Brexit is ‘irrevocable’ once triggered, UK minister says

Justice Secretary Liz Truss says Britain’s exit from the European Union could not be reversed once government triggers Article 50

19 February 2017, 1:09pm
UK Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss
UK Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss
The process of Britain leaving the European Union is “irrevocable” once it has been triggered, a UK government minister said on Sunday.

Justice Secretary Liz Truss, who also serves as Lord Chancellor, said once Article 50 was triggered there would be no prospect of Britain staying in the European Union. She also denied that Article 50 was a “legal issue” – despite it being a legal mechanism enshrined in British law.

“People can take cases to courts [but] my understanding is it’s irrevocable and that when we press the button that will go forward.” 

“But regardless of that situation, this is the settled will of the British people and I think people who are trying to fight yesterday’s battle need to join us in making a success of global Britain,” Truss said while speaking on BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

Prime Minister Theresa May says she will invoke Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty by the end of March, beginning two years of formal divorce talks. Lawyers for the government have said that, once started, the process is irrevocable, but some EU leaders say Britain can change its mind and a legal challenge to determine whether it can be reversed has been filed with an Irish court.

 

Her claims are a direct contradiction of the views of Lord Kerr, the former UK diplomat who, in his role as Secretary General of the European Convention, wrote the laws that include Article 50. 

Mr Kerr said last year: “It is not irrevocable - you can change your mind while the process is going on.”

“During that period, if a country were to decide actually we don't want to leave after all, everybody would be very cross about it being a waste of time … They might try to extract a political price but legally they couldn't insist that you leave,” he had said.

Ms Truss also appeared confused over the fact that Article 50 is a legal issue. 

Asked about the Government’s legal advice on whether triggering Article 50 could be reversed, Ms Truss said: “This is not a legal question, this is a political question.

“The British people have voted to leave the European Union. All of those arguments were aired in the referendum last year.

Presenter Marr pointed out to the Lord Chancellor that Article 50 was, in fact, a legal matter. 

Ms Truss then replied: “As Lord Chancellor, I do not make legal decisions. Those are made in the courts. The judges make the decisions. That’s why we have an independent judiciary.”

Ms Truss said in the case of a second EU referendum she would vote for Brexit, despite previously having backed the Remain campaign.

"I would vote for 'out' - absolutely", she said.

“It's the settled will of the British people, we now are on an irrevocable path to leaving the European Union, we have a clear vision of what we want to achieve and times have changed,” she said.