The European Court of Justice has ruled the UK can withdraw Article 50 and cancel Brexit without the permission of the other 27 EU members and stay a member of the European Union on its original terms.
A group of cross-party anti-Brexit campaigners brought the case to the ECJ and were opposed by the UK government, which claimed remaining a member of the EU was no longer an option and attempted to block the case’s referral to the ECJ.
The court’s ruling agrees with the opinion by ECJ advocate general Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona, and says a member state can change its mind about leaving the EU within two years after triggering Article 50 as long as a withdrawal agreement has not been entered into and the decision followed a “democratic process” such as being approved by parliament.
Importantly, the court said if the UK decided to revoke Article 50 and stay a member of the EU, the UK would retain all the rights, opt-outs, and vetos it currently holds. For example, the UK could keep its status outside the Schengen area to maintain greater control of immigration and would not be forced to join the Euro.
The case was brought by lawyer Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project, with the support of number a Scottish politicians including Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, MEP Alyn Smith and MP Joanna Cherry of the SNP, and Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler.
In a statement, the Good Law Project said:
“The tiny Good Law project and six brave Scottish Parliamentarians have taken on the Government, the 27 other member States and the Commission – and won. This is the biggest upset since the First Book of Samuel and arguably the most important case in modern domestic legal history.
“The 2016 Referendum – during which both Leave and the regulator broke the law – would shame a banana republic. And no one voted for a deal that cuts our freedoms and leaves us worse off with less control. But all the courts can do is open the door to Remaining. It is up to MPs to remember what they came into politics for. And find the moral courage to put the country’s interests before private ambition.”
The decision is another blow for Theresa May’s unpopular Brexit deal, and lends support to the idea of a People’s Vote, where the public could be given the option of supporting May’s deal or remaining a member of the EU now it is clear how leaving would impact UK businesses and the British public.
May’s deal is scheduled to be put before the Commons on Tuesday, and was already expected to face a heavy defeat with little support from either hard Brexiteers or Remain-supporting MPs within the Conservative party, and the PM has found nearly zero support from across the aisle.