The Court of Justice of the European Union issued a judgment on Monday, saying that the UK can unilaterally revoke its notification of intention to withdraw from the EU. The decision comes in response to a December 2017 petition for judicial review filed by members of the UK parliament, originally in the Court of Sessions, which was referred to the Court of Justice in October 2018. The ruling was issued by expedited process and reads in part:
In today’s judgment, the Full Court has ruled that, when a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification. That possibility exists for as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force or, if no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU, and any possible extension, has not expired. The revocation must be decided following a democratic process in accordance with national constitutional requirements. This unequivocal and unconditional decision must be communicated in writing to the European Council. Such a revocation confirms the EU membership of the Member State concerned under terms that are unchanged as regards its status as a Member State and brings the withdrawal procedure to an end.
The court reasoned that the UK could unilaterally revoke the notification to leave the EU because failing to do so “would transform a unilateral sovereign right [to remain in the EU] into a conditional right and would be incompatible with the principle that a Member State cannot be forced to leave the European Union against its will.”
The ruling is consistent with the non-binding opinion released by the court’s Advocate General last week. The initial case was unsuccessfully opposed by the British government and will be referred back to Scotland’s top court, the Court of Session in Edinburgh, for a final decision.