Brexit: Downing Street rejects legal opinion on Article 50

Leroy Wright
December 4, 2018

"It would be illogical to force that member state to withdraw from the European Union in order to then have to negotiate its accession", he said.

Lawmakers are due to hold five days of discussion before voting December 11 on whether to accept or reject the agreement, which lays out the terms of Britain's departure from the bloc on March 29 and sets the framework for future relations with the EU. Rejecting it would leave the United Kingdom facing the prospect of a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit, but May's chances of winning majority backing for the deal appear slim.

Advocate General Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona has told the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that a decision by the British government to change its mind about invoking Article 50 would be legally valid.

While the advocate general's opinions are not binding, the court tends to follow them in the majority of its final rulings.

The Advocate General's legal opinion is a setback for the British government, which argued that the case was purely hypothetical because it had no intention of reversing the Article 50 process, and for the European Commission, which insists that it can only be revoked with the unanimous support of the remaining 27 EU member states.

However, opposition leaders and even some Conservative MPs have criticised the decision to ignore a parliamentary vote, pointing to Cabinet sources who have anonymously briefed some of Britain's national dailies (including the Times) that the negative conclusions of the legal advice were the real reason that the government was avoiding releasing full details.

It can only take place in the two-year period from the member state's formal notification of triggering Article 50 to the EU Council, where its peers meet, he added.

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Mr Maugham said in a statement today: "This puts the decision about our future back in the hands of our own elected representatives, where it belongs".

Alyn Smith MEP, one of those who brought the case, said the opinion issued by a European Court of Justice (ECJ) advocate general shows that "we now have a roadmap out of the Brexit shambles".

A British government spokesman said the advice would change nothing for Prime Minister Theresa May's government.

The comments raised expectations the Labour party could back putting Brexit to a second vote though it is unclear what impact such a prospect would have on sterling. "So it looks like the deal won't pass next week".

The opinion, which is not binding on the court, comes just a week after the case was heard at the ECJ following a referral from Scotland's highest civil court, the Court of Session. The Bank of England warned last week that a no-deal Brexit could plunge Britain into a severe recession.

Debate over the Brexit deal, which has been widely criticised across Britain's political spectrum, will begin in the United Kingdom parliament's lower chamber House of Commons on Tuesday.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said Tuesday that British consumers could see their weekly supermarket bills up by 10 percent in a worst-case Brexit scenario that involves a 25 percent fall in the value of the pound.

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