Europe & UK

December 13, 2018

EU Court of Justice: UK can unilaterally revoke its notification of intention to withdraw from EU


The Court of Justice of the European Union, in a Press Release issued on December 10, ruled in Wightman and Others v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that “the United Kingdom is free to revoke unilaterally the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The Full Court ruled that when a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification.

The Court further added, “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 Court then said, “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.”

According to the court, “In the absence of an express provision governing revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw, that revocation is subject to the rules laid down in Article 50(1) TEU for the withdrawal itself, with the result that it may be decided unilaterally, in accordance with the constitutional requirements of the Member State concerned. The revocation by a Member State of the notification of its intention to withdraw reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union, a status which is neither suspended nor altered by that notification.”

The court thus concluded that “To subject that right to revoke to the unanimous approval of the European Council as the Commission and Council proposed, would transform a unilateral sovereign right 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.”

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