Just cancel Brexit?

The UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50

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The UK can apparently just decide to revoke Article 50

By Joe Harker

Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona is the advocate general of the European Court of Justice, which is due to deliver a ruling on whether the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 and just stop the Brexit process without the approval of the EU's other 27 member states. He has said that the UK should be able to do so, though that is just his opinion and doesn't necessarily reflect what the final ruling from the ECJ will be.

The ECJ has issued a written statement featuring Mr Campos Sanchez-Bordona's opinion that states a country can trigger Article 50 without the approval of the other EU member states and therefore should be able to revoke it without their approval if it so chooses. The advocate general's statement is an opinion and not legally binding, though it would be a surprise if the ECJ's ruling contradicted him.

The statement is a major boon for anti Brexit campaigners in the UK who want to stop the process of leaving the EU. The UK is due to leave on March 29, 2019, two years after triggering Article 50, but the process has become bogged down and the country is facing a "no deal or no brexit" scenario in the likely event that prime minister Theresa May fails to get her deal through the House of Commons.

With no deal predicted to cause large amounts of damage to the UK those advocating for an end to Brexit believe their moment is fast approaching. Their job of selling staying in the EU will be easier if the UK can just say it has decided to revoke Article 50 and end the Brexit process then and there.

Article 50 states that the EU member states need to give their consent for an extension beyond the requisite two years but there is nothing in it about approving revocation. The ruling by the ECJ will presumably set a precedent if any other countries seek to leave the EU and decide later to change their minds.

A spokesperson for Theresa May has said Article 50 will not be revoked, though the potential future decision may not be up to her. She expects to stay on as prime minister even if her deal is defeated in the House of Commons, which the EU insists leaves only the options of leaving with no deal or no Brexit at all. If May's deal is not viable she could soon find herself no longer calling the shots.

Charles Day of The Spectator writes that the ECJ is taking power from the EU member states if it decides to rule that the UK can revoke Article 50 without the their approval. He argues that only the ECJ would then have the power to block revocation, turning it into a supreme court without constitutional checks and balances.

It seems that the UK will soon be told it can revoke Article 50 if it so decides, making the path to stopping Brexit clearer. However, there is still much that would need to change in the government before the UK decided so. The prime minister has been clear that she will not revoke Article 50 and even if she is replaced there is no guarantee that her successor would hold a different view.

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