The Prime Minister of Luxembourg has signalled that Britain can reverse Article 50 after triggering it if the country decides it still wants to say to Europe, “we love you”.
Xavier Bettel said it could be that during the Brexit “procedure of divorce”, the UK is able to decide it is not able to go through with the split.
His intervention comes amid claim and counterclaim over whether the Article 50 process is reversible or not, something which is yet to be legally tested.
Answering a question from The Independent, Mr Bettel said he still felt that the June referendum in the UK was launched for political reasons and had been a mistake,
Asked whether Article 50 was reversible, he said: “We are waiting for Article 50, I won’t do speculation, but it’s a procedure of divorce ... now they ask for the divorce, we wait for the letter to confirm that they want a divorce, then we start the procedure of divorce.
“Maybe during the procedure of divorce they will say ‘we love you that much that we are not able to conclude that divorce’.”
Ms May is expected to trigger Article 50 in the next few weeks, starting a two-year countdown during which a deal must be struck to set future relations with the EU.
If no agreement can be reached then the country would still drop out of the bloc, but without any future trading arrangements in place – something Ms May has threatened she is not afraid of, but which ex-Tory Prime Minister Sir John Major called the “worst possible outcome”.
Downing Street has repeatedly stated that Article 50 will not be reversed, while many Conservatives claim it is irreversible.
But the author of Article 50 has already ridiculed claims that the treaty clause cannot be stopped once it has been invoked.
Lord Kerr told peers during a parliamentary session last month: “If, having looked into abyss, we changed our minds about withdrawal, we certainly could - and no-one in Brussels could stop us.”
The peer is one of a number of people who has claimed authorship of the clause. He was Ambassador and UK Permanent Representative to the European Communities and European Union in the 1990s.