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Can UK renounce Brexit on its own? EU court to decide on Monday

But the court - and its 26 judges - must first confirm it accepts jurisdiction in the case

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On her own: With Ms May's flagship legislation likely headed for rejection in a vote on Dec 11, she needs corporate Britain to hold its nerve. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Luxembourg

THE European Court of Justice is expected to announce on Monday whether or not Britain can unilaterally halt its march towards Brexit, a day before a make-or-break vote by MPs on the divorce deal.

Europe's top court has been asked to rule on whether, having activated the so-called "Article 50" countdown towards departure, London could simply stop the clock.

One of the Union's advocates general, a senior legal adviser, has already issued an opinion suggesting that Britain can indeed unilaterally suspend its departure.

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But the court must first confirm it accepts jurisdiction in the case, which is based on a request lodged by a group of anti-Brexit Scottish politicians.

The court is due to say on Monday whether the 26 judges accept jurisdiction and issue a ruling.

The next day the British parliament votes on the draft divorce plan, with Prime Minister Theresa May currently struggling to sell the deal.

Mrs May insists she has no plans to reverse Brexit, despite parliamentary opposition to her withdrawal deal from both pro- and anti-Europe MPs.

The court could also decide if Brexit can only be postponed or halted by unanimous agreement of all 27 other EU member states - or otherwise go ahead on March 29.

Britain's Finance Minister, Philip Hammond, said it was a delusion to think that the government will be able to negotiate a new divorce deal with the European Union if the prime minister's agreement is defeated in a vote in parliament next week.

"The idea of renegotiating at the 11th hour is simply a delusion," Mr Hammond told parliament. "We need to be honest with ourselves - the alternatives to this deal are no deal or no Brexit. Either will leave us a fractured society and divided nation."

UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox met dealmakers at top private equity firms this week to discuss the government's progress on reaching a Brexit deal and the effect leaving the European Union will have on trade.

Firms including CVC Capital Partners, Apollo Global Management LLC and KKR & Co attended the roundtable at No 10 Downing Street on Tuesday, the government said in a statement.

"Attendees stressed the importance of certainty of process and outcome to ensuring continued investment in to the UK on new and existing projects," the statement read.

The urgency to keep on board the people who drive the economy and employ a lot of the population wasn't surprising given the accord with the European Union had been castigated at home. But it just got more urgent following Mrs May's defeats in parliament this week over who should have control of the Brexit process and what might happen next.

The rapport between power and money hasn't always been cordial under Ms May and yet it could be critical as the Brexit drama takes more twists.

With Ms May's flagship legislation likely headed for rejection in a vote on Dec 11, she needs corporate Britain to hold its nerve. How company chiefs react with momentum gathering for another referendum will test the closer relationship with big business forged in recent months by her business envoy, William Vereker. AFP, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS