Lawyers anticipate ‘public discussion’ on government’s defence to Article 50 challenge

Avatar photo

By Polly Botsford on

Government’s legal arguments have been disclosed following high court decision


The government has been forced to disclose its legal defence in the Article 50 case following a ruling made this week. In court, Mr Justice Cranston found that there was no reason for the government not to disclose the defence, given a “background of the principle of open justice”.

Documents relating to the legal challenge had previously been kept secret in order to protect the identities of parties involved. However, the People’s Challenge group, an interested party in the Article 50 legal challenge, argued that the defence (and skeleton arguments) could be disclosed as those documents in particular did not pose a risk to parties’ identities and that it was hugely important there should be “public discussion” of the government’s legal arguments.

Mr Justice Cranston said:

It is difficult to see justification for restricting publication of documents which are generally available under the rules.

John Halford, a public law specialist at Bindmans, who represents the People’s Challenge, told Legal Cheek:

The government’s stance on the issue of disclosing its legal defence is a microcosm of the concerns that we have with the government’s position on Article 50 — it keeps its cards very close to its chest and doesn’t want parliamentary scrutiny of any of it.

The People’s Challenge group’s involvement is being crowdfunded and has already raised over £100,000.

The legal challenge itself will be heard on 13 and 17 October in front of three judges, one of which will be the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas. The two other judges are yet to be named.

In an interesting development, the government has helicoptered in the attorney general, Jeremy Wright QC, to lead its legal team (of four barristers, two of which are QCs) in the hearing in October. AGs only tend to make such appearances in the most sensitive of cases.

You can read the government’s defence here: