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Article 50 notice can be revoked, says EU

Michel Barnier,

Michel Barnier, Chief EU negotiator.

A new European Union website devoted to Article 50 negotiations makes it clear that there is a way in which the Brexit notice could be revoked.

The UK cannot unilaterally withdraw the letter sent by Theresa May, but it could ask the EU to agree to revoke the notice.

The new Article 50 taskforce website (part of a larger new site) has a Q&A page including this:

Once triggered, can Article 50 be revoked?

It is up to the United Kingdom to trigger Article 50. But once triggered, it cannot be unilaterally reversed. Notification is a point of no return. Article 50 does not provide for the unilateral withdrawal of notification.

In other words, the UK cannot simply say, “Oops! We made a made a mistake. We didn’t mean it. We are staying in the UK.” But the UK could say, “It has become clear that leaving the UK is not good for our country, not is it good for the other 27 members of the UK. It would be best for everyone in we could withdraw out Article 50 notice and find a way to work together to our mutual benefit.”

Obviously, that is not an option that Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator, can put forward, but several leading people in the EU including Guy Verhofstadt, lead negotiator for the European Parliament, have suggested that one day the UK would rejoin. Verhofstadt wrote in the New Statesman:

I am also sure that – one day or another – there will be a young man or woman who will try again, who will lead Britain into the European family once again. A young generation that will see Brexit for what it really is: a catfight in the Conservative party that got out of hand, a loss of time, a waste of energy, a stupidity.

That process of rejoining would be long and painful. But as the disadvantages of leaving will become clear during the coming 18 months of negotiation. The failure of the Leave campaign to deliver it promises, the loss of jobs, reducing wealth, the threat to the United Kingdom, difficulty of forging new relationships outside the common market, the loss of influence in the word and the need for Europe to hang together in an unpredictable world will all become clearer.

Far better to swallow pride before we are outside the tent.

Time to start fighting to withdraw May’s Article 50 letter

A Guardian headline this morning, “Believe it or not, Nigel Farage can now be an inspiration for remainers” is intended to provoke. It is not that but Johathan Freedland’s opinion piece under it that makes me angry.

He writes:

Why shouldn’t remainers draw inspiration from those who refused to accept the 1975 referendum ratifying Britain’s entry into the European club and agitated tirelessly for a second vote? Surely the dogged persistence of a Nigel Farage, Bill Cash or John Redwood is a model for the 48% to follow.

My 75th birthday was six days ago. I don’t have the time to play such a long game.

Freedland continues:

…that still leaves the possibility of an even harder Brexit – and pro-Europeans’ task now is to resist it. Admitting that several rooms are on fire doesn’t free you from the obligation to stop the entire house burning to the ground.

In practice, that means limiting the damage. It could mean arguing for greater access to European markets, even if that entails some jurisdiction by the European court of justice. Or urging new immigration rules that don’t seal up the border to all outsiders.

He completely ignores the possibility that many, including myself are fighting for – revocation of the Article 50 notice. It would be messy, nasty but we have a democracy where people have the freedom and right to change their mind.

The argument that the deed is done and there is no turning back has no strong basis. Yes the British Government and those seeking a Commons vote during the Supreme Court hearing assumed an Article 50 could not be withdrawn.

It is only the European Court that can decide whether or not that is true. A case seeking to clarify this is underway in Dublin.

The man who drafted the clause, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, believes it [revocation] is possible. Sky news reported:

Lord Kerr said: “You can withdraw the notification (Article 50) that she (Theresa May) is going to submit in March.

“Legally it would be perfectly possible to take it back.

“Politically of course, our partners might not be too thrilled if they’d wasted 18 months, 20 months negotiating with us, but I suspect it would be possible to get political agreement where you carry on as before.

“That looks at present an extremely unlikely contingency, but it is there as a possibility.”

As he points out it would become a political rather than a legal question.

Matt Kelly, editor of the European,  The New European this week speaks for me when he writes:

If people start losing their jobs, their homes, if food prices soar, if the quick trade deals they promised us fail to materialise, the will of the people may change.

And when (no need for ifs on this one) the real cracks start to show in political parties as riven by conflict over Europe today as they have even been, the charade that prompted this whole debacle will be daylight clear, and the will of the people may change.

And if the will of the people changes, it will find a way – as it always does – to be heard.

The how of a reversal is harder to define just now. But obstructing that will of the people would be nothing short of anti-democratic.

Article 50 is, definitely, NOT irreversible. Donald Tusk says so. Lord Kerr, who wrote the article, says so. The price of a reversal will be a political one. We believe that’s fair. It’s politics that got us into this mess, and if politics has taught us anything in the last twelve months, it’s this: Nobody knows anything.

Stay angry. Fight Brexit.

I am angry. It is urgent as I don’t want to fight to my dying day, which seems to be what Johnathan Freedland advocates. It is about the British Isles being a place fit for future generations.

 

Swift reactions suggest Article 50 letter was not given enough thought

Annotated letter

What TM wrote and what she means. Politico.eu has its interpretation.

That Theresa May’s Article 50 letter has been so quickly seen as a threat over European security co-operation suggests the drafting may have been hurried and not subjected to sufficiently rigorous checking in Downing Street. The alternative – that it was a deliberate threat – is worse.

The point was picked up immediately by LibDem leader Tim Farron who said Theresa May has delivered a “blatant threat” to the EU 27 by threatening to withdraw security co-operation if we do not receive a favourable trade deal.

Others in the UK and across Europe followed with similar comments.

Politico.eu has produced an annotated version of the letter and had this to say on the security issue:

WHAT SHE SAID:
“In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.”

WHAT SHE MEANT:
If you want access to our superior intelligence on international crime and terrorism you’d better do us a deal on the stuff we want too. Just think about that.

Reactions to other parts of the letter were also swift. The Independent reports:

Angela Merkel has dealt an instant blow to Theresa May’s plan for Brexit by rejecting the PM’s plan for trade talks to take place at the same time as Article 50 secession negotiations.

Britain will be put into the slow lane for discussions about any future trade deal with the EU following an intervention by the German Chancellor, who intervened just hours after the UK invoked Article 50.

Was all this what Downing Street expected and wanted from the letter or is it a mark of poor drafting and hurry. They have had months to prepare the letter but it does not look like it.

The fight against Brexit starts today

The fight-back against Brexit starts today as the triggering of Article 50 opens negotiations on our future. For me the European Union is not only an economic union but a social and political alliance formed after World War II to ensure a peaceful continent.

This has been my conviction for a long time. At the age of 17, in 1959, I spoke in a debate on Europe and said we should not forget that Europe reached to the Urals. Long ago I realised I would not see that youthful dream come true, but I don’t want see what has been achieved thrown away by English nationalists.

I am angered each time Mrs May talks about representing everyone in the United Kingdom as she did this afternoon. That is not true. She does not speak for me. She has declared war on everything I believe.

There is no inevitability about what happens in the next two years. The EU will undoubtedly change in the next 18 months and such reforms will be the priority of the 27 countries remaining: the UK will have no influence but they could make Europe more acceptable to some here.

As the Brexit negotiations develop there will be changes in public feelings here. We simply cannot guess what will happen in the talks or how people will react. It maybe that a deal which would keep the Northern Ireland and Scotland within the UK could be reached or it could be going over the cliff edge.

My objective is to see the Article 50 letter revoked and the UK remaining a member of the EU. The argument that this cannot be legally done is fallacious. The law has not been tested and at some stage the European Court is likely to rule on this. There are plenty of people both here and in European countries believe it can be done.

But, in the end, it is a political matter. If both side in the negotiations wanted it to happen the law would not stand in the way.

I am optimistic because I don’t think Mrs May will want to go down in history as the prime minister who took England and Wales out of both the European Union and the United Kingdom.

 

The Conservative party is outsourcing sovereignty to 0.002% of the people

The Conservative party is outsourcing sovereignty. The 150,000 party members (0.002% of the UK population) will have the final say on who will be the prime minister will have to take one of the momentous decision in British History.

David Cameron had passed the responsibility to accept the result of the referendum and start the process of leaving the EU by notifying the European Council to his successor. It is a sovereign decision to be made by the prime minister: there is no provision for votes in he Houses of Parliament.

It is right that party members choose their leader. But choosing a prime minister who will take, what looks like being, an existential decision for the UK is another matter.

The front-runner to replace David Cameron has already announced what her decision would be. Teresa May said yesterday: “Brexit means Brexit.”

Prime ministers also have the right to declare war without the approval of parliament but this has been strongly challenged particularly since the Iraq war. In 2005 Clare Short (Labour) introduced a bill to requiring parliamentary consent to armed conflict and was supported by senior figures in all parties. It was talked out.

This issue will return next week with the publication of the Chilcot report.

Except in cases of urgency, it is now difficult to imagine a prime minister declaring war without first having a debate in parliament and vote, even it was not binding.

Yet there is no suggestion of a vote on triggering Article 50 to exit the EU. Labour has joined the Conservatives in saying the people have spoken and their will must be respected.

Well, 37 per cent of the population have voted in favour of leaving without knowing what leaving will mean. The capital city and two of the four countries of the union have voted to remain, a division which in normal circumstances would lead parliament to be very cautious about making a final decision.

At the very least, the new prime minister should seek confirmation of her or his role by calling a general election before making a decision on triggering article 50.

If that does not happen our democracy means very little.