May chal­lenged over right to im­ple­ment Brexit Par­lia­men­tary vote for brexit may be need

Kuwait Times - - IN­TER­NA­TIONAL -

Bri­tain’s gov­ern­ment faces a court chal­lenge on Thurs­day that could de­lay Brexit as lawyers ar­gue Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May can­not take the coun­try out of the EU with­out a par­lia­men­tary vote. Eng­land’s most se­nior judges will hear ar­gu­ments brought by lawyers for a num­ber of dif­fer­ent claimants, in­clud­ing an in­vest­ment fund man­ager, a hair­dresser and an ex­pa­tri­ate liv­ing in France.

May has con­demned their chal­lenge as an at­tempt to “sub­vert” the re­sult of the June ref­er­en­dum when 52 per­cent of Bri­tons voted to leave the EU. But the claimants ar­gue ei­ther that the vote was only “ad­vi­sory” and must be im­ple­mented by elected law­mak­ers, or that only par­lia­ment can re­move the rights ac­corded to Bri­tons as EU ci­tizens. “Par­lia­ment has taken us into the Euro­pean Union and only par­lia­ment can take us out,” said lawyer John Hal­ford of Bind­mans so­lic­i­tors.

Most MPs cam­paigned for Bri­tain to stay in the EU and, while many have now ac­cepted the re­sult, lengthy de­bates ahead of a vote could take months, up­set­ting the en­tire Brexit timetable. May has said she wants to trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 — the for­mal pro­ce­dure for start­ing two years of talks on de­par­ture-by the end of March at the lat­est.

The gov­ern­ment has ar­gued its right to lead Brexit falls un­der “royal pre­rog­a­tive”-a type of ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege used in for­eign pol­icy. The case re­flects grow­ing pres­sure from MPs them­selves, led by the main op­po­si­tion Labour party, for a vote on the terms of Bri­tain’s exit over fears of an abrupt de­par­ture from the sin­gle mar­ket.

‘Kill’ Brexit by de­lay­ing it

The case will be heard by Lord Chief Jus­tice John Thomas, Mas­ter of the Rolls Ter­ence Ether­ton and se­nior Court of Ap­peal judge Philip Sales. Af­ter a three-day hear­ing, the judges will re­tire and likely de­liver their verdict within a few weeks. The los­ing party is al­most cer­tain to ap­peal, but the se­nior­ity of the panel means it would prob­a­bly go straight to the Supreme Court for a fi­nal de­ci­sion.

Jo Hunt, a law lec­turer at Cardiff Univer­sity, said that although the power to trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 “prob­a­bly” does fall un­der royal pre­rog­a­tive “there are strong... ar­gu­ments why it shouldn’t”. In the first few weeks af­ter the ref­er­en­dum, there was much spec­u­la­tion by so-called “Re­main­ers” about le­gal chal­lenges that could over­turn the re­sult. This is now thought highly un­likelyalthough May ac­cused those be­hind Thurs­day’s chal­lenge of try­ing all the same. “Those peo­ple who ar­gue that Ar­ti­cle 50 can only be trig­gered af­ter agree­ment in both Houses of Par­lia­ment are not stand­ing up for democ­racy, they’re try­ing to sub­vert it,” she said.

“They’re not try­ing to get Brexit right, they’re try­ing to kill it by de­lay­ing it. They are in­sult­ing the in­tel­li­gence of the British peo­ple.”

‘An un­elected ex­ec­u­tive’

The case was ini­tially brought by 37-year-old British hair­dresser Deir Dos San­tos, and Gina Miller, co-founder of SCM Di­rect in­vest­ment man­agers, be­fore be­ing joined by a group of self-styled “or­di­nary ci­tizens”. “My client was very sur­prised at be­ing la­beled by the prime min­is­ter as try­ing to sub­vert democ­racy,” said Do­minic Cham­bers of Mait­land Cham­bers, who rep­re­sents Dos San­tos.

In a sign of the per­sis­tent ten­sions be­tween the two op­pos­ing camps, Dos San­tos is keep­ing a low pro­file af­ter be­ing tar­geted by abuse on so­cial me­dia. The of­fices of Miller’s lawyers, Mish­con de Reya, have also been pick­eted. A third group of claimants are rep­re­sented by Hal­ford and led by ex­pat Gra­hame Pigney, a “com­mit­ted Euro­pean” who lives in France.

To­gether with his 22-year-old son Rob, a “Re­main” cam­paigner from Gi­bral­tar, a tree sur­geon from Wales and a Lon­don stu­dent, they have raised al­most £150,000 from more than 4,000 donors. “Par­lia­ment has given UK ci­tizens cer­tain fun­da­men­tal rights, such as free­dom of move­ment... and it’s only par­lia­ment that can take this away,” Pigney, a semi-re­tired for­mer IT man­ager, told AFP.

“I would have thought ‘Leavers’ would sup­port us be­cause it’s part of their ar­gu­ment that an un­elected ex­ec­u­tive can­not act like this,” he added. “They were talk­ing about the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion,” he said, mak­ing an ironic ref­er­ence to May who re­placed David Cameron in July through an internal Con­ser­va­tive Party lead­er­ship con­test. —AFP

LON­DON: A video grab from footage broad­cast by the UK Par­lia­ment’s Par­lia­men­tary Record­ing Unit (PRU) shows British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May as she speaks dur­ing Prime Min­is­ter’s Ques­tions (PMQs) in the House of Com­mons yes­ter­day. —AFP

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