A report on whether the UK has the right to change its mind on Brexit and remain in the European Union concluded that it would have to be a matter for judges.
The European Parliament study said that the lack of any indication either way in Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty means that it can’t be a unilateral decision by the UK, nor can it go ahead even if the bloc’s 27 other countries give their consent.
“The assumption that there is a self-affirmed right of member states to interpret the silence of the treaty in the matter and conclude that the UK (or any) notification of withdrawal under Article 50 can be revoked would have long-lasting political and legal consequences for the EU,” wrote Ioannis Papageorgiou of the parliament’s constitutional affairs committee policy department. “A hypothetical right of revocation could only be examined and confirmed or infirmed by the EU institution competent to this purpose,” namely the European Court of Justice.
The report, which is not binding, contradicts other legal opinions both in the EU and in the UK.
The European Commission has said that Article 50 “cannot be unilaterally reversed,” although in private EU officials say they’ve received legal advice saying that it’s possible for the UK to change its mind. They however can’t agree on whether this would need unanimous agreement of the bloc’s leaders.
Second Brexit Vote
John Kerr, who played a key role in drafting the exit clause as secretary-general of the European Constitutional Convention between 2002 and 2003, said in November that the UK could withdraw the notification at any time.
A separate report by three UK lawyers published drew the same conclusion.
The European Parliament report is skeptical about the ability of the EU to set conditions on the UK for approving any revocation, such as an end to the Britain’s rebate on its payments to the EU budget, worth about $7.3 billion per year. EU lawmakers have warned that Britain could lose its rebate and other opt-outs from EU rules if it chose to rejoin the bloc.