Is revoking Article 50 the solution to Britain’s Brexit problems?

People in Britain who are worried about the way Brexit is going have been saying maybe we should “revoke Article 50”. But what does that mean, and is it a good idea?

What does “Revoke Article 50” actually mean?

It stops the clock on Brexit.

On 29 March this year, the government gave the EU formal notification that Britain wanted to leave the EU. This initiated a procedure set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty under which the UK will leave the EU on 28 March 2019.

“Revoking Article 50” means withdrawing that notification. The procedure for leaving the EU would be abandoned and Britain would not leave the EU in March 2019.

Is it really possible to revoke Article 50?


Would it be expensive?

No. There is no cost to revoking Article 50. For example, Britain would not be obliged to pay the “divorce bill” measured in tens of billions that is currently being discussed in the Brexit negotiations.

Do we need the permission of the EU?

There are differing opinions on this. Those who have a vested interest say we do. Those who are independent say we don’t.

In the first camp we have the European Commission and Theresa May. The EU itself would benefit if we needed its permission. Not surprisingly, it says we do. Theresa May’s ministers, who don’t want people to think about a Plan B, have said their “understanding” is that it is irrevocable. Neither side has published their legal advice, which is especially significant in the Commission’s case as it has repeatedly promised to be transparent about the Brexit process.

In the second camp is Lord Kerr, a former UK civil servant and the man who originally drafted Article 50. He says we can change our mind any time. Many EU leaders have also made statements along the lines of “the door remains open until you walk out”.

But the strongest argument of all comes from the only legal advice in the public domain, provided by the House of Lords last year. It said, “It is absolutely clear that you cannot be forced to go through with it if you do not want to.”

Can Britain then re-start Brexit later?

Yes. The Article 50 notification is not a one-off thing. We can re-start the process any time we want.

Does this mean giving up on the referendum result?

No. Revoking Article 50 says nothing at all about the referendum result. It leaves the government still under the same obligation to honour the result.

In that case, what’s the point?

This isn’t about the principle of the referendum, it’s about the practicalities of the current Brexit process. Theresa May has made a mess of Brexit. She started the clock ticking down to the deadline in March 2019 and then threw us into chaos with the general election. We don’t have the strong and stable government that we really do need for this. We don’t have a plan or even agreed objectives for our negotiations with the EU. And there is no obvious solution to the problems she has created. This is a recipe for disaster on a colossal scale. Better to stop, pick ourselves up and return to negotiations with the EU once we are actually ready.

Is it really that bad?

Only you can make that call. I think it is and will post links as soon as I can to some good articles on the subject.

So who wins, Leavers or Remainers?

Neither. If you’re a hard core Leaver you won’t like this idea because Brexit is deferred. If you’re a hard core Remainer, you won’t like it because Brexit is not abandoned. If on the other hand you can see both sides of the argument, #RevokeArticle50 could be for you.

I voted for Brexit. Are you saying I was wrong?

No. Just that Theresa May has let you down big time.

I voted against Brexit. Isn’t a second referendum a better idea?

No. A second referendum would deal with a different issue, the principle of Brexit itself. And it could have two results. One of those results would be a second decision to Leave — which would leave us with even less time and an even bigger mess than we’re in now.

So what do I do?

There’s a petition. Sign it:

Like the Facebook page:

Message your friends. Or email them.

It’s your country.