European Union advocate general: United Kingdom can revoke Article 50 unilaterally
04 December 2018, 10:47 | Erica Roy
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Campos Sanchez-Bordona, the European Court of Justice's advocate general, told the EU's top court it should allow the United Kingdom to withdraw its notice of intent to leave the bloc.
Judges at the ECJ usually, but not always, follow the legal opinions of the court's advocate general.
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.
Opponents of Brexit got a boost Tuesday when a top official at the European Union's highest court advised that Britain can change its mind about leaving the European Union if it wants.
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. It is still possible that the court may even rule that the case is inadmissible. In such a scenario, a renegotiation of the existing deal, general election, second referendum and no-deal Brexit could all be possible outcomes.
Two attempts by the United Kingdom government to appeal against the referral to the European court were rejected, and the case was opposed by the government and the EU institutions in a hearing before all 27 ECJ judges last week.
In London, British Prime Minister Theresa May is putting the fate of her Brexit deal in Parliament's hands, saying lawmakers must back it to deliver on the voters' decision to leave the European Union and "create a new role for our country in the world".
At the hearing last week, Aidan O'Neill QC, representing the politicians who brought the case, said they need to know all their options on Brexit, including whether the United Kingdom can unilaterally halt the process ahead of critical votes on the withdrawal agreement.
Politicians on both sides of Britain's European Union membership debate oppose the agreement that May struck with the bloc - pro-Brexit ones because it keeps Britain bound closely to the European Union, and pro-EU politicians because it erects barriers between the United Kingdom and its biggest trading partner.
On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice's Advocate General Campos Sanchez-Bordona proposed that the ECJ should declare that Article 50 - the legal mechanism which kickstarted Brexit - allows the "unilateral revocation" of a member state's intention to withdraw from the EU.
Ms Cherry tweeted that the opinion is a "massive vindication" for those who brought the case, adding: "We are optimistic the full court will follow this ruling". The UK government had appealed against the referral, saying the question was purely hypothetical as there is no prospect of the UK government or MPs asking to cancel Brexit.
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.
However, the statement raises the question of how the United Kingdom might revoke notification.
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, has previously said that the EU27 would need to provide their consent to reverse the Brexit process.
It would nearly certainly need to be done by an act of parliament.
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.
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