The author of Article 50 says it can be reversed. Here’s why that matters

The first task for pro-Europeans is to prevent Brexiteers from pretending the question is forever settled. 


Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Brexit can be stopped. At least, according to John Kerr, architect of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets out the process whereby a member state can trigger its exit from the European Union AKA Article 50.

The difficulty is that while Kerr is many things, he is not a member of the European Court of Justice, which would ultimately have to rule on whether or not Article 50 can been unilaterally revoked by the British government or if it has to be approved by the rest of the European Union.

The second problem is that at the moment, there is no majority in the United Kingdom at large to reverse Brexit, nor is there one in the House of Commons. Brexit is guaranteed at Westminster by four forces: Conservative backbenchers who want to leave the European Union, Labour backbenchers who want to keep their seats, Eurosceptics in the Labour leadership, and MPs of all parties who think the referendum result must be honoured. A great deal would have to change for the balance of forces to shift.

But Kerr – and indeed Open Britain, the continuity organisation that emerged from the Remain campaign – knows this. What he and other Remainers are trying to do is to simply keep the issue alive, and to prevent the government and its outriders pretending that the question of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union is one that can never be revisited or reopened. 

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.