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House of Commons Hansard
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Article 50: European Court of Justice Decision
13 December 2018
Volume 651
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4. What implications the decision by the European Court of Justice on the revocability of article 50 has for his legal advice to the Government. [908202]

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9. What implications the decision by the European Court of Justice on the revocability of article 50 has for his legal advice to the Government. [908207]

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The decision of the European Court of Justice clarifies a question of EU law, and it does not in any way change the Government’s policy. The Government’s firm and long-standing policy is that we will not revoke the article 50 notice. The position has not changed and, as is well known, the case will now revert to the Scottish courts for the final decision.

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Will the Attorney General take this opportunity to confirm that he advised the Prime Minister that the ECJ’s ruling means that voting against her deal does not automatically mean a no-deal Brexit, and that revoking the article 50 notice and remaining in the EU under current terms and conditions is a third option?

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The Government’s policy is that we do not intend to revoke article 50. We intend to leave the European Union on 29 March, and the fact or otherwise of the irrevocability of article 50 is wholly irrelevant to that question. The truth, however, is that the giving of notice under article 50 would not just be an easy matter of pressing a button and the revocation taking effect.

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Does the Attorney General believe that legislation would be required to revoke the article 50 notice, or could it be done by a simple vote in this House?

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That matter is under review. Let me say clearly that the question of what legal route would be required to trigger the process has not been considered at any length because there is no intention of doing so.

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The Government fought this case tooth and nail through the Scottish courts and in Luxembourg. Will the Attorney General tell us why the Government were so desperate to prevent Members of Parliament and the public from knowing that article 50 could be unilaterally revoked and that we could stay in the European Union on the same terms and conditions that we currently enjoy? Will he also answer a question that Cabinet Ministers have so far failed to answer? How much taxpayers’ money was spent trying to keep this House and the public in the dark?

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As the hon. and learned Lady knows, the Government’s position throughout was that the case involved a hypothetical question. It does raise an important matter of constitutional principle as to whether courts should be able to be seized of issues under live debate in Parliament, when Parliament does not ask for an opinion, simply in order to inform debate. The Government took the view that the matter was hypothetical—we still do—but the truth of the matter is that the ECJ has ruled and we are where we are.