General rejected the idea that approval is needed from the European Council.

Instead, Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona said Article 50 allows the ‘unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU, until such time as the Withdrawal Agreement is formally concluded’.

The case was originally heard by the Court of Session in Edinburgh and two attempts by the UK Government to appeal against the referral to the European court were rejected.

Once the ECJ has delivered its ruling the case will be referred back to the Court of Session, where judges are expected to ‘frank’ the decision and declare the European Court’s answer to be the law on the matter.

Britain’s Article 50 notification was delivered by EU ambassador Sir Tim Barron (left) to Council President Donald Tusk in March 2017 (pictured) 

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