The UK has unilateral power to decide to stop the Brexit process, the European Court of Justice said today.
The Advocate General said the law ‘allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU’.
It potentially means that the UK would not need permission from the 27 other states to halt the progress of Article 50 – and could retain the same membership terms.
The decision was hailed by Remainer as boosting the chances of Brexit being stopped altogether.
Tory MP Dominic Grieve, who backs a second referendum, said the news was ‘clearly significant’. ‘It is certainly helpful as it removes one of the arguments that they would not allow us to change our minds,’ he said.
While the Advocate General’s opinions are not binding, the court tends to follow them in its final rulings.
The Advocate General revealed his opinion as Theresa May prepares to open the Commons debate on her Brexit deal
Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona’s opinion was in response to the question of whether an EU member state such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke Article 50.
Parliament would still need to vote for withdrawal of Article 50 – which was triggered with a big majority in 2016.
Some lawyers believe that primary legislation would need to be passed, as was the case when the Brexit process was invoked.
The opinion, which is not binding on the court, comes just a week after the case was heard at the ECJ following a referral from Scotland’s highest civil court, the Court of Session.
Those who brought the case argue unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could pave the way for an alternative option to Brexit such as a second referendum.
Government lawyers had argued the case was inadmissible as it deals with a hypothetical situation, as the Government’s policy is not to revoke Article 50.
The opinion from the ECJ (pictured) will fuel Remainer hopes that the Brexit process can be stopped altogether
Lawyers representing the Council of the European Union and from the European Commission argued that revocation was possible but would require unanimous agreement from all member states.
The case was brought forward in February by a group of Scottish politicians – Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Joanna Cherry MP and Alyn Smith MEP of the SNP, and Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, together with lawyer Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project.
Their request for the Court of Session to refer the question of whether Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked to the ECJ was initially refused, before that ruling was overturned on appeal.
Two attempts by the UK Government, which is contesting the case, to appeal against the referral to the European court were rejected.