- The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice says the UK can reverse Brexit without the consent of other member states.
- The advice is part of a legal case which will decide whether the UK could revoke Article 50, the legal mechanism which kickstarted the Brexit process.
- The Advocate General’s advice is non-binding, and ECJ judges will make the final decision on the case in the coming weeks.
- A Downing Street spokesperson said the advice “does nothing to change the position of the government that article 50 is not going to be revoked.”
LONDON – The law chief of the EU’s highest court has advised that the UK should unilaterally be able to reverse Brexit in what could prove to be a landmark legal case.
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 the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU.
He said that the possibility of revoking Article 50 would continue to exist until the Article 50 process has formally concluded, which is scheduled for March next year.
The court case was referred to the ECJ by Edinburgh’s Court of Session in September after a legal case was brought by a group of anti-Brexit Scottish politicians and lawyer Jo Maugham QC. The Advocate General’s opinion is non-binding, and ECJ judges will hand down the final ruling separately. In previous cases, however, the final rulings have often though not always reflected the Advocate General’s initial opinion.
In a statement, Maugham said: “The decision is one that the UK can make unilaterally – without needing the consent of other member states. That puts the decision about our future back into the hands of our own elected representatives – where it belongs.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Firstly, this is not final judgement, and secondly, it does nothing to change the position of the government that Article 50 is not going to be revoked.”
“There is an ongoing process. The key point for the prime minister is that Article 50 will not be revoked,” they added.
‘All just a bad dream’?
The court case argues that Article 50, which triggered the UK’s EU withdrawal process in March 2017, can be revoked without the agreement of the other 27 European member states.
Handing May’s government the unilateral power to reverse Article 50 would allow the UK to retain the perks of its current membership including the economic rebate that Margaret Thatcher negotiated in 1984 and the UK’s opt-out from the Euro. These would potentially be lost were Britain forced to seek the approval of the rest of the EU to reverse Brexit.
Gunther Oettinger, the EU’s Budget Commissioner has previously stated that under those circumstances “the gradual exit from the rebate would still be kept.”
Jolyon Maugham told BI in October that having the power to unilaterally reverse Brexit “sweetens the option of remaining” for the UK government.
“Plainly it is better for the country if we can unilaterally revoke the Article 50 notice,” Maugham added. “In that circumstance, we know that we could treat Brexit as though it was all just a bad dream.”
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. In that scenario, should the government seek in future to remain in the EU, it could lose the perks of membership it currently enjoys.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.