The European Court of Justice has ruled that Britain can in fact unilaterally revoke – that means, ooops, sorry, our mistake, we didn’t mean it, can we take a mulligan? – Article 50. This means that with a wave of the wand we can all breathe a sigh of relief as we don’t have to leave the European Union. Federasts everywhere will rejoice.
Except this doesn’t, of course, solve the basic point. A plurality of the country voted to leave. We really did have that referendum, the vote really was to leave. So, we’re leaving then, right?
The UK has the legal power to stop Brexit by unilaterally revoking Article 50, the EU’s top court has ruled.
The ruling matches legal advice given to the court last week by its advocate general, who said as a sovereign country Britain could reverse its decision even at this late stage. The legal decision is significant because means Britain could prevent a no-deal Brexit from happening if it wanted, even if Theresa May’s deal is voted down by MPs next week. In their judgment released on Monday morning the panel of judges said it would be “inconsistent with the EU treaties’ purpose of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe to force the withdrawal of a member state” against its wishes.
It would also, fairly clearly, be in breach of the reason why Article 50 exists in the treaties to insist that a country cannot leave. We’re not at Lincoln dealing with the Confederacy here, we’re in an earlier stage of that federalism, thankfully.
However, the judges did note that a decision to revoke Article 50 should be “unequivocal and unconditional”, suggesting the recision cannot be used as a tactic in an ongoing negotiation about membership terms.
Which brings us back to that basic referendum point. Sure, we could now, if we wanted, not leave. But that’s not the point is it? What we can’t do is use revocation to gain us some more time to leave. Thus it’s an irrelevance.