- Liz Truss tells BBC that Article 50 is “irrevocable”
- The man who wrote Article 50 says it is revocable
- Donald Tusk has suggested Brexit process could be reversed.
- Downing Street decline to back Truss, saying the question is “irrelevant”
LONDON — The government today distanced themselves from a claim by Liz Truss that Article 50 is “irrevocable” once it is triggered in March
The Justice Secretary was asked by Andrew Marr whether Article 50 — the two-year process by which Britain can leave the EU — was a “one way ticket” meaning it cannot be reversed once triggered.
Truss told Marr that “my understanding is that it is irrevocable.”
However, Downing Street today refused to repeat Truss’ claim.
Asked repeatedly whether they agreed with Truss that it could not be revoked, they replied: “That is sort of irrelevant because it is not going to happen.”
“The government’s position has been absolutely clear. We have no intention of revoking Article 50.”
Historical precedent and legal experts suggest the Brexit process could be reversible. Last year the man who wrote Article 50 told the BBC that Britain could in fact change its mind after triggering.
“It is not irrevocable,” Lord Kerr said last November.
“You can change your mind while the process is going on.
“During that period, if a country were to decide actually we don’t want to leave after all, everybody would be very cross about it being a waste of time. They might try to extract a political price but legally they couldn’t insist that you leave.”
EU Council president Donald Tusk also suggested last year that Britain could change its mind.
“In my opinion, the only real alternative to a “hard Brexit” is “no Brexit”” he said last October, adding that once exit discussions are over Britain must “assess the outcome of the negotiations and determine if Brexit is really in their interest.”
The Supreme Court last month treated Article 50 as if it were irrevocable but did not make a ruling on the subject.
However, most international organisations allow a “cooling off” period between the notification of withdrawal and the moment that countries leave them. In 1928 Spain famously decided not to withdraw from the League of Nations shortly before their withdrawal was due to take effect.
Opposition MPs and peers have been pushing for powers to delay or even cancel Brexit if a bad deal or no deal is secured at the end of Brexit negotiations.
However, May has repeatedly insisted that she has no plans to withdraw Article 50, even if the UK fails to secure a Brexit trade deal with the EU.
She insisted during her Lancaster House speech last month that “no deal is better than a bad deal.