Behind the Headlines

“Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked by the UK.’’

Written on 12/05/2018


What’s the story?

The Advocate General to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), proposed that the Court of Justice should declare that Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union allows a member state to unilaterally revoke their notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU. Read more in the Guardian here.


How reliable is it?

Reliable. Although this is not yet the final ruling of the ECJ (which is is expected in the next few days), it usually follows  the Attorney General’s advice. This means that the UK can choose to revoke its intention to leave the EU before 29th March 2019 and remain a full member state, with no punitive conditions being imposed, as long as the UK acts within the principles of ‘good faith and sincere cooperation’.


What’s the background?

  • On Tuesday 4th December the Advocate General of the ECJ, Campos Sánchez-Bordona, released his advice as to whether Article 50 TEU can be unilaterally revoked. Evidence
  • The case was originally brought to the Scottish Court of Sessions by a number of Scottish MPs, MSPs and MEPs, and after appeals, was referred to the ECJ in November 2018. Evidence
  • The case sought clarification on “whether, when and how the notification…can unilaterally be revoked”. Evidence
  • The European Commission had previously stated that Article 50, once triggered, could not be reversed. Evidence
  • The UK government has tried at several stages in the legal process to prevent the case being brought to the ECJ, but their final appeal was refused in November. Evidence
  • Michael Gove recently claimed that the EU27 would exact revenge by demanding concessions if the UK sought to revoke Article 50. Evidence
  • But Jolyon Maugham QC, who led on this case, has pointed out that after today’s development that Gove ‘is just flat wrong’. Evidence
  • Some people have argued that the reference to ‘abusive practice’ represents a ‘power grab’ by the ECJ. Evidence
  • However, this clause is simply to stop the UK revoking, and then re-triggering, Article 50, as a tactic to gain two more years to negotiate. Such behaviour would not be within ‘the principles of good faith and sincere cooperation’ expected in international law. Evidence (para 13)

Photo Courtesy Katerina Dzurekova via Flickr


This Behind the Headlines Briefing was first published on the DoorstepEU app:  https://www.richardcorbett.org.uk/app/