We have one shot at revocation. Here’s how we take it

Picture this.

It’s Wednesday next week and Theresa May has once again failed to get her deal through Parliament – perhaps the Speaker has made good on his promise to rule it out of order or perhaps MPs have rejected it a third time. So she’s not in a position to meet the conditions imposed by the EU for an extension of time.

Let’s stop the clock here and take a look around.

Our options have shrunk to two. There is no time for a referendum. There is no time to negotiate some magical new deal that had eluded Parliament hitherto. There is no time left for a General Election. So our choices are either to leave with No Deal or to Revoke.

Revocation – cancelling Brexit – returns us to where we were before we triggered Article 50. All of the special benefits – the rebate, the opt-outs, the derogations – that we had negotiated for ourselves over the years are ours to keep. And the immediate outcome – remain – is supported, according to all recent polling, by an overwhelming majority.

What’s more, the choice whether to revoke is entirely for us. We don’t need the permission of the EU. The decision over the future of the United Kingdom rests where it should: in our hands.

And Parliament has already voted to reject No Deal.

So what does the Prime Minister do?

In the world I have described, where the sunlit uplands have vanished to be replaced by what every neutral economic forecaster sees as our economy tumbling over the cliff edge of No Deal, and with serious medicine shortages in the offing, I think she would put the question before Parliament. No Prime Minister would choose further to weigh down her legacy as the person who inflicted No Deal on the people with the additional millstone of having done so in the face of the clearly expressed will of Parliament.

In these circumstances, for her to choose No Deal would be the act of a dictator. It lacks any sort of mandate and would defy the clearly expressed will of Parliament. It would be an act from which democracy in the United Kingdom would take lifetimes to recover. And I do not believe she would do it.

I believe she would choose to put the question before Parliament. Thirty three long months after the referendum it would at last be ‘make up your mind time’ for MPs.

What then?

Revocation leaves open the door to a conversation about what we really want our country to be – the conversation we are so often really having when we think we’re talking about Brexit. Revocation does not rule out re-notifying in the future – I do not think there is any serious doubt about this – so long as the decision to re-notify is independent of the decision to revoke. I have discussed this in more detail here.

It also seems to me that the PM could do it. I do not believe – although there are other views – that if revocation by the PM was challenged a court would decide it required an Act of Parliament. I have discussed this in more detail here. If this is right, revocation requires no formality. It could be on crested letterhead, by text message or even carrier pigeon, right up until the last second before we leave on Friday.

But will MPs choose it?

It has always been clear to me that MPs could only choose revocation in an emergency. But if they were asked that question in an emergency – when all other options have vanished, when they were peering over the precipice – I believe they would choose it over No Deal. But only if asked it at the right time.

We will get only one shot.


To add your name to the Government hosted petition please click here.

To email your MP please click here.

To support the work of the Good Law Project, which established our right unilaterally to revoke, please click here.


29 thoughts on “We have one shot at revocation. Here’s how we take it

  1. A wee question. in the Miller case the court said that parliament were the body who could invoke Article 50 and that the PM did that on their instructions. If she refused to could parliament ask for the revocation directly?

  2. Can you add name to Gov hosted petition if EU citizen aka not allowed to vote?

  3. If there was time to legislate Parliament could force the PM too but – absent an extension – I don’t think there is. That chance was all but lost when the Benn amendment went down.

  4. There is absolutely no reason why medicines should be in short supply in the event of a WTO exit from the EU. The boss of Calais port is on record as saying there will be no problem.

    The country voted to leave the EU, not for a deal. The EU has suspended Viktor Orban because he has stuck up for his country, so he will not be in a position to veto any extension. Hopefully, the Italians will come to our aid and veto any extension, at which point we leave the EU under WTO rules and can then set about weeding out the pointless, obstructive EU legislation to make us more streamlined and competitive.

    I sincerely hope that as a nation, we can once more hold our heads high in the world and regain our position at the international top table. We will also be free to trade with the Commonwealth. This came about after empire in the late 40s and now constitutes a quarter of the globe’s population. There are members who were never part of empire, so we must be doing something right.

    There have been voices raised about Honda leaving thanks to Brexit. Nothing could be further from the truth. As soon as Japan signed a free trade deal with the EU, it had no need of an EU plant. It matters not where that plant might be situated. There is no longer a need for overseas manufacturing to overcome tariffs.

  5. Completely agree.

  6. Completely agree and nothing to add.

  7. This is largely what I suggested May might do when the meaningful vote was initially intended back in December. https://botzarelli.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/what-theresa-may-probably-wont-say-but-should/

    Most people I spoke to thought it ridiculous then but maybe it was too early. My local Labour MP who won this heavily Remain voting seat from a Lib Dem by out-Remaining him refused to answer when I asked him would he vote for revocation if offered like this. And that is the problem – could May really count on Parliamentary support even now for revocation? I think for it to work it would need a majority of Labour MPs to support it and that would not be likely unless Corbyn expressly agreed and whipped in that direction. May would face a big revolt but could probably take 100-150 Tory MPs with her. But without the open and immediate support of Labour and its leadership it simply cannot happen barring a revolt within Labour even bigger than the ERG insurrection in the opposite direction within the Conservatives.

  8. Labour’s policy is explicit that No Deal is the “worst possible outcome” so I think Corbyn would destroy the Labour Party if he didn’t whip for revoke.

  9. Thanks for this. But how do we grasp the nettle? The petition will certainly publicise the option so forgive me if I say we need more, something more focused on the MP’s who are at the centre of all this. Frankly, I suggest that it is Jolyon Maugham himself who should be deployed at this point as a liaison to our legislators. As the author of the successful litigation, JM should reach out to Westminster to talk up the revocation concept, to demystify it and to explain how procedurally straightforward it could be. The present letter covers all this but the delivery should be face-to-face and targeted on our national decision-makers and delivered by the only person with any name-recognition attached to the concept. We should try to build upon that litigation triumph. I’m guessing you already have lines into the SNP, maybe to Ken Clarke. There are now Labour people ready to think the unthinkable too. A seminar which presents a guide to the perplexed (and delivered by the architect of the idea) could surely be arranged. That would at least prepare people for an emergency vote; it might also generate momentum for the remain side before then. (If you’ve tried this already, let us know; timing is everything.) Best wishes, Chris Jones

  10. A large part of the Commonwealth has said trade deals with them are “bollocks”. They’ve mostly made the deals they want over the last 50 years. And Aus have been trying to get one with India for 10 years.

    But, hey, chlorinated chicken and antibiotic-fed beef from a country where 1 in 6 of the population suffer from a food-borne illness each year. What could possibly go wrong?

  11. Hi Jo, I had a few problems with the form, hope it worked.
    In the end I also emailed my MP directly.

  12. Ok, so what if the PM is too stubborn to Revoke?
    Who else can and what is the process? Presumably there could be an Opposition motion and Parl could vote to revoke ( but would there be time to get the act on the statute book )? Who then goes to the EU and asks for an extension?
    Or, there could be another vote of no confidence in the govt… maybe this is the Opposition motion and, lets say time it gets through and we are, for the crucial last days, government less. Who leads? Who revokes?
    Just thinking about planning or the worst……

  13. I ask this: Is the 5 QC legal opinion that followed the Miller judgment not a good analysis? They advised back then that even a no deal exit would need a positive Act of Parliament. Without that a no deal exit by default would be unconstitutional. The EU Treaty requires that leaving voluntarily, even by default, be in accordance with the departing state’s constitutional requirements. If that has not occurred, they advised, the Art.50 notice of intention to leave would simply expire on Exit Day. The EU cannot expel us without good cause in EU law. So the UK would simply remain. Is all this wrong?

  14. A toughy for Labour.

    – Let May go for no-deal. At little risk to themselves.
    – Pass her deal & accept part-ownership of Brexit.
    – Go for no-confidence vote, win it & hang around for 14 days we don’t have.

    I fancy Labour & the rest will pass her deal.

  15. Kevan Chippindall-Higgin: “WTO exit from the EU”

    At this point I thought, time to stop reading, the guy’s a moron. So I read all the way to the end. It was hard, but I got through it.

    Kevan Chippindall-Higgin, you are a moron and a liar. Do you have anything to say in your defence that’s not just more absolute horseshit?

  16. “There is absolutely no reason why medicines should be in short supply in the event of a WTO exit from the EU. The boss of Calais port is on record as saying there will be no problem.”

    Unfortunately the boss of Calais port is not in charge of the European Union and lacks a little of the authority you are bestowing upon him.

  17. Thank you for explaining this. How do we ensure this possibility reaches as wide an audience as possible? The media is so pro-Brexit and canvases opinion in Leave areas far more often than in those that are Remain. Remainers need a voice and a sense of hope. Theresa May purporting to speak for ‘us the people’ has been the final straw for many. The petition has no doubt taken off as well as it has because it gives lost Remainers a feeling of having their voices heard – albeit not as loudly as they would like. To know that A50 can be revoked, how and under what circumstances would surely help Remainers and their cause … but the word needs to be spread and somehow cut through the wall to wall pro-Brexit coverage.

  18. The problem is that revocation would render the whole of Theresa May’s premiership nugatory. The potential psychological damage that revocation might inflict upon her may be so great that she is incapable of even considering it. Any credible plan for revocation needs to include a means of bypassing her.

  19. “It also seems to me that the PM could do it” but she won’t. It’s all about her. She doesn’t give a toss about the country. She want’s it to be known as the Theresa May deal so that she’ll go down in history. If we end up with no deal she’ll blame everyone else…she has already started with her speech last night.

  20. Kevan Chippindall-Higgin is an HGV driving instructor – so international trade agreements are his specialist subject, natch.

  21. Cogently argued. I suspect, however that Mrs May could not bring herself to revoke article 50 and would have to be made to resign to give way to someone who would. This awful tragedy has several twists in the plot yet to come.

  22. As usual Fred, where project fear is concerned, never let the facts get in the way of a good story. I am not an HGV driving instructor. I am a national and international transport manager and have had to deal with customs before the single market. I also hold the Diploma in Marketing and was a member of the Institute of Export. I have been published in 3 EU countries and speak two European languages to a high standard.

    You are insinuating, with the arrogance of all those seeking to subvert democracy, that driving instructors are far too stupid to understand very much. Well, I have news for you. There is a wealth of information out there and having looked at both sides, I favour leave because to remain will sound the death knell of our democracy, the second oldest in the world.

    As for international trade agreements, if Iceland, which went bankrupt in the crash and has a population slightly larger than Wakefield, can do a deal with China, I am sure that the UK would not find it too difficult.

    As for chlorinated chicken, if we do not want it, we do not take it. Simple. If the Americans insist, then we have no deal, which is exactly where we are now and trade flows fine.

    What everybody here is missing is that the people voted to leave, not to have a deal. Obviously, if we could have a sensible deal with the EU, so much the better for everyone. Not only is this deal tying us to the EU, potentially forever, but trade has not been mentioned. The whole thing is nonsense.

    The EU either wants us as a vassal state now or to remain in the EU where it can turn us into a vassal state, along with all the other members, over time.

    I want the UK to be a free, sovereign state that makes its own decisions. We are in an interesting position now. The king ignoring parliament led to a civil war. Now parliament is ignoring the people. One must wonder where that will lead. Certainly, our civilisation continues to break down apace as we become minorities in our major cities and violent crime soars.

  23. Rich Will, thank you for your input. When the arguments you put forward are reduced to personal abuse, you have lost because you have nothing with which to counter.

  24. John Speller, there can only be a shortage of medicines because we cannot import them. The pharma companies will want to continue selling them, so I cannot imagine that will be a problem. They will conform to EU regulations, so that will not be a problem. There is an excellent chance they will come by road, and the boss of Calais has said that will not be a problem. So where exactly is the hold up going to be?

    Unless of course the decision is taken in the UK to make life as difficult as possible. Given how everyone has behaved so far, there is a strong chance this might be the case. If, however, a dose of common sense applies, please explain to me where the hold up will occur.

  25. Thank you so much, Jolyon Maugham, for your tireless effort to highlight this issue and present legal alternatives. I have been watching your twitter feed since Brexit and know the depth of your commitment.

    I believe your time has come – I watch the petition as it continues to soar above 3m. I hope it continues at this pace at least until it surpasses 17 million.

  26. That friend speaks my mind!

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