The Advocate General for the European Court of Justice released a non-binding opinion on Tuesday finding that the UK can unilaterally revoke its intention to withdraw from the EU.
This would mean that a unanimous decision from the European Council would not be required if the UK decides to abandon Brexit.
The Advocate General, Manuel Campos Sánchez-Bordona, interpreted Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (TEU) and Article 68 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties to make this determination.
Withdrawing from an international treaty is considered a reversal of a treaty-making power, which “is by definition a unilateral act of a State … and a manifestation of its sovereignty.” Furthermore, Article 50(2) TEU refers specifically to an intention—not a decision—to withdraw. This is significant because intentions are permitted the opportunity to change.
To revoke the intention to withdraw, certain requirements must be met. The decision to revoke must follow the member state’s constitutional requirements and should not involve any abusive practices. Additionally, the European Council must be notified of the revocation, and the revocation must occur within a two-year period following the stated intent.
This opinion was released at the request of various parties, including members of the European Parliament and a Scottish court, to determine the feasibility and limitations of a unilateral revocation.
Despite the Advocate General’s determination that Article 50 TEU allows revocation, the overall effect of the statement may be minimal. The UK government has resisted a preliminary ruling on this question by the EU court and has shown little interest in pursuing the option.