World Bulletin / News Desk
A court in Scotland has ruled that legal action can go ahead to establish whether the UK can unilaterally halt the Brexit process if British voters decide the final deal is unacceptable.
The Supreme Civil Court of Scotland, also known as the Court of Session, said politicians from a cross-party spectrum can submit a petition on the matter.
The petition, created by Members of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament and Members of the Scottish Parliament from across four parties in Scotland, will be presented to the UK government, which will have 21 days to respond.
The group of politicians argue that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) should rule on whether the UK can withdraw its Article 50 letter without needing the approval of the other 27 EU member states.
According to The Telegraph newspaper, Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon gives any EU member state the right to quit unilaterally and outlines the procedure for doing so. It gives the leaving country two years to negotiate an exit deal. Technically, once it is set in motion, it cannot be stopped except by unanimous consent of all member states.
A crowd-funding campaign to raise funds for the petition has passed the target of £50,000 and the group of politicians has now filed the petition to the Court of Session requesting judges to refer the issue to the ECJ in Luxembourg.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said earlier this week that any decision taken to withdraw Article 50 and bring a halt to the Brexit process needed a unanimous agreement from all 27 EU member states. The petitioners, however, argue that this process has never been put to the courts and thus cannot be rejected.
Jolyon Maugham QC, a barrister currently coordinating the legal action through the legal campaign group the Good Law Project, has argued that there is a clear case for parliament to be given the right to cancel the Brexit process.
Maugham further argues that this move would strengthen Westminster’s ability to withdraw from Brexit should the final outcome of the deal be against that of the national interest.
Moreover, it would serve to strengthen the UK’s side in the negotiations as they would have the option of withdrawing Article 50 without the consent of all EU member states.
The case presented by the group of politicians was given a further boost when one of the EU’s senior legal experts argued that the UK could stop Brexit without the need of consent from the 27 EU member states.
“Article 50 is based on the principle that withdrawing from the EU is a unilateral decision. Nobody can force a state to leave. Nobody can prevent it to leave. The only condition is that it’s decision is taken in conformity with its constitutional requirements,” Jean-Claude Piris, former head of the EU council’s legal service, said in a statement.
The UK government’s position, however, has remained unchanged and has argued that the UK’s notification under Clause 2 of Article 50 will not be withdrawn and that there is no basis for a legal challenge.
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