03:56, December 04 205 0 theguardian.com

2018-12-04 03:56:10
UK can stop article 50 without EU approval, top ECJ adviser says

The UK can unilaterally abandon the article 50 process, a senior adviser to the European court of justice has said, in a significant boost to anti-Brexit campaigners.

Campos Sánchez-Bordona said he believed EU law allowed the UK to revoke article 50 without requiring the formal agreement of the European commission or other EU member states.

The UK government and European commission had insisted that the Brexit process could only be stopped by unanimous agreement, even though EU treaties were silent on how an article 50 application could be withdrawn.

Sánchez-Bordona’s opinion is a major boost for a cross-party group of Scottish parliamentarians, led by Andy Wightman, a Scottish Green party MSP. They launched their legal action in December last year.

The UK government had fought strenuously to prevent the case reaching the European court, tabling a last-minute appeal with the UK supreme court only days before the hearing in Luxembourg. The appeal was rejected.

After a series of hearings at the court of session in Edinburgh, the court of justice held an emergency hearing in Luxembourg late last month, taking the rare step of convening all 28 judges.

While the opinion from Sánchez-Bordona is not binding on the judges, it is unusual for the ECJ to reach a decision which contradicts the advice of an advocate general.

If the court endorses his opinion, anti-Brexit campaigners will seize on the ruling as proof that Brexit can be reversed by MPs more smoothly than the UK government has argued.

However, they face one further hurdle: the ECJ will return the case to the Scottish courts, WHICH will need to issue a final ruling on the issue within weeks.