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Ministers fail to halt article 50 Europe reference

9 November 2018

The EU Court of Justice will go ahead to consider the question whether the UK can unilaterally withdraw its article 50 notice to leave the European Union, after the UK Government lost an attempt to halt the referral process from the Scottish courts.

Court of Session judges refused permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court against their decision to allow the question to be put to the EU Court, which the group of elected politicians who brought the case is necessary for MPs who have to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, to be fully informed of the alternatives available.

For the Government, Advocate General Lord Keen of Elie QC argued that the question was a "matter of high constitutional importance" which should be referred to the Supreme Court. The Government's position is that the question is hypothetical because it has no intention of withdrawing the article 50 notice.

However the EU Court has already allocated 27 November as the date for hearing the reference, and Lord President Carloway said that if permission to appeal was granted, there would be little prospect of any final decision in time for the crucial parliamentary votes.

The Government could still go direct to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal. It is also asking the EU Court to decline to hear the reference, claiming it raises no live issue.

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