Brexit: Article 50 ‘not irrevocable’, says its deviser Lord Kerr

Written by Sebastian Whale on 3 November 2016 in News

Lord Kerr, who wrote the legal mechanism for leaving the EU, says it could be reversed even after being triggered

UK and EU - PA

The triggering of Article 50 is “not irrevocable”, the cross-bench peer who wrote the legal mechanism for quitting the EU has said.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard said the UK could opt to remain in the European Union even after initiating the legal process for quitting.

His comments come as the High Court prepares to rule on whether the Government can trigger Article 50 without the consent of parliament.


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Judges heard last month a challenge from campaigners who claim Theresa May does not have the power to invoke Brexit without the backing of MPs.

The Prime Minister has said she would initiate the mechanism by the end of March next year, beginning a two-year process to negotiate the terms of Britain’s exit. This means the UK would have left the EU by April 2019.

But Lord Kerr, who devised the clause in the Lisbon Treaty while he was secretary general of the European Convention, argued the country “might want to think again” when the detail of Britain’s new relationship with the EU becomes clearer.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: "It is not irrevocable. You can change your mind while the process is going on.

"During that period, if a country were to decide actually we don't want to leave after all, everybody would be very cross about it being a waste of time.

"They might try to extract a political price but legally they couldn't insist that you leave."

He added: "I thought the circumstances in which it would be used, if ever, would be when there was a coup in a member state and the EU suspended that country's membership.

"I thought that at that point the dictator in question might be so cross that he'd say 'right, I'm off' and it would be good to have a procedure under which he could leave."

But a Department for Exiting the European Union spokesman said: "The UK voted to leave the European Union. The people have spoken and it is now the duty of the government to make sure that happens.

"Government lawyers also made clear in legal proceedings before the High Court that, as a matter of firm policy, notification of withdrawal will not be withdrawn."

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