May Dealt Brexit Setback as Article 50 Sent to EU Highest Court

(Bloomberg) -- Scottish judges have asked the European Union’s highest court to urgently consider whether the U.K. government’s Brexit process can be reversed.

The European Court of Justice should decide whether the Article 50 notification, which formally triggered the withdrawal process, can “unilaterally be revoked,” Judge Colin Sutherland, the most senior judge in Scotland, said in a ruling Friday.

While the U.K. argued that it was simply an academic question -- saying that Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has no plans to revoke Article 50 -- the Scottish court disagreed, noting that lawmakers in Westminster still have a vote on whether to ratify the final withdrawal.

“It seems neither academic nor premature to ask whether it is legally competent to revoke the notification and thus to remain in the EU,” Sutherland said in his ruling.

The ruling is a further setback for May, who returned to the U.K. after a bruising political summit in Salzburg with EU leaders. She said Friday that the country is at an impasse with the EU, and that the U.K. must continue to prepare to withdraw without a deal.

Jolyon Maugham, a vocal Brexit opponent and a petitioner in the case, said “it’s not too late to wake up from the nightmare that is this government’s Brexit.” It’s a victory for the campaigner who has repeatedly attempted to get Brexit before EU judges.

Backers of Maugham’s move hope to have a verdict by Christmas. The U.K. will leave the bloc at the end of March.

The U.K. government, which could still decide to refer the Scottish decision to the Supreme Court in London, is considering the verdict.

“We are committed to implementing the result of the referendum and will not be revoking Article 50,” a government spokesman said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.