The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said today that Article 50 could be reversed, halting the UK's exit from the European Union.
Spanish judge, advocate general Campos Sanchez-Bordona, said in his non-binding opinion that reversing Article 50 would be within the powers of the UK as a sovereign state.
He said: “Withdrawal from an international treaty, which is the reverse of a treaty-making power, is by definition a unilateral act of a state party and a manifestation of its sovereignty. Unilateral revocation would also be a manifestation of the sovereignty of the departing member state, which chooses to reverse its initial decision.”
In order to revoke Article 50, the opinion says the UK would have to formally notify the European Council, respect national constitutional requirements – which in the UK would mean an act of parliament, and finally the revocation would have to take place within the two-year period since Article 50 was triggered.
The case was referred to the CJEU by a Scottish court after a group of MPs, MSPs and MEPs asked it to consider the legality of a unilateral revocation of Article 50.
The UK government argued that the case should not be heard by the CJEU as it is hypothetical and theoretical since there is no indication the EU will revoke Article 50.
However, the court decided that “the dispute is genuine, the question is not merely academic, nor premature or superfluous, but has obvious practical importance and is essential in order to resolve the dispute.”
Pro-remain lawyer, Jolyon Maugham QC, wo was involved in the case said on Twitter:
Here's a statement from me on the Advocate General's Opinion in the Article 50 case, in which I am a petitioner. pic.twitter.com/WkOKWqlDB7— Jo Maugham QC (@JolyonMaugham) December 4, 2018
Roger Matthews, senior director at law firm Dechert, said: "The opinion issued today by the advocate general to the CJEU is significant. While it is a recommendation to the CJEU and not in itself a court decision, it is a strong indication of the CJEU’s likely conclusion.
"If the CJEU judgment does follow the advocate general’s approach, it would confirm that the UK government has the option of revoking unilaterally the UK’s Article 50 notification before 29 March 2019, with the effect that the UK would continue as an EU member state on current terms."
Michael Gardner, a partner at law firm Wedlake Bell, said: "This will come as a huge boost to Remain campaigners who wish to stop Brexit. The full courts ruling should be available much more quickly than normal because the court is dealing with the case on an expedited basis.
"If it follows the AG this will really put the cat among the Brexit pigeons, but is by no means unusual for the court to rule differently to its AG. It is still possible that the court may even rule that the case is inadmissible. Or it could admit the case but reject the claimants’ arguments.”