Can Britain Exit Brexit?

A Brexit storm is coming. Is there any way to stop it?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

After writing on Friday about the possibility of Britain canceling Brexit when 11th-hour panic sets in, several readers suggested this wasn’t possible. Article 50 has been triggered, and once triggered it can’t be untriggered. On March 30 of next year, one way or another, Britain will no longer be part of the EU.

I was curious about that, so I surfed around looking for legal opinions. Long story short, here’s an excerpt of Wikipedia’s summary:

British government lawyers had argued that the Article 50 process could not be stopped….US law professor Jens Dammann argues: “there are strong policy reasons for allowing a Member State to rescind its declaration of withdrawal until the moment that the State’s membership in the European Union actually ends” and “there are persuasive doctrinal arguments justifying the recognition of such a right as a matter of black letter law”….EU politicians have said that if the UK changes its mind, they are sure a political formula will be found to reverse article 50….In October 2017, barrister Jessica Simor QC of the leading London law firm Matrix Chambers lodged a freedom of information request to the UK Prime Minister for disclosure of legal advice which, she claims, states that the UK government can withdraw the Article 50 application at any time before 29 March 2019; she notes that Article 50 provides only for notification of an intention to withdraw and contends that such intention can be changed at any time before actual withdrawal.

In other words, the “answer” is that no one knows for sure. Article 50 is short and says only that a member state can leave the EU with two-years notice. It says nothing about whether that notice can be revoked. Beyond that, my rough sense from reading a dozen or so pieces about this is that most people think the EU would figure out a way to cancel Brexit if Britain asked them to. No one really wants Britain to leave, and the legal issues are hazy enough that the EU’s clanking bureaucratic machinery can probably muddle its way into any decision that Angela Merkel wants it to.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate