The House of Lords has now amended the Article 50 bill to require a Parliament vote on the final Brexit agreement.

Assume for the sake of argument that:

  • This provision survives to become law (questionable at best since the Commons will probably remove it).
  • By the end of the two year period allotted by article 50, there is some kind of deal negotiated.
  • Parliament rejects that deal.

What happens next?

In particular, what happens if the EU refuses to give the UK a time extension under article 50, but the UK asserts that it can unilaterally withdraw its notification? Would the UK still be an EU member, or not?

  • My understanding is that parliament will not get a chance to vote on the bill. Their only voting opportunity is now to affirm or deny the UK's intention to invoke article 50 Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 5:31
  • 1
    @DavidGrinberg The Government has said there will be an opportunity for Parliament to vote on the final deal, which makes me wonder why they are opposing the House of Lords amendment which seeks to enshrine something very similar in law. The important question is whether Article 50 is revocable, which is a matter of EU law. (Lord Kerr, who wrote Article 50 insists that it is). But if that be the case it changes absolutely everything.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 8:28
  • @DavidGrinberg Another question, which no one seems to have considered, is what happens if the EU offers Britain a "deal" which is acceptable to the Government, but not to MPs, and at the same time advertises an alternative, which would be more attractive to MPs. In other words the present state of confusion is likely to be conflated by the negotiations once they start. Add to that that important possible changes of government are about to take place in Holland, France and Germany!
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 8:37
  • @WS2 Has Lord Kerr explained where does that idea come from? Certainly is not in the wording of the Article 50, and it seems to go against the two years deadline idea (you do not get the treaty you want? Cancel invocation and then trigger article 50 again. Better yet, threaten to be a nuissance while you are still in the EU).
    – SJuan76
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 9:19
  • @WS2 I have seen some of his comments to the effect that the deadline could be extended by common accord with the EU, and that the EU should be amenable to it (I would say that it will depend if the extra time is needed because there are technicalities left or because the parties are deadlocked) and that the UK could change its mind and remain in the EU (which would be like exiting the EU and rejoining again with the same conditions), but wording those as a "right" seems a little too far fetched AFAIK.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 9:23

1 Answer 1


Firstly, to answer your question: What happens next?

Basically, the United Kingdom will continue to leave the European Union after 2 years of negotiation regardless of whether they get a deal.

However, this gives rise to another question: Whether the UK can "untrigger" Article 50 which I will discuss more below.

So, the main question here is if Article 50 can be "untriggered" or reversed.

Article 50 is vague and does not mention it. Basically, there wasn't any official mechanism to withdraw from the EU until the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. It was also never really meant to be used, so it may be unclear in some areas such as this.

Some articles that have mentioned this:

  • The Guardian - Only parliament can trigger Brexit. But can it then reverse the process?

    • This year, May might induce it to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, but next year it might decide to repeal her great repeal act (2017), and to remain in Europe. Although this was not the view of the parties in the supreme court, it follows both from the judgment and from the language of article 50 itself, which tells a departing state that it “may decide in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”. So unless de-Brexit is blocked by European states fed up with the UK by this stage, it would be possible for a future parliament to decide to withdraw from the Brexiting process.

      (emphasis mine)

  • The Independent - Brexit ruling: MPs 'could stop EU withdrawal even after Article 50 is triggered'

    • “In my view it is strongly arguable that triggering Article 50 is not irrevocable and that Parliament can decide to withdrawn from Brexit before the process is complete.

      “A future Parliament can decide to stop the Brexit process in its tracks simply by repealing any act or any statute that the Government, as a result of today’s decision, manages to pass.”

      Article 50 itself says a state’s departure from the EU must be done in accordance with its constitutional laws.

      (emphasis mine)

  • Politics.co.uk - Can we withdraw Article 50 once we trigger it? Probably (but it's complicated)

    • However, Article 50 is not very well written. There is no explicit provision for this. Equally there is no precedent for withdrawing from the European Union, so there is little to go on. Jan Komarek, a lecturer at the London School of Economics' European Institute and Department of Law, says that, as Article 50 is "silent" on whether a withdrawing member state could change its mind during the negotiation period, lawyers would have to look for other examples in international law. Under the Vienna Convention, for example, a "fundamental change of circumstances" is grounds for withdrawing from an international agreement, provided "the existence of those circumstances constituted an essential basis of the consent of the parties to be bound by the treaty".

      In other words, if the UK no longer consents to being part of the EU, it may leave the EU. If that situation changes and the UK decides to remain, it may remain. "When a state which is party to an international agreement wants to revoke the agreement and then wants to revoke the revocation of the agreement, that is possible according to the Vienna Convention," Komarek says.

      (emphasis mine)

So, in conclusion, it's still unclear if the UK can withdraw its notification to trigger Article 50. That being said, it's also unclear at this stage to see how the negotiations with the EU will result and how would the UK Parliament vote on the Brexit deal if they get the chance to.

  • Those quotes seem a bit misleading. The Guardian quote: " “may decide in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”. " omits the to withdraw from the EU part from the article. Decide seems much broader that decide to withdraw. (I would personally argue that sending the article 50 letter constitutes making that decision.)
    – JJJ
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 0:06

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