Brexit opponents get EU court boost

LUXEMBOURG • The UK can unilaterally reverse Brexit, the European Union’s (EU) top court said in a ruling that will fuel the campaign to thwart the divorce.

In a landmark ruling yesterday, the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg said Britain is free to revoke its so-called Article 50 notice any time before it’s due to leave the bloc on March 29. The decision comes as UK Prime Minister Theresa May must decide whether to put her Brexit deal to a vote today and risk a humiliating defeat that could plunge the UK into unprecedented political chaos.

“This decision puts the power to decide the UK’s future back where it should be: In the hands of our MPs,” said pro-Remain lawyer Jolyon Maugham, who spearheaded the case. “I hope they now find the moral courage to make the right decision.”

The court ruling that Article 50 can be revoked will be seized on by Remainers, who must now decide whether to push an amendment to that effect. At the very least, they can now argue with more force that staying in the EU should be included in a second referendum to end the gridlock if May’s deal is voted down in Parliament.

On the flipside, there are clear implications for Brexiteers, too. Ever since lawmakers moved to give themselves more power over the Brexit endgame in a vote last week, concern has been growing among eurosceptics that Parliament will seek a softer withdrawal or even attempt to stop Brexit entirely. On that basis, it could make sense to vote for May’s deal — which they dislike because it retains closer ties to the bloc than they want — rather than risk no Brexit at all.

May’s legal team tried to kill the case, saying it was frivolous because the government had no intention of halting Brexit.

“This case is all very well, but it doesn’t alter either the referendum vote or the very clear intention of the government to make sure that we leave on March 29,” Environment Secretary Michael Gove said in a BBC radio interview. “We don’t want to stay in the EU.” He said the vote would continue as planned. — Bloomberg