In a dramatic turn of events, the advocate general of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has given his opinion on whether the UK can cancel Brexit. This comes as the House of Commons is in the middle of a historic five-day debate on Theresa May's proposed Brexit deal.
In a press release dated 4th December 2018, advocate general Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona proposes that the Court of Justice should declare that Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU. He further states that "this possibility will continue to exist until such time as the withdrawal agreement is formally concluded".
This statement comes after a cross-party group of Scottish politicians took the question of whether the triggering of Article 50 TEU could be reversed to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, which agreed to refer the matter to the ECJ.
The UK government made two failed attempts to stop the referral of this case. They contended that the question of a Brexit rebuttal was inadmissible as it is hypothetical and merely theoretical, as there is no indication that either the UK government or parliament are going to revoke the notification of the intention to withdraw. In contrast, the advocate general argues that the dispute is genuine, saying that "the question is not merely academic, nor premature or superfluous, but has obvious practical importance and is essential in order to resolve the dispute".
Conversely, the chief lawyer for the European Council has said that allowing unilateral withdrawal could lead to countries announcing they are leaving the EU, in an attempt to negotiate better membership terms. The chief lawyer has said that permitting unilateral withdrawal could create "endless uncertainty" in this respect.
The European Court will deliver its final ruling at a later date. These rulings often fall in line with the advocate general's opinion; so the ability to cancel Brexit could turn out to be a real possibility.
If the ruling does follow the opinion of the advocate general, the Scottish MPs are realistically unlikely to see the Government's position on a second referendum, or a Brexit rebuttal change.
At this point we're in it for the long haul… Brexit is not cancelled.
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