monday, 10 december of 2018


UK can unilaterally revoke article 50 and stop Breixt, says ECJ

The UK can unilaterally stop the Brexit process, the European court of justice has said in a ruling that will boost demands for a second EU referendum.

The court concluded that any EU member state can revoke an article 50 process without needing approval from every other member state, but only before its withdrawal comes into force.

"The United Kingdom is free to revoke unilaterally the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU," the ECJ said.

The emergency judgment came the day before the critical Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal and will be reviewed urgently by Scotland’s civil court in Edinburgh.

That process will kickstart what is expected to be a last-ditch legal battle by the UK government to delay the ruling’s implementation, which is likely to end in the supreme court. Legal sources said, however, the European court’s ruling was binding and could not be be overturned at the supreme court.

While the decision means that MPs could in principle vote to revoke article 50 without the support of EU states, a second referendum would require an extension of the process – which would still be subject to veto.

The judges rejected arguments from both the UK government and the European commission that article 50, the two-year-long process that triggers a member state’s departure from the EU, could not be revoked unilaterally.

A spokeswoman for the courtimplied a decision to abandon article 50 would need to be taken by a vote in the Commons. Any revocation "must be decided following a democratic process in accordance with national constitutional requirements", she said.

Pause to vote

Theresa May has postponed the final vote on her Brexit deal, in a clear admission by the prime minister that she does not believe she can get the unpopular withdrawal agreement through the House of Commons at this time.

As sources confirmed the development, the Speaker’s office said May would give an oral statement to the House of Commons on the European Union at 3.30pm.

It will be immediately followed by a business statement from the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, implying that she will confirm the procedural details of the postponement of tomorrow’s vote.

A vote could take place next week or even be delayed until early January, although this would allow less time for the ensuing Brexit legislation to be passed through parliament before 29 March. The ultimate deadline for the vote is 21 January.

News of the delay caused the pound to tumble to its lowest level in 18 months.

The prime minister spoke to cabinet colleagues on Monday morning in a hastily arranged conference call, after apparently concluding she could not win over enough of the 100 Tory MPs who said they were against the deal.

The postponement so close to the vote is a significant blow to May’s authority, although it will theoretically give her extra time to negotiate with the European Union and to win over hostile Tory MPs.

Angry Tory rebels and Labour MPs vowed that they would attempt to force the government to hold a vote.

However, a government source says there would be no vote on a business motion to cancel Tuesday’s vote. "We are replacing the business with a new statement but it isn’t a motion and therefore isn’t voteable," the source said.

In Brussels, a European commission spokesman said: "This deal is the best and only deal possible. We will not renegotiate the deal that is on the table right now. That is very clear".

"Our position has therefore not changed and as far as we’re concerned the UK is leaving the EU on the 29 March 2019. We are prepared for all scenarios."

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: "The government has decided Theresa May’s Brexit deal is so disastrous that it has taken the desperate step of delaying its own vote at the eleventh hour."

"We have known for at least two weeks that Theresa May’s worst-of-all-worlds deal was going to be rejected by parliament because it is damaging for Britain."

Steve Baker, one of the leaders of the hard Brexit European Research Group, said postponement was “essentially a defeat” of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. Recalling the prime minister’s general election slogan, the rebel MP added: "The terms of the WA [withdrawal agreement] were so bad that they didn’t dare put it to Parliament for a vote. This isn’t the mark of a stable government or a strong plan."

Downing Street and key ministers have repeatedly said the vote would not be delayed, in an attempt to concentrate the minds of MPs. Earlier on Monday morning, Michael Gove categorically stated the vote would go ahead.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if the vote was "definitely, 100%" going to happen, the environment secretary replied: "Yes". Pressed on the point, he said: "The vote is going ahead."

The prime minister conducted a frantic round of telephone diplomacy over the weekend, speaking to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, Number 10 confirmed. She had also spoken to Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, as well Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, and Donald Tusk, the president of the EU council.

Insiders said she had spoken to cabinet members to update them on the outcome of the calls, amid intense pressure from hard Brexit Conservative backbenchers to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement to remove the unpopular Northern Ireland backstop.

But both May and the EU have previously said there is no prospect to alter a deal that has already been signed off by heads of government on both sides

(Published by The Guardian, December 10, 2018)

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