CJEU extends Brexit deadline

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Monday 10th December that the UK could unilaterally revoke its Brexit notification under Article 50 TEU.

In its judgment in the Wightman case (C-621/18), the CJEU largely follows the opinion of the Advocate General of 4 December. On one important point, however, the judgment deviates from the opinion.

The Advocate General had taken the view that the UK could only revoke the notification under Article 50 TEU, if the revocation was not abusive.

In its judgment, the European Court of Justice waives the condition that the revocation must not be abusive. It probably does this because otherwise, if a revocation were to occur and this would become the subject of a legal dispute before the CJEU, the CJEU itself would have to decide if the revocation was abusive. This would be a highly sensitive task for the CJEU that it apparently wants to avoid.

However, the ruling of the CJEU also gives the British more time to decide whether they really want to leave the EU. The CJEU has decided that the notification of withdrawal may be revoked as long as the withdrawal agreement has not entered into force (alternative 1) or, if no such agreement has been concluded, as long as the two-year period under Article 50(3) TEU has not expired (alternative 2) or its unanimously agreed extension has not yet expired (alternative 3).

This means that the UK could reject the draft withdrawal agreement and would have time until the end of March 2019 to revoke its notification of withdrawal or agree beforehand with the European Council to extend the two-year period and then revoke its notification during this extension.

The British must decide what they want. The CJEU has given them time to do so.