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EU top court rules UK can unilaterally cancel Brexit

Francois Lenoir, Reuters | File photo of the logo of the European Court of Justice

The European Union's top court ruled on Monday that the British government may unilaterally reverse its decision to leave the bloc, without consulting the other member states.

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In an emergency judgment delivered just a day before the British parliament is due to vote on a Brexit deal agreed with the EU by Prime Minister Theresa May, the Court of Justice said: "The United Kingdom is free to revoke unilaterally the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU."

Britain voted in 2016 to leave the 28-nation bloc, and invoked Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty in March 2017, triggering a two-year exit process.

Article 50 contains few details, in part because the idea of any country leaving was considered unlikely.

A group of Scottish legislators had asked the ECJ to rule on whether the UK can pull out of the withdrawal procedure on its own.

Monday's ruling is in line with an opinion delivered last week by a Court legal adviser. That had boosted the hopes of British Brexit opponents that a new referendum could be held that would prevent Britain's scheduled departure on March 29, 2019.

May faces heavy opposition in parliament to her Brexit deal and many expect her quest for approval to be defeated, setting up further tense talks with the EU when she goes to Brussels on Thursday for a summit of national leaders.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)

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