But was he the only lawyer to defy the House of Commons?
The government suffered a defeat in the House of Lords last night over its Brexit strategy, with peers refusing to pass its Brexit Bill.
Three hundred and fifty eight Lords and Ladies voted for an amendment to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, an amendment which will ensure the rights of EU nationals living in the United Kingdom are protected throughout the withdrawal process.
The proposed amendment states that once Article 50 is triggered, these citizens must “continue to be treated in the same way with regards to their EU derived-rights and, in the case of residency, their potential to acquire such rights in the future.”
Did the House of Lords make the correct decision #BrexitBill ?
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One of those 358 responsible for the government defeat is Lord Pannick QC. The Blackstone Chambers barrister represented lead claimant Gina Miller in the Brexit judicial review challenge. After a turbulent ride through the appeal courts, the Supreme Court found in Miller’s favour, ruling that parliament must have a say on the invocation of Article 50.
And hence we have the Brexit Bill, which Pannick has duly voted against. His decision is all the more interesting because the experienced advocate is a crossbench peer, and therefore not under pressure to vote along party lines.
While it might seem strange that a lawyer so closely associated with the Miller case gets a vote on Article 50’s invocation, Bob Neill MP told Legal Cheek this was perfectly acceptable practice. Chairman of the Justice Committee Neill — who used to be a criminal barrister — said that Pannick was appearing in the case in his capacity as an advocate and in the Lords as his capacity as a peer. The case is now over, so why shouldn’t he be allowed to vote?
It’s also worth noting Pannick was not the only lawyer to vote against the government. Doughty Street barrister Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, who Legal Cheek recently interviewed about her take on Brexit, also voted this way. Just weeks ago she, along with a number of other lawyers, warned that the UK is at risk of suffering a post-Brexit “human rights crisis”. She urged the EU to step in to prevent this.
That said, other lawyers featured among the 256 Lords and Ladies who voted for the government’s bill and against the suggested amendment. Crossbench peer Lord Hope, who preceded Lady Hale as the deputy president of the Supreme Court, was one of those. Former chair of the Bar Standards Board Baroness Deech and retired judge Baroness Butler-Sloss also voted to pass the bill through without amendment.
The bill will now be reconsidered by the House of Commons, where MPs can discuss the proposed amendment. It is anticipated that Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 by the end of the month.
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