“Can the UK cancel Article 50 notification once given” It does look like we can – if approached correctly

I still think it is massively important to ensure that the UK has a way of stepping back from the EU exit process, even after the EU has been properly notified of the UK’s intention to leave through Article 50 (2).

The approach I have been pushing since June 24th has been to enshrine a democratic withdrawal process into law. Once we have this it will be very difficult for the EU to argue against the UK’s right to this option. This is explained in the blog: “UK don’t trigger Article 50 without ability to stop the process”.

The steps would, in summary, be:

  1. Act of parliament — setting out the exit process
  2. Checkpoint 1 before A50 notification — is there really a deal? If not the STOP the exit process at this point
  3. A50 notification followed by Exit negotiations
  4. Checkpoint 2 — is the deal acceptable to the UK? if Yes the continue to Exit
  5. If not acceptable to UK (or indeed the EU) then Stop the exit process

Good News:

In the feedback from “UK don’t trigger…” I had had a more positive outlook for the chances of the UK being able to withdraw it’s notification.

These have been from 2 sources:

  1. Richard Corbett MEP @rcorbettmep in his excellent and thought provoking blog : Truths and myths about the months to come says:

It is unclear whether the article 50 process can be revoked once it is triggered. The treaty is silent on the question. But the balance of legal opinion is that it can be, provided it is before the two-year deadline. It must also be a genuine request, and not a device to re-set the two-year countdown.

Similarly, if an article 50 agreement reached in 2019 sets a date of, say, 2022, for departure, can the UK change its mind between those two dates? There is greater legal uncertainty here, but politically it is likely that a change of mind about leaving would be accepted, whereas change of mind simply on the terms or timetable would not.

This is important in the event of a rethink by the UK. Any referendum on the outcome of the Brexit deal, and any decision to remain, should take place before the date of Britain formally leaving the EU. Afterwards, any desire to remain in the EU would have to be pursued through an application to join afresh, under entirely different procedures and facing the standard expectations of any new member state, including, in principle, acceptance of the euro. Any accession treaty, of course, requires the unanimous consent of every member state.

2. Jean-Claude Piris, a former director-general of the Council of the European Union’s Legal Service, is author of ‘If the UK Votes to Leave’ maintains that “Article 50 is not for ever and the UK could change its mind” (FT 01/09/2016).

He argues that:

… the Article 50 procedure provides for notification by the interested state only of its “intention” to leave. Formal notification of that intention would be made to the European Council, comprising the heads of government of the other 27 member states. In law, the word “intention” cannot be interpreted as a final and irreversible decision. Legally, you may withdraw an intention, or change it, or transform it into a decision. …

by: Jean-Claude Piris

It may be necessary for us to get to the brink, look over the edge and only then realise what a stupid idea it is. Both of these articles give me much more hope that, when the time came, the UK would be able to step back from the brink.


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