Brexit legal challenge gets October High Court hearing

Published:  20 Jul at 6 PM
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Tagged: France, UK, Euro, England
The first of several court cases brought by prominent London legal firms on behalf of Remain clients has resulted in a High Court hearing in October.

The focus of the current action and several more yet to be brought is to ensure the British government is unable to trigger Article 50 without parliament’s full authorisation. Should judgement at the High Court hearing go against the plaintiffs, the October hearing date allows time for an appeal to be heard before the expected invoking of Article 50 due on January 1 2017.

The October hearing will take several days, with government counsel expected to claim PM Theresa May is entitled to use the historic powers granted by the Royal Prerogative in order to begin Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. Counsel for the plaintiffs will state use of the Royal Prerogative in this manner is illegal and that initiating Brexit must have parliament’s authorisation.

A worrying development during Tuesday’s hearing was brought before the judges by law firm Mishcon de Reya’s counsel Lord Pannock QC, in that the law firm had received letters containing racist, anti-Semetic abuse. The letters, he said resulted in the withdrawal of several clients who were part of the class action. As a result, the judges ruled the action’s lead case should be that of Mishcon client Gina Miller, a London-based investment manager.

Ms Miller, also a philanthropist, had voted Remain in the referendum. Other applicants include a number of British expats resident in France, all of whom have been campaigning for expat rights to remain under the banner of Fair Deal for Expats. Also party to the case is Deir Dos Santos, a hairdresser based in London.

At the heart of the calls for a second referendum at best and fair treatment for UK expats domiciled in EU member states at worst is the fact that the referendum is not legally binding and does not itself trigger Britain’s exit from the EU. By law, the only way this can happen is by applying the withdrawal process specified in the Lisbon Treaty Article 50.

The legal get-out clause in Article 50 is believed to be the statement that ‘any EU member state can leave in accordance with its own constitutional requirements’. The main argument is that, under the British constitution, the Prime Minister cannot activate Article 50 without first obtaining an act of parliament as authorisation. The referendum, it seems, has spurred no legal changes, but has caused political and financial chaos and a great deal of uncertainty for everyone likely to be affected.
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