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CJEU: Wightman and Others v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Such a revocation, decided in accordance with its own national constitutional requirements, would have the effect that the United Kingdom remains in the EU under terms that are unchanged as regards its status as a Member State

On 23 June 2016, a referendum of the United Kingdom electorate produced a majority in favour of that Member State’s leaving the European Union. On 29 March 2017, the British Prime Minister notified the European Council of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the European Union under Article 50 TEU. This article provides that following such a notification, the Member State concerned negotiates and concludes a withdrawal agreement with the EU. The EU Treaties then cease to apply to that Member State from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification of the intention to withdraw and any possible extension.

On 19 December 2017, a petition for judicial review was lodged in the Court of Session, Inner House, First Division (Scotland, United Kingdom) by members of the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the European Parliament to determine whether the notification referred to in Article 50 can be revoked unilaterally before the expiry of the two year period, with the effect that such revocation would result in the United Kingdom remaining in the EU. On 3 October 2018, the Court of Session referred this question to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling, pointing out that the response would allow members of the House of Commons to know, when exercising their vote on a withdrawal agreement, whether there are not two options, but three, namely withdrawal from the European Union without an agreement, withdrawal from the European Union with an agreement, or revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw and the United Kingdom’s remaining in the European Union.

Because of the urgency of its request with respect, notably, to the fact that the withdrawal agreement can only be ratified if that agreement, and the framework on the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union are approved by the UK Parliament, the Court of Session asked the Court of Justice to apply the expedited procedure, which was granted by the President of that court. The expedited procedure enables the Court to give its rulings quickly in exceptionally urgent cases by reducing procedural time-limits and giving such cases absolute priority.

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