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Britain can change its mind on Brexit, says peer who helped draw up Article 50

3 min read

Britain is free to change its mind about leaving the European Union right up until the end of March 2019, according to the peer who helped design the Article 50 process.

In a major speech today, Lord Kerr will say "we are not required to withdraw" just because Theresa May sent a letter to the EU triggering the two-year Brexit process.

He will also say that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin "will be disappointed" if the UK were to end up remaining in the bloc.

The crossbench peer was secretary-general of the European Constitutional Convention at the time Article 50 was drawn up 15 years ago.

Speaking in London, Lord Kerr will say: "While we're in, we're in. While the divorce talks proceed, the parties are still married. Reconciliation is still possible. The Article requires the parties to negotiate the 'arrangements' for our withdrawal; but we are not required to withdraw just because Mrs May sent her letter. We can change our minds at any stage during the process.

"The fact is that a political decision has been made, in this country, to maintain that there can be no going back. Actually, the country still has a free choice about whether to proceed. As new facts emerge, people are entitled to take a different view. And there's nothing in Article 50 to stop them. I think the British people have the right to know this – they should not be misled.

"Mrs. May's letter was only a notification of the UK's 'intention' to withdraw. Intentions can change. We still have all the rights of a member state, including the right to change our minds and our votes, as member states frequently do, for example after elections. The Article is about voluntary withdrawal, not about expulsion: we don't have to go if at any stage, within the two years, we decide we don't want to."

The former Labour minister, who backed Remain in the EU referendum, will say that European leaders would be glad if the UK decided to ditch Brexit.

He will add: "If we were to change our minds, Putin and Trump would be disappointed, but our near neighbours, and our true friends across the Atlantic and in the Commonwealth, would cheer. I think the country should know that."

Theresa May has come under pressure to reveal legal advice the Government has been given on whether Article 50 can be revoked.

But a spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said: "We made our position clear in the Supreme Court. As a matter of firm policy, our notification will not be withdrawn. The British people voted to leave the EU and we will deliver on their instruction. There can be no attempts to remain inside the EU and no attempt to rejoin it."

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