LONDON — A top official at the European Union’s highest court advised Tuesday that Britain can unilaterally change its mind about leaving the EU.
Advocate General Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona told the European Court of Justice that a decision by the British government to change its mind about invoking Article 50 would be legally valid. The advice of the advocate general is often, but not always, followed by the full court.
The court is assessing the issue under an accelerated procedure, since Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29. The final verdict is expected within weeks.
Since Article 50 of the EU treaty of Lisbon dealing with departing members is scant on details – largely because the idea of any country leaving the bloc was considered unlikely – a group of Scottish legislators wants to know whether the U.K. can pull out of the withdrawal procedure on its own.
In a much anticipated opinion, the advocate general said that Article 50 “allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”
The advice gives British advocates of staying in the EU hope that the 2016 decision to leave can still be overturned. The EU Commission and Council are against a unilateral revocation of a decision to leave and have called for additional unanimous agreement of the remaining.
The case comes as pressure builds from Brexit opponents for a second referendum on the decision to leave the bloc.
In London, British Prime Minister Theresa May is putting the fate of her Brexit deal in Parliament’s hands, saying lawmakers must back it to deliver on voters’ 2016 decision to leave the European Union and “create a new role for our country in the world.”
May is due to address Parliament Tuesday, opening five days of debate before a Dec. 11 vote on the divorce agreement.
Defeat would leave the U.K. facing a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit on March 29 and could topple the prime minister, her government, or both.
Before the debate, May’s government faces another showdown with lawmakers over legal advice about the Brexit deal. Lawmakers are voting on a motion finding the government in contempt of Parliament for refusing to publish the full guidance from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.
Story: Jill Lawless, Raf Casert