Legal dream team fights to make Brexit conditional on parliamentary backing

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By Alex Aldridge on

Big guns from Mishcon de Reya, Blackstone, Matrix and Monckton take aim at referendum decision


Some of London’s leading public and EU law specialists are launching a last gasp legal bid to preserve Britain’s European Union membership following the vote to leave in last month’s referendum.

Hotshot solicitors and barristers from Mishcon de Reya, Blackstone, Matrix and Monckton Chambers have formed a dream team to argue that the decision to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of European Union — the legal process for withdrawal from the EU — rests with parliament under the UK’s unwritten constitution.

The group — which is made up of Mishcon partner Kasra Nouroozi, Blackstone’s David Pannick QC and Tom Hickman, Matrix’s Rhodri Thompson QC and Monckton’s Anneli Howard — is being instructed by several unnamed businesses. It will go head to head with the government, which argues that it has authority to push the Article 50 button in the wake of the referendum result.

In a statement issued on Sunday evening, Nouroozi explained:

We must ensure that the Government follows the correct process to have legal certainty and protect the UK Constitution and the sovereignty of Parliament in these unprecedented circumstances. The result of the Referendum is not in doubt, but we need a process that follows UK law to enact it. The outcome of the Referendum itself is not legally binding and for the current or future Prime Minister to invoke Article 50 without the approval of Parliament is unlawful.

He continued:

We must make sure this is done properly for the benefit of all UK citizens. Article 50 simply cannot be invoked without a full debate and vote in Parliament. Everyone in Britain needs the Government to apply the correct constitutional process and allow Parliament to fulfil its democratic duty which is to take into account the results of the Referendum along with other factors and make the ultimate decision.

Nouroozi’s words echo the position outlined by Blackstone’s Pannick in a recent article for The Times (£) newspaper. Hickman has also written about the constitutional issues surrounding Brexit in a widely read blog post.

With the Tory leadership candidates split on when to activate Article 50 — Theresa May and Michael Gove want to hold off until next year, but Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox are keen to start formal exit negotiations in autumn — the legal challenge might have a major role to play in the Brexit saga.

Could the lawyers save the day?