UK can cancel Brexit, the EU’s top court has just ruled

The UK can cancel Brexit without the EU’s permission, the European Court of Justice ruled today.

Justices ruled the UK can "unilaterally" withdraw its notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty if it wants to.

Triggered for the first time in history, Article 50 formally activated Brexit and set the date of it as 29 March 2019.

Now critics fear there is not enough time left to agree a form of Brexit, risking a disastrous no-deal departure.

Although it doesn’t force the government to do anything, today’s verdict was seized on by Remain campaigners who say the process of leaving the EU must be stopped.

It comes just 36 hours before MPs are expected to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal – hurling the nation into chaos.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Important judgment from ECJ – Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked by UK."

SNP MP Stewart McDonald added: "It is now indisputably the case that the PM’s deal is not the only option – we can change course and remain."

Labour MP David Lammy said: "Brexit is not inevitable. We can revoke Article 50. After two and a half years of failed negotiations, broken promises and lies, it must be up to the British people to decide in a People’s Vote."

Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi branded it a "magnificent moment". Labour MP Jo Stevens said: "We should revoke and remain." And Labour MP Neil Coyle said: "The Government’s attempt to deceive the public that it is May’s wish list or No Deal at all faces defeat tomorrow. A new route is clearly available: revoke Article 50 and a new people’s vote."

Today’s ruling says it is only possible to cancel Article 50 before Brexit formally begins on 29 March 2019.

It must also be decided "following a democratic process in accordance with national constitutional requirements" – in other words, a vote in parliament or similar.

But importantly, the UK would not need the permission of other EU states.

The legal fight by Scottish Labour, SNP and Green politicians was led by the Good Law Project, which crowdfunded more than £170,000.

Campaigning barrister Jolyon Maugham, who led the bid, said before the ruling: “Most MPs just want to do the right thing by the country.

“Strip away all the complexity and this case is about one simple thing: showing them what options are still on the table.”

The case began at Edinburgh’s Court of Session a year ago and escalated despite opposition by the UK government.

The ECJ held an ultra-speedy hearing on November 27 after UK ministers failed in a last-ditch bid to block it at the Supreme Court.

Today’s ruling confirms a statement issued last week by the court’s top legal advisor.

Advocate General Campos Sanchez-Bordona said the system "allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU".

While the Advocate General’s opinion was not in itself binding, the court tends to follow such opinions in its final rulings.

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