I read this in a CNN article:

The European Court of Justice sided with the advice of its top legal officer, who declared last week that the UK has the power to withdraw its notification to leave under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, without the agreement of other member states.

If the UK is leaving, why does a European court decision matter? Why do any of the rules regarding how to leave matter? Sure it would be good on the global stage to follow all procedures, but in the end, they are leaving, right?

  • 2
    Why was this question down-voted? It is a perfectly reasonable and clear question, with good answers below.
    – Elliot
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 4:27

2 Answers 2


The ruling is not about leaving, but whether the UK can decide to STAY in the EU if the UK government changes its mind (or the government changes) without needing approval from all other members.

The case was put before the court to get clarity on whether "Brexit" can be cancelled and whether all existing deals would continue or whether the UK would need to come back begging and potentially lose the favorable exceptions it currently enjoys compared to other EU members.

The case was actually objected to by the current UK government. Not because it would force them to do anything, but because the prospect of an easy way out of Brexit is reason for the pro-remain MPs to reject Theresa May's deal with the EU.


The UK has not yet left the EU so it is bound to European Law, i.e. the rulings of the ECJ. And even the suggested Brexit agreement binds the UK to rulings of the ECJ.

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