Giving his Opinion in the case of Wightman & Ors v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Advocate General M. Campos Sánchez-Bordona has proposed that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) should declare that the Treaty on European Union (TEU), art 50 allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU up until 29 March 2019. Whilst the Court is not bound by the Opinion of the Advocate General, in practice it usually follows his or her recommendations on how the case should be decided. The decision of the Court itself will be handed down on a date to be fixed.
Aidan O’Neill QC is the lead counsel in the case. This began as a judicial review raised in Scotland on behalf of a group of seven Scottish elected politicians. They wanted guidance from the Court as to whether, as a matter of EU law, the withdrawal notification made in late March 2017 under TEU, art 50 could be revoked by the UK, at least while the European Treaties still applied to the UK.
The Inner House refused the judicial review as the law in issue was EU law, but made a preliminary reference to the CJEU. This sought a ruling as a matter of EU law on whether, when and how, and subject to what conditions the UK might unilaterally revoke its notification of intention to withdraw from the EU. Owing to the imminence of the expiry of the two year period, the Inner House successfully asked the Court to apply an expedited procedure.
The case was heard by a Full Court of the CJEU – 27 judges, including Judge Chris Vajda from the UK, and chaired by the President of the CJEU, Judge Koen Lenaerts. The convening of a Full Court is unprecedented for a preliminary reference from a national court and shows the importance with which the CJEU regards this case.
To read the Opinion from the Advocate General in full, please see here.