Brexit: Jolyon Maugham’s Irish High Court challenge has been discontinued

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By Katie King on

QC crowdfunded £70,000

Tax specialist and Devereux Chambers’ barrister Jo Maugham QC has announced on his blog that his Irish High Court Brexit challenge has been discontinued.

Maugham — along with Green Party politicians and fellow claimants Jonathan Bartley, Keith Taylor and Steven Agnew — had hoped the Dublin court would refer two Brexit questions to the European Court of Justice. These questions, the silk explained on the case’s crowdfunding page, are:

First, whether a notification under Article 50 can be revoked. Second, whether, by leaving the EU, we automatically leave the European Economic Area.

There’s clearly an appetite for these legal questions. As we reported last year, just shy of 2,000 donors pledged more than £70,000 to the campaign when it launched in December.

Directions in the case were agreed in April, but Maugham has now announced it will not go to a full hearing. This, he explained in his blog, is because the claimants have regretfully agreed the litigation should be discontinued. He explained:

A number of matters have become apparent. In particular, it is clear that Ireland does not want a reference to the Court of Justice in Luxembourg of the questions in the proceedings.

This has consequences, one of which is the case’s timing. Seeking referral to the Court of Justice isn’t a quick process, and Maugham noted the claimants “might not have a decision on the questions referred much in advance of the date (October 2018) by which both David Davis and Michel Barnier have said negotiations would need to be concluded.”

The second is costs. Hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees would need to be raised for the case to continue. Perhaps Maugham and co could obtain this cash, but he said: “I do not want to seek to raise such a substantial sum of money unless I can be satisfied that to spend it for the stated object is prudent. And I regret that I am not.”

So what’s going to happen to the money that’s already been crowdfunded? Speaking to Legal Cheek this morning, Maugham said:

A proportion of the monies raised have been expended on lawyers, none of whom I have any connection with. Indeed I have not sought reimbursement from the monies raised even of personal expenditure I have incurred directly related to the litigation. Nor will I benefit from the residuum of the monies raised which will go to other Brexit-related litigation or charity.

He continued:

I have neither sought nor derived professional, financial or other benefit from this litigation. Indeed, I have given up a substantial part of my paid practice to pursue in the public interest the betterment of my country.

Though the case has attracted some scepticism, lawyers have been quick to share their condolences with Maugham. Employment law and human rights silk Schona Jolly said:

While legal affairs journalist Joshua Rozenberg tweeted:

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