Author: Oliver Wootton
The title poses a two stage question, is it ‘legally’ and ‘politically’ possible, to leave the EU (European Union). Both require very different answers, given that just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should…
The Law on BREXIT and Article 50 –
Article 50 is the leaving mechanism for any country to leave the EU, what proceeds its ‘activation’ is a 2 year negotiating period. The law itself comes from the Lisbon Treaty 2009; which was signed rather ungracefully by Gordon Brown (Former PM 07-10), when he refused to attend the signing ceremony, arriving hours later. A PM is given relative prerogative powers (Royal powers passed on to the prime minister, historic rights) to sign international treaties without the consent of parliament. So just for clarification, we are leaving through a device that was agreed upon by an ‘unelected’ Prime Minister, agreeing to a treaty he clearly did not want to sign, without consulting parliament? That’s our democracy for you… It must be said this occurrence is not usually how the UK system works, however, given Theresa May PM is having the exact same issue you can’t help but feel it is.
Anyway back to the law itself, the short answer is legally ‘YES’ internationally and ‘MAYBE’ domestically. Lets start with international Law and our options…
Although not quite ‘reversing’ Article 50, we still always have the standard mode of entry. Option A would be to use Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty 2009 and re-apply to the EU like every other country does, this would be rather disadvantageous given we would have to accept every new law and policy introduced by the EU up until the date of entry. Unlike many other members of the EU the UK has been around for many years, as such, has negotiated various opt-outs and pre-negotiations with the EU that would be undone through this option. This places the UK further into the EU as opposed to our ‘half in half out’ position currently.
Many high officials in the EU have stated that Article 50 can be revered, one of which was the European Council president Donald Tusk. Another, Lord Kerr (Former British Ambassador to the EU) helped the UK draft the article 50 terms, stated it would be possible to reverse before the deadline. There also a list of various other politicians and academics on Parliaments website who all advocate that it can be reversed, see here (https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldselect/ldeucom/138/13804.htm). How we go about doing such acts has been widely controversial, some believe it would require the consent of all EU countries, by doing such we would be re-entered into the EU on the same condition as to when we left. Whether we actually need all 28 states to agree is yet to be determined. Currently what has been dubbed the ‘Dublin Case’ is posing that exact question to the European Court of Justice. If they deem article 50 to be revokable then the UK could return to the EU without any consent being required. Although it must be said this is only based on theory, nothing has been done in practice given it has never happened before.
Politics and BREXIT, they don’t mix…
Issues revolving around the EU has a huge impact on our political environment. It could be arguably the cause of several PM’s stepping down or being ‘removed’ given their ability to deal with the problems. There are several factors that the Conservatives base their position on, firstly, the referendum ruled a BREXIT (Can i just clarify this was a very minor percentage difference, not everyone voted who could and the results of such as device are only persuasive). Secondly to go back on article 50 would place the EU on a pedestal, a ‘high horse’, and the UK would have no choice but to put our tail between our legs and waltz back. This view does not reflect well on British pride, Theresa May PM speaking loudly about her being a ‘difficult’ women and refusing to be ‘bullied’ by the EU. It all sounds rather childish to me but there you go… So it is a clear standing point that the Conservatives are going through with BREXIT regardless of whether we negotiate a good deal or not.
Is any Party brave enough to reverse the decision?
Lets start with Labour, they have adamantly refuse to get behind BREXIT or offer there support, that being said they are also not preventing it. Corbyn suggesting that they would seek a better deal for the EU rather then leave. There position on what would happen if those negotiations failed to be satisfactory are yet to be revealed. So there is a potential for Labour to turn the tide, however, this would not be an instant fix they are likely to still maintain through the procedures.
I’m afraid the only clear option for remaining in the EU is the Liberal Democrats. Tim Farron (LD party leader) stated, ““If you want to avoid a disastrous hard BREXIT, if you want to keep Britain in the single market, if you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance”. Sounds provocative enough to me, the LD’s hope to win extra seats by pushing the Anti-BREXIT front. They would never rack up enough votes to hold a controlling stance in parliament, however, they could hope for another ‘hung parliament’ (Where there is no overall majority in parliament). This means if they were to form another coalition, with Labour instead of Conservative, there may be a chance to return to the Single market and potentially even the EU. The same could be said with a potential coalition of SNP and LD’S, well they both sport the same yellow color so it helps with campaigning! However it is unlikely even the SNP can rival the Conservatives at this stage.
It must be said this is no easy task in the battlefield that is politics, but it is important that the electorate do get a say in how the country is run. That is why the EU academics believe article 50 is reversible, as if a new government came into force with different ideologies, it is entirely plausible they may wish to reverse the decision. If Theresa May PM were to do the same it would be the end of her as it was the end of David Cameron (Former Conservative PM 2010-16).
Thank you for reading, please follow LEGAL EAGLE for a view on politics and the law in a plain talking language. Updates on the general election campaign will be soon to follow…