EDINBURGH: A legal attempt by anti-Brexit campaigners to establish that Britain could unilaterally reverse Brexit was given a boost on Tuesday by Scotland’s top court, which said it wants to examine the case in greater depth.
The group behind the legal challenge, who include pro-EU Scottish lawmakers, want to show that Britain could stay in the European Union after all, if for example the Brexit negotiations resulted in an unfavourable deal.
The campaigners are ultimately seeking a formal opinion by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) asserting that Britain could reverse its decision to invoke Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal step that kick-started the Brexit process.
They argue that once the terms of Brexit have been negotiated, Britain’s sovereign parliament may well decide not to go ahead with it, so lawmakers need to know in advance if that is legally possible.
As things stand, there is no suggestion of a change of course over Brexit, which British voters backed by 52 to 48 per cent in a June 2016 referendum. The ruling Conservative Party and main opposition Labour Party are both committed to Britain leaving the European Union.
The legal case, spearheaded by anti-Brexit campaigning lawyer Jolyon Maugham, had been rejected by a lower Scottish court.
On Tuesday, the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest court, rejected the earlier ruling, saying the case raised important issues and there should be a full hearing so all the arguments can be developed.
Once such a hearing has taken place, a decision will be made on whether the case should be referred to the ECJ.
If it ultimately requests the ECJ clarify the issue, the Luxembourg-based court will be “bound to reply to the questions asked,” the court said.
The petitioners argue that while there is no doubt that Britain could stop Brexit with the permission of the other 27 members, it should seek to establish a legal right to do so unilaterally whether the rest of the bloc likes it or not.
The British government argues that the question of whether it alone can stop Brexit is irrelevant, since the issue was decided by the 2016 referendum and there are no plans for a second referendum.
The petitioners have said they will go all the way to Britain’s Supreme Court if necessary.