European Union court rules UK can change its mind and pull out of Brexit
The move is a boost to those who are campaigning for a second vote on Brexit. (AP: Frank Augstein)
The European Union’s top court has ruled Britain can change its mind over Brexit, boosting the hopes of people who want to stay in the EU that the process can be reversed.
In an emergency judgement delivered just a day before British Parliament is due to vote on the Brexit deal agreed with the EU, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that when an EU member country has notified its intent to leave, “That member state is free to revoke unilaterally that notification” without consulting other member states.
Britain voted in 2016 to leave the 28-nation bloc, and invoked Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in March 2017, triggering a two-year exit process.
As Article 50 contains few details — in part because the idea of any country leaving was considered unlikely — a group of Scottish legislators had asked the ECJ to rule on whether the UK can pull out of the withdrawal procedure on its own.
Alyn Smith, a Scottish nationalist member of the European Parliament, and one of those who raised the case, said the ruling, “sends a clear message to UK MPs ahead of tomorrow’s vote that there is a way out of this mess”.
“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Mr Smyth said.
The ruling is in line with an opinion delivered last week by a Court legal adviser, which boosted the hopes of British Brexit opponents of the possibility the scheduled March 29 departure from the EU could be avoided.
British Prime Minister Theresa May faces heavy opposition in Parliament to her Brexit deal and many expect her quest for approval to be defeated, setting up further tense talks with the EU when she goes to Brussels on Thursday for a summit of national leaders.
Mrs May’s Environment Minister, Michael Gove, who campaigned for Brexit, dismissed the ruling by repeating the Government’s insistence it would not reverse its decision to leave.