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Ministers response to the CJEU’s ruling on the Wightman Article 50 case

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Steve Barclay gave a statement to Parliament explaining the Government’s response to the CJEU’s judgement (10 december 2018) on the Wightman Article 50 case.

Ministers response to the CJEU’s ruling on the Wightman Article 50 case

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/secretary-of-state-statement-to-parliament-in-response-to-the-cjeus-ruling-on-the-wightman-article-50-case

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will now make a statement on the judgment issued by the European Court of Justice this morning on the Wightman case.

Mr Speaker, today, the European Court of Justice has delivered its judgment on the question of the revocability of an Article 50 notice. The Court has found that the UK has the right, in accordance with its constitutional requirements, to unilaterally revoke the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU.

We note the judgement from the European Court. It is their role to provide rulings on the interpretation of EU law.

This judgement clarifies the law. The judgement does not in any way change our policy. That the Government knows this course is possible, just as many undesirable actions are possible, does not change the fact that such an approach is hypothetical and the Government has no intention of doing it.

The Government’s firm and long-held policy is that we will not revoke the Article 50 notice. This position has not changed. To do this, or indeed to hold a second referendum, would be to undermine the result of the 2016 referendum and the professed will of this House to give effect to that result.

This House voted to hold the referendum and promised to deliver it.

544 members of this House voted to give the British public their say, with just 53 opposed.

Almost three quarters of the electorate then took part in the 2016 referendum, resulting in 17.4 million votes to leave the European Union.

This is the highest number of votes cast for anything in UK electoral history, making this referendum the biggest democratic exercise in our history.

This House then voted again to empower the Prime Minister to notify under Article 50 and voted yet again to repeal the European Communities Act.

The Government remains focused on its task and its mandate, and delivering a deal which honours the 2016 referendum result.

We will be leaving the EU on the 29th of March next year.

I commend this statement to the House.

CJEU – UK can revoke Article 50

The European Court of Justice has today (10 December) announced its decision in Case C-621/18 Wightman and Others as to whether the UK can unilaterally decide to revoke the invocation of Article 50.

The United Kingdom is free to revoke unilaterally the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU. Such a revocation, decided in accordance with its own national constitutional requirements, would have the effect that the United Kingdom remains in the EU under terms that are unchanged as regards its status as a Member State

All the details available at

https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2018-12/cp180191en.pdf

CJEU_decision (copy pdf)

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.

Full Judgement

CJEU Full Judgement (copy pdf)

Will the UK Parliament consider this Judgement in respect of another option for the way forward ?

Other References

Also see a House of Commons Research Briefing

Brexit: Article 50 TEU at the CJEU

Can the UK end Brexit unilaterally ?

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The European Court of Justice’s Advocate General said on Tuesday that the UK has the right to withdraw its Brexit notice from the EU unilaterally.

Advocate Generals Opinion C-621/18

Advocate General Campos Sánchez-Bordona proposes that the Court of Justice should declare that Article 50 TEU allows the unilateral revocation of the notification
of the intention to withdraw from the EU.

That possibility continues to exist until such time as the withdrawal agreement is formally concluded.

(copy)

At the request of various MSPs, MPs and MEPs, a Scottish court, the Court of Session, Inner House, First Division (UK), asks the Court of Justice whether a Member State which has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU in accordance with Article 50 TEU may unilaterally revoke that notification and, if so, subject to what conditions.

In answer to the question from the Scottish court, the Advocate General proposes that the Court of Justice should, in its future judgment, declare that Article 50 TEU allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU, until such time as the withdrawal agreement is formally concluded, provided that the revocation has been decided upon in accordance with the Member State’s constitutional requirements, is formally notified to the European Council and does not involve an abusive practice.

The Advocate General’s Opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice. It is the role of the Advocates General to propose to the Court, in complete independence, a legal solution to the cases for which they are responsible. The Judges of the Court are now beginning their deliberations in this case. Judgment will be given at a later date.

Although the advice is non-binding it comes as the UK Parliament begins five days of debates on Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal.

UK invokes Article 50

The UK

On the 29 March 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk to notify him of the UK’s intention to leave the EU. The letter was delivered by Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s ambassador to the EU.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prime-ministers-letter-to-donald-tusk-triggering-article-50

….
Today, therefore, I am writing to give effect to the democratic decision of the people of the United Kingdom. I hereby notify the European Council in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union. In addition, in accordance with the same Article 50(2) as applied by Article 106a of the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, I hereby notify the European Council of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community.

The letter is 6 pages long and outlines the UK’s approach to negotiations suggesting a number of principles that could be adopted in an attempt to ensure that the negotiations proceed as smoothly as possible:

  1. We should engage with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation
  2. We should always put our citizens first
  3. We should work towards securing a comprehensive agreement
  4. We should work together to minimise disruption and give as much certainty as possible
  5. We must pay attention to the UK’s unique relationship with the Republic of Ireland and the importance of the peace process in Northern Ireland
  6. We should begin technical talks on detailed policy areas as soon as possible, but we should prioritise the biggest challenges
  7. We should continue to work together to advance and protect our shared European values

The letter also mentions a White Paper will be released tomorrow (30 March 2017) which will provide details of legislation to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 which gives effect to EU law in the UK. (This legislation is also known as the Great Repeal Bill.)

Theresa May gave a statement on the letter in Parliament details of which can be found at

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prime-ministers-commons-statement-on-triggering-article-50

The EU

Donald Tusk responded to the notification letter and mentioned

So, here it is, six pages: the notification from Prime Minister Theresa May, triggering Article 50 and formally starting the
negotiations of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. There is no reason to pretend that this is a happy
day, neither in Brussels, nor in London. After all, most Europeans, including almost half the British voters wish that we would stay together, not drift apart. As for me I will not pretend that I am happy today.

….

On Friday I will share a proposal of the negotiating guidelines with the Member States, to be adopted by the European Council on 29 April.

Full details are available at

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/03/29-tusk-remarks-uk-notification/

A Statement by the European Council (Art. 50) on the UK notification was also issued.

For the European Union, the first step will now be the adoption of guidelines for the negotiations by the European Council. These
guidelines will set out the overall positions and principles in light of which the Union, represented by the European Commission,
will negotiate with the United Kingdom.

In these negotiations the Union will act as one and preserve its interests. Our first priority will be to minimise the uncertainty
caused by the decision of the United Kingdom for our citizens, businesses and Member States. Therefore, we will start by
focusing on all key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal.

We will approach these talks constructively and strive to find an agreement. In the future, we hope to have the United Kingdom as
a close partner.

President Tusk has convened the European Council on 29 April 2017.

Full details are available at

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/03/29-euco-50-statement-uk-notification/

What happens next ?

The withdrawal agreement must be negotiated in accordance with Article 218 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Step 1
An extraordinary European Council will be convened by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. (This will happen on 29 April).
The European Council will adopt by consensus a set of guidelines on the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. These guidelines will define the overall principles that the EU will pursue during the negotiations based on the common interest of the European Union and of its Member States.

Step 2
After the adoption of the guidelines, the Commission will very quickly present to the Council a recommendation to open the negotiations. This will be agreed by the College of Commissioners, 4 days after the meeting of the European Council.

Step 3
The Council will then need to authorise the start of the negotiations by adopting a set of negotiating directives. They must be adopted by strong qualified majority (72% of the 27 Member States, i.e. 20 Member States representing 65% of the population of the EU27).
Once these directives are adopted, the Union negotiator, as designated by the Council, is mandated to begin negotiations with the withdrawing Member State.

Process to invoke Article 50

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Although it would seem that the process for invoking Article 50 should be straightforward, a legal case was initiated to determine whether the Government can use Royal Prerogative Powers to start the process of leaving the EU.

Gina Miller engaged the City law firm Mishcon de Reya to challenge the authority of the British Government to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union using prerogative powers, arguing that only Parliament can take away rights that Parliament has granted.

After a hearing on 03 November 2016, the High Court of Justice ruled that Theresa May cannot use the Royal Prerogative Powers to invoke Article 50 and begin the process for withdrawal from the EU and she needs prior Parliamentary approval.

Judgement: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/r-miller-v-secretary-of-state-for-exiting-eu-amended-20161122.pdf

Summary: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/summary-r-miller-v-secretary-of-state-for-exiting-the-eu-20161103.pdf

(LOCAL COPIES)

The Government decided to appeal the High Court’s decision and took the appeal directly to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population.

https://www.supremecourt.uk

The appeal hearing was held from 5-8 December 2016 with the decision to be issued in January 2017.

Details of the case and proceedings can be found at

https://www.supremecourt.uk/news/article-50-brexit-appeal.html

The judgement by the Supreme Court was issued on 24 Jan 2017. The Secretary of State’s appeal was dismissed by a majority of 8-3. In a joint judgement of the majority, the Supreme Court holds that an Act of Parliament is required to authorise ministers to give Notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the European Union.

The judgement documents are available at:

Judgement : https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2016-0196-judgment.pdf

Summary: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2016-0196-press-summary.pdf

(LOCAL COPIES)

A useful article, interpreting details of the judgement by Robert Craig: Miller Supreme Court Case Summary can be found at

https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2017/01/26/robert-craig-miller-supreme-court-case-summary/

The Supreme Court decided that the Government is not obliged to consult with the UK’s devolved assemblies before triggering Article 50 and also ruled that once Article 50 is triggered, it cannot be reversed.

The form that the legislation should take was not defined and is entirely a matter for Parliament but Parliament will need to pass a new bill that gives Government the authority to trigger Article 50.

A statement, following the ruling, from Number 10 added :

The British people voted to leave the EU, and the Government will deliver on their verdict – triggering Article 50, as planned, by the end of March. Today’s ruling does nothing to change that.

It’s important to remember that Parliament backed the referendum by a margin of six to one and has already indicated its support for getting on with the process of exit to the timetable we have set out.

We respect the Supreme Court’s decision, and will set out our next steps to Parliament shortly.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn reacted to the judgment by saying that his party will not seek to frustrate the will of the British people, but did say that “Labour will seek to amend the Article 50 Bill to prevent Conservatives using Brexit to turn Britain into a bargain basement tax haven.”

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