- Theresa May will head to Brussels on Wednesday to request another delay to Brexit in order to prevent Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.
- However, with no sign of an end to the political crisis in the UK, the threat of a no-deal Brexit is still on the table.
- Even senior members of May’s government are starting to talk about cancelling Brexit by revoking Article 50.
- More than 6 million people have signed an official government petition calling for it to be revoked.
- Senior MPs say there would be a House of Commons majority for doing it in order to avoid no-deal.
As Theresa May heads to Brussels to plead for another delay to Brexit, amid failing cross-party talks and continued parliamentary chaos, the idea of cancelling the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU is starting to gain traction in Westminster.
Once a fringe cause, the idea of revoking Article 50 – the legal process through which Britain is due to leave the EU – is quickly becoming mainstream, with a record six million people recently signing a petition in favour of it.
After two years of bitter negotiations with the EU and total legislative deadlock in the UK parliament, the thought of simply calling the whole thing off is now increasingly being raised, even by senior members of May’s government.
On Tuesday the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, reportedly raised the prospect of MPs voting to revoke Article 50 rather than allow Britain to leave without a deal if May’s request for a delay is rejected.
Another MP, who recently quit May’s government, told Business Insider this week that while revoking Article 50 was unpalatable for many MPs and wasn’t the best way out of this situation, it would be supported by a majority of MPs if the country was hours away from leaving the EU without a deal, and left with no other alternative.
It’s the ultimate backstop, they said.
So what does revoking Article 50 actually mean?
There are three ways for the UK to avoid a no-deal Brexit: MPs vote for a Brexit withdrawal deal, the British public votes to stay in the EU in a new referendum, or the UK government reverses Brexit by revoking Article 50.
Set out in the Lisbon Treaty, Article 50 describes the legal process for a country’s departure from EU. It gives exiting member states two years to negotiate the terms of divorce with the EU.
May triggered Article 50 in March 2017 but since then Brexit negotiations have been hampered by fundamental disagreements both between her government and the EU, and among MPs in the Houses of Parliament.
UK and EU negotiators spent weeks arguing over the backstop for the Irish border and once an overall agreement was finally reached, it was voted down by MPs in Westminster three times.
As a result, the prime minister has been forced to ask the EU for two extensions to Article 50, in order to avoid the cliff-edge of a no-deal Brexit and give MPs in Westminster more time to discuss a new Brexit plan.
The UK had to secure the approval of the 27 other EU member states for Article 50 be extended. However, it does not need the approval of other European leaders to revoke Article 50.