Following the opinion given by its Advocate General, Manuel Campos Sánchez-Bordona (see our blog on Friday), the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has today officially ruled that the UK could reverse Brexit unilaterally, by revoking the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU under Article 50. The Court found that the UK does not need the consent of the remaining member states to do so.
This decision comes just one day before a scheduled vote in the House of Commons on Theresa May’s Brexit plan, which may now have to be postponed. Whilst today’s judgment appears to give some clarity, the decision is likely to cause controversy and will be seen as a boost for those seeking a reversal of the Brexit vote in 2016.
The ECJ agreed with the opinion of the Advocate General last week that the UK had the right to unilaterally revoke the notification of its intention to withdraw, until the expiry of the two-year period from the date of the original notification (and any possible extension) – currently set for 29 March 2019 – and so long as a formal withdrawal agreement has not come into force. Similar to the letter that initially triggered Article 50, the revocation of withdrawal notification must also be communicated to the European Council in writing.
This decision must be made in line with Article 50(1) of the Treaty on European Union, which states that a Member States “may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”. For the UK this would mean the approval of Parliament.
The Judgment confirmed that the decision to revoke the withdrawal does not need to be approved by the European Council as that may in effect force a Member State out of the EU against its will. It is therefore in the hands of the UK to decide whether it wishes to continue with the process of leaving the EU, or to stay. With MPs widely expected to reject Theresa May’s current deal on Tuesday night, there is already intense speculation the vote will be delayed, among mounting calls for a second referendum and increasing fears over a “no deal” Brexit.
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