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Adam Fleming @adamfleming
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The Article 50 case at the ECJ has begun. Lawyer for the British MSPs, MPs and MEPs arguing that requiring unanimity to revoke A50 would "ride roughshod" over EU principles, meaning a state could be forced out against its will if it changed its mind.
He ends his argument saying that parliamentarians need to know what options are available to them when they vote on Brexit.
Lawyer for @ChrisLeslieMP and @thomasbrake says another member state could block a possible revocation of A50 and "destroy" that country's rights, if it has to unanimous.
UK government's lawyer argues the case is inadmissible. UK doesn't intend to revoke A50 and the potential reactions of the EU27 are "unknown and unknowable."
Government adds that the case has been brought by opponents of Brexit who will use the Court's ruling or comments as "ammunition" in their political campaign.
Now it's the European Council which says the only unilateral bit of A50 is the letter from the departing country. If it could withdraw the notification and resubmit then it could "keep the ball rolling" until it got a better deal at the EU's expense.
And yes, the Council's chief lawyer is named Hubert Legal.
Now the @EU_Commission argues a state could act in an "abusive" manner by stopping and restarting the clock again and again, creating "endless uncertainty" which the 2-year time limit in A50 was clearly designed to guard against.
The @EU_Commission lawyer adds that extending A50 timeframe needs unanimity so it's reasonable that revocation does too. Especially as revoking is at least as a big a deal as extending.
And she says Vienna Convention on withdrawing from treaties doesn't apply here because the EU's treaties have their own withdrawal mechanism, which is Article 50.
Now questions from the judges.
Q: Why not QMV for revocation like it is for approval of the Withdrawal Agreement?
@EU_Commission: The Withdrawal Agreement is of less significance than a country staying or going
Q: Why not attach conditions so that a country couldn't abuse its revocation of A50?
@EU_Commission: that would be for European Council to decide and hard to do because the departing member state would still be a member state
Judges now asking about the UK parliamentary timetable. Hmmm.
Back from a coffee break. When asked about 2nd referendum @EU_Commission says it would be a basis for revoking A50 notification but "someone would have to check" that it wasn't an abuse of A50.
Revealing from Mr Legal on why unanimity matters: It might not be difficult or a withdrawing member state to find one country as an ally.
He adds there would be huge political pressure on member states to approve the reversal of a country's exit and it would be a brave country that opposed it.
Summing up, lawyer for @andywightman says ECJ doesn't have to advise on revocability of A50 notification before the meaningful vote at Westminster because MPs could still amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill later.
The "collateral damage" in the UK of the Brexit process so far should act as a deterrent to any other country that wanted to "whimsically" use Article 50, says @ChrisLeslieMP's lawyer.
For the government, Lord Keen asks what if the ECJ is then asked to rule on elements of the draft Withdrawal Agreement as it goes through Parliament? Like opening Pandora's box, he says. And beyond the ECJ's jurisdictional boundaries, he claims.
The meaningful vote doesn't mean anything to the EU, says Mr Legal for the European Council, because it's an internal domestic matter. Instead, the EU27 deals with the UK government and any communication from them "will not remain unanswered."
And it's done. Decision will come "quickly" but date to be announced... at a later date. (ENDS)
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