Today sees the start of the hearing in the High Court of the so-called “Article 50 challenges” – the judicial review proceedings brought by two claimants (and supported by several groups of interveners) which argue that a Parliamentary vote is needed before the Article 50 process for Britain leaving the EU can be triggered. The hearing will not finish today but will continue on 17th and 18th October.
The challenges are being heard not by a single High Court Judge, as most judicial reviews are, but by a very high-powered Divisional Court, consisting of the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Thomas), the Master of the Rolls (Sir Terence Etherton) and Lord Justice Sales. A “leapfrog” appeal to the Supreme Court (i.e. direct to the Supreme Court and bypassing the Court of Appeal) has already been arranged for December 2016.
The Government’s position is that Article 50 can be triggered using prerogative powers – meaning essentially that this is a matter for the executive alone.
The Claimants dispute this, and raise a number of issues, including:
There is also a dispute about whether constitutionally-valid decision has already been made for the UK to withdraw from the EU.
If you are interested in the detail of the arguments, the principal parties’ skeleton arguments can be found here:
Three of our colleagues are involved: Anneli Howard (together with Lord Pannick QC, Rhodri Thompson QC and Tom Hickman) for the lead Claimant, and Gerry Facenna QC and Jack Williams (together with Helen Mountfield QC and Tim Johnston) for the Peoples Challenge interested party.