January 25, 2018 / 4:45 PM / a month ago

Two more lawmakers mull joining legal case to show UK can stop Brexit alone

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Two more lawmakers in Britain’s national parliament are considering joining a legal case seeking to show that Britain can, if it chooses, alone change its mind on Brexit, intensifying its potential political scope.

Labour’s Chris Leslie, along with Liberal Democrat lawmaker Tom Brake, want to add their names to Scottish litigation aimed at showing that Britain can, if the case arises, reverse its decision to leave the world’s biggest trading bloc.

The petition, filed in Scotland’s Court of Session, its supreme civil court, will determine whether Britain can act to rejoin without depending on the bloc’s other 27 members.

Two other national lawmakers are already on the petition, along with three Members of the European Parliament and two members of the devolved Scottish parliament.

“We are taking legal advice and reflecting on whether it would be appropriate for us to seek the permission of the (Scottish) Court to participate in these proceedings,” Leslie and Brake said in a joint letter addressed to Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis obtained by Reuters.

They will make a final decision when the Court of Session decides on whether to open a formal hearing in the coming week, they said. Once that decision is made, they will seek further backing for the litigation from other British lawmakers, Brake told Reuters.

Brexit will break a 4-decade trading relationship with the EU and has divided British politics across party lines. Supporters argue that after 2016’s referendum vote to leave, any attempt to halt the process would be anti-democratic.

But opponents say the country should have a right to pass final judgement on any exit deal negotiated, and the Scottish litigation is the latest attempt to try to make this happen.

Prime Minister Theresa May formally notified the EU of Britain’s intention to leave by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on March 29 last year, starting a two-year exit process.

Article 50 does not specify whether exit can be unilaterally reversed although former British diplomat Lord Kerr, who drafted it, has said Britain can change its mind at any stage before the final exit date in 2019.

May has said she will not tolerate any attempt in parliament to block Brexit. But British lawmakers defied the government in December by voting against May’s wishes and securing parliament a much more substantial say on whether to accept the final deal with the EU.

The Court of Session is expected to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court, to conclusively rule on the issue.

Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; editing by Stephen Addison

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