EU law allows the UK to revoke its Article 50 notice unilaterally

By Richard Eccles


The Court of Justice of the EU (the "CJEU") has held in a judgment of 10th December 2018 that an EU Member State may unilaterally revoke a notice to withdraw from the EU, given under Article 50 of the Treaty on the EU ("TEU"), provided that the notice (whether or not extended) has not expired. Following such revocation, the Member State's EU membership will continue under the same terms as previously. Therefore if the UK Parliament chose to do so, it could withdraw the UK's Article 50 notice without need for any consent from the EU institutions or other Member States, and would continue as an EU Member State on the same terms as at present.

The case reached the CJEU on a reference from the Scottish Court of Session and was processed on an expedited basis.

The CJEU based its judgment on the principle that the EU is composed of States which have voluntarily committed themselves to the EU and its values. Given that a State cannot be forced to accede to the EU against its will, neither can it be forced to withdraw from the EU against its will. The CJEU agreed with the Opinion of the Advocate General (given the previous week) that the sovereign nature of the right of withdrawal in Article 50 of the TEU supports the conclusion that the Member State concerned has a right to revoke the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU, provided that a withdrawal agreement has not yet been concluded between the EU and the Member State, and provided that the two-year period in Article 50 (3) TEU (whether or not extended) has not expired.

This article is part of our Brexit series.