This answer from 2017 on whether the Queen could have stopped Brexit states (emphasis mine):

Furthermore, the executive power of the British government to make and withdraw from international treaties is a royal prerogative, exercised on the Queen's behalf by the Prime Minister and Cabinet. If the Queen saw fit, then in theory she could use these powers herself. French President Macron has suggested the UK could choose to remain in the EU; the Queen could simply declare that she is exercising this option and cancelling Brexit by royal decree.

The rest of that answer points out that it would be entirely unprecedented for a modern monarch to act without/against the advice of her ministers, and concludes that

Unless the country was in such a state of crisis that it amounted to imminent or actual civil war, it is almost unimaginable that the Queen would interfere in politics in this way; or that the government, Parliament, and public opinion would tolerate such interference if she tried.

In light of the fact that none of the eight proposals on the table got a majority to support them, including a "we didn't work it out, so cancel the withdrawal" option, the UK is left with no clear path forward. I'm sure that there will be more negotiation, and more votes in the near future, but for the purposes of this question, assume that all votes fail to pass, and it is now April 11th (the day before the EU kicks out the UK).

Given all the various court rulings and votes that have taken place since that answer, I'm wondering if the Queen can still cancel Brexit. Does she still technically have the power to do so, as part of her heretofore unused executive power, or was it only the ability to object to the initial vote? Would the EU recognize an Article 50 withdrawal issued by the Queen instead of the PM?

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    Basically, this is asking whether she can, not whether she will. As much as I (as a US resident) might like to see her say something like "You can't agree on anything at all, so I'm maintaining the status quo. Go back and work out a plan and try again, if you want to.", I expect that she won't get involved in this any more than she has in anything else political.
    – Bobson
    Mar 27, 2019 at 22:53
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    "The Queen has a veto. The Queen has at most one veto." Mar 27, 2019 at 23:31
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    It would be far easier for her to appoint Ian Blackford from the SNP Prime Minister (since Theresa May obviously doesn't have support in the HoC) who would cancel Brexit for her. Mar 27, 2019 at 23:34
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    @MartinSchröder - To me, at least, that seems more political than saying "go back to the drawing board and try again". I'll agree that that's a much easier path, though.
    – Bobson
    Mar 27, 2019 at 23:45
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    The current status quo is no deal Brexit. If the Queen can use her powers only to block Parliamentary decisions, that is what could be achieved.
    – SJuan76
    Mar 28, 2019 at 6:56

2 Answers 2


It's very difficult to answer such a hypothetical question but here goes...

The Queen could have unilaterally attempted to invoke a no deal Brexit by withdrawing the UK from its EU treaty obligations. This is within the remit of the Royal Prerogative. As the treaty obligations are also written directly in to UK law, and those Acts wouldn't necessarily be repealed, it is likely that the decision would be subject to judicial review (it may be subject anyway). It will probably ruffle a few constitutional feathers too.

However, cancelling Brexit is somewhat different. It isn't assenting or repealing a treaty. It's revoking Article 50. The ECJ, when stating that Article 50 could be revoked were clear about the circumstances under which this could be done. Specifically, they used the same wording as the invocation i.e. in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

The UK Supreme Court has already ruled that that meant that Parliament had to vote for it. This is critical as they ruled that HM Government (and by extension the Crown) could not invoke Article 50 unilaterally. It therefore follows from these two judgements that the Queen could not unilaterally revoke Article 50.

  • "It therefore follows" is your opinion. I would expect another court case if it were tried. Withdrawing a notice is not the same as submitting a notice
    – Caleth
    Mar 28, 2019 at 14:42
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    @Caleth It's not my opinion that the criterion for revocation is the same as for invocation. That's the ECJ ruling in a nutshell. Obviously, it is implied in my answer that, if the Queen attempted such a thing, that there would be a logical application of existing rulings. There would, of course, be no such thing. There would be more constitutional histrionics than you could shake a stick at. Hence my point about hypotheticals.
    – Alex
    Mar 28, 2019 at 14:54
  • It could still be up to a UK court to decide if the executive can use it's prerogative to withdraw the notice, as it only decided on submitting. "The legal question is whether the executive government can use the Crown's prerogative powers to give notice of withdrawal." Emphasis mine.
    – Caleth
    Mar 28, 2019 at 15:48
  • And later on both sides in that case assume the notice is irrevocable, which is apparently not the case. That adds up to legal uncertainty
    – Caleth
    Mar 28, 2019 at 15:50
  • @Caleth Queenie aside, there were 2 separate adjudications. Firstly, the UK Supreme Court decided what "own constitutional requirements" translates as for the UK. This was wrt the withdrawal notice. They decided it was a Parliamentary vote. That Court has jurisdiction over that question wrt the UK only. Subsequently, and separately, the ECJ ruled over who can revoke Article 50 (if anyone). They ruled that it was the same authority that invoked it. The ECJ has jurisdiction over that question (as it refers to an EU treaty generally). So, as of December, there is no ambiguity on revocation.
    – Alex
    Mar 28, 2019 at 17:13

Once upon a time, the UK was a genuine monarchy.

These days, the Queen acts as Crown-in-Parliament, which is a fancy way of saying that everybody pretends that the Queen still is the source of sovereign power but that she graciously lets her parliament actually pass laws.

If the Queen was to disregard this fiction and act as if she was still a ruling monarch, either someone will very politely suggest that the old lady is feeling her age and that someone younger should take over, or somebody with genuine political power is using her as a face-saving way to get out of the mess.

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    This doesn't answer the question.
    – Pyritie
    Mar 28, 2019 at 10:03
  • @Pyritie, several question marks in the posting, and I think I answer some of them. Historically the British Crown had powers, which have not been exercised for centuries. It is generally understood that the Crown powers are a polite fiction these days. A restoration would depend on the political circumstances, not the letter of the dusty parchments.
    – o.m.
    Mar 28, 2019 at 15:12
  • It very much does answer the question. On paper the Queen may have this power, but in political reality, actually trying to excercise it would not lead to the result the question is asking about.
    – Tom
    May 27, 2019 at 10:29

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