Remaining in the EU is “still on the table” after the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke its withdrawal from the EU, cross-party politicians have said.
Labour MEP Catherine Stihler, one of those who brought the case, said the ruling “paves the way for the disastrous Brexit process to be brought to a halt”.
The case was brought forward in February by a group of Scottish politicians – Labour MEPs Ms Stihler and David Martin, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry MP and Alyn Smith MEP, Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, and lawyer Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that if the UK does decide to revoke Article 50 and stop the Brexit process, it would remain in the EU as a member state and the revocation must be decided following “democratic process”.
A huge victory for #Scottish parliamentarians & #Scottish courts. #Art50 can be unilaterally revoked. Thanks frm me @AlynSmith @andywightman @Ross_Greer @C_Stihler_MEP @davidmartinmep @JolyonMaugham to all who supported us #Brexit #ScottishCase #PeoplesVote https://t.co/Q1C4XQAajL
— Joanna Cherry QC MP (@joannaccherry) December 10, 2018
The ECJ ruling issued on Monday comes ahead of Tuesday’s crunch vote on UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that extending Article 50 to allow for another vote and then revoking it if the outcome was Remain now seemed an option open to the House of Commons.
Mr Smith said: “Our case has confirmed, once and for all and from the highest court in the business, that the UK can indeed change its mind on Brexit and revoke Article 50 unilaterally.
“The timing is sublime. As colleagues in the House of Commons consider Mrs May’s disastrous deal, we now have a road map out of this Brexit shambles.
“A bright light has switched on above an exit sign.”
So an extension of Article 50 to allow time for another vote, followed by revocation of Article 50 if the outcome is Remain seems to be an option that is now open to the House of Commons. #ECJ
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) December 10, 2018
Ms Cherry said the ruling was a “huge victory” for Scottish parliamentarians and Scottish courts, while Mr Wightman called it a “welcome decision”.
Ms Stihler said: “This historic ruling paves the way for the disastrous Brexit process to be brought to a halt.
“We now know, beyond any doubt, that Westminster can revoke its withdrawal from the European Union.
“This has been a lengthy and expensive legal process, but the result proves that it was worthwhile.
“When MPs vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, they now know they can ultimately choose to stop Brexit and keep the best deal we currently have as a full member of the EU.
“I am increasingly confident that is what will happen if MPs agree to a People’s Vote, which is what the country now urgently needs.”
— EU Court of Justice (@EUCourtPress) December 10, 2018
Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Important judgment from ECJ – Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked by UK.
“So an extension of Article 50 to allow time for another vote, followed by revocation of Article 50 if the outcome is Remain seems to be an option that is now open to the House of Commons.”
The Scottish Government said the ruling provided another option apart from the Prime Minister’s deal or no deal.
Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell MSP said: “This is a hugely important decision that provides clarity at an essential point in the UK’s decision-making over its future relationship with the EU.
“People in Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU and that continues to be the best option for Scotland and the UK as a whole.
“This judgment exposes as false the idea that the only choice is between a bad deal negotiated by the UK Government or the disaster of no deal.
“We now know, thanks to the efforts of Scotland’s parliamentarians, that remaining in the EU is still on the table.”
– Press Association
Earlier:European Court of Justice rules UK can unilaterally revoke its withdrawal from EU
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke its withdrawal from the EU.
The court found that if the UK does decide to revoke Article 50 and stop the Brexit process it would remain in the EU as a member state and the revocation must be decided following “democratic process”.
In a statement, the ECJ said: “In today’s judgment, the full court has ruled that, when a member state has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that member state is free to revoke unilaterally that notification.
“That possibility exists for as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that member state has not entered into force or, if no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU, and any possible extension, has not expired.”
It added: “The revocation must be decided following a democratic process in accordance with national constitutional requirements. This unequivocal and unconditional decision must be communicated in writing to the European Council.”
The ECJ ruling comes ahead of Tuesday’s crunch vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
The court ruled, contrary to the UK Government’s position, that the case is “relevant and not hypothetical”.
However, the UK Government has said its policy is not to revoke Article 50.
The case was brought by a cross-party group of Scottish politicians, Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, SNP MP Joanna Cherry and MEP Alyn Smith, and Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, together with lawyer Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project.
They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could pave the way for an alternative option to Brexit, such as a People’s Vote to enable remaining in the EU.
Lawyers representing the Council of the European Union and from the European Commission argued that revocation is possible but would require unanimous agreement from all member states.
The case was originally heard by the Court of Session in Edinburgh and two attempts by the UK Government to appeal against the referral to the European Court were rejected.
The case will be referred back to the Court of Session, where judges are expected to “frank” the decision and declare the European Court’s answer to be the law on the matter.