The key lies in the third sub-paragraph of Article 50by Jolyon Maugham / December 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
Photo: Isabel Infantes/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.” On Murphy, as it happened, in the eponymous novel by Samuel Beckett. But it could as easily be on Theresa May for whom life is so bleak that yesterday’s leadership challenge came almost as light relief. Seeing off an attack from behind her own lines was as nothing compared to resolving the eternal conundrum of, to be fair, her own making. Brexit may mean Brexit but what does Brexit mean? Still, there is this route for her to get her deal through parliament and keep her promise not to extend Article 50. She starts by telling the House of Commons that she’s listened and has done everything possible to deliver the best possible deal but is now forced to accept that she has to compromise in order to get the Withdrawal Agreement past the House. She says she is personally determined to honour the result of the 2016 referendum. But to get the WA through parliament she will introduce legislation for a referendum on her deal which will take place before the Withdrawal Agreement enters into force. The third sub-paragraph of Article 50 provides that the Treaties cease to apply from the date the Withdrawal Agreement “enters into force.” That date can be agreed by the UK and EU (by qualified majority voting) in the WA. Let us say that the date were set for the Queen’s Birthday, 8th June. This would leave ample time for a referendum and—following the decision of the Court of Justice earlier this week—Article 50 “allows that member state—for as long as a withdrawal agreement… has not entered into force—to revoke that notification unilaterally.” Were the referendum to reveal that it was the nation’s will that we leave on the terms of her deal we would leave on 8th June. And if the nation’s preference were revealed to be to stay in the EU, we could revoke Article 50 at any time prior thereto. The “exit date” in the Withdrawal Act would need to be changed to 8th June—but this could be done by an instrument made by a minister. This would adhere, strictly speaking, to her pledge not to extend Article 50. The right of her party, it is fair to say, would not be pleased. But it might, after last night, be a little less vocal. Corbyn would be wrong-footed. And sufficient SNP, Plaid Cymru, Lib Dem and Labour MPs would come on board to enable her, easily, to get the WA and enabling legislation through parliament. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, warned Virgil. But he didn’t say one should always refuse them.