An amendment could allow Brexit to be stopped
The Remainers, part of the Open Britain campaign, have tabled an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill that could force Theresa May into publishing secret legal advice about the process.
And they claim that advice shows the Article 50 notification can be be revoked and Brexit abandoned.
Since Article 50 was triggered this year, the Government has insisted Brexit is an irreversible process.
Ministers claim even if MPs vote down the final agreement with the EU it would simply mean Britain crashes out of the bloc with no deal at all.
But some MPs are convinced legal advice will show this is not the case, potentially allowing Commons rebels to go against the referendum result and halt Brexit if they don’t like the final deal.
It comes after Lord Kerr, who penned Article 50 originally, said the British Government could simply withdraw its letter and stop the entire process – a view that is hotly contested.
Chuka Umunna, one of the MPs tabling the amendment, said: “Legal experts and the architect of Article 50 himself have said Theresa May’s letter signalled only the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU.
“Intentions can change, and it is perfectly within the Government’s power to call a halt to or pause this process and withdraw the letter if they want to.
Chuka Umunna has co-tabled the amendment
MP Chris Leslie (middle) from Open Britain is behind the amendment
“Ministers need to come clean about the legal advice they have received and give a simple answer to a simple question – can Article 50 be extended or withdrawn?
“People have every right to know that it can and that they still have a choice at the end of the Brexit negotiations as new facts emerge.”
Fellow Labour MP Chris Leslie said the recent Commons defeat for Mrs May, allowing a “meaningful vote” on the final deal, showed there was an “appetite” for proper scrutiny of the process.
He said: “This amendment should also gain cross-party support because MPs and their constituents have every right to know the legal facts about what is and is not possible in the Brexit process.
Could Article 50 be revoked?
Lord Kerr has said Article 50 could be revoked
“Ministers have provided no clarity on this so far and it’s about time they did.”
If a debate was secured and the amendment was passed, ministers would have to put the confidential legal advice in the public domain.
The amendment reads: “Her Majesty’s Government shall publish a summary of the legal advice it has received in respect of the ability of the United Kingdom to extend, alter or revoke the notification, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on the European Union, of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.”
If supported in enough numbers, the change would create a huge headache for the Prime Minister, who has just suffered her first major Commons rebellion.
That came thanks to an amendment by a member of her own party, Dominic Grieve, and was supported by 10 other rebel Tories.
Last month, Lord Kerr, a former EU diplomat, told the Today programme Article 50 could be reversed and Brtiain could hold a second referendum.
He said: “At any stage, we can change our minds if we want to.
“And if we did, we know that our partners would be, actually very pleased indeed.
“I’m not today arguing for a second referendum. I’m saying if we wanted to have a second referendum there is nothing in the treaty or in the attitude of the EU partners that would prevent us taking the time to have one.”