Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, may be hauled before the courts for issuing a “Presidential Order” banning Commissioners from holding Brexit talks with British representatives – after it emerged that no such powers exist.
In the days following Britain’s historic referendum vote to leave the EU, Juncker used a televised speech to prevent his officials from opening exit negotiations with Britain until Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty had been invoked.
Juncker claimed during the speech that the decree was a “Presidential Order”.
But the Commission has since admitted that there is no such thing as a Presidential Order, and that Juncker had no right to prevent negotiations from going ahead. Consequently, he may now face legal action for ordering the bogus ban, to the possible detriment of the British people.
The challenge is being brought by Fair Deal for Expats, a non-profit organisation representing British ex-patriots living and working in European Union (EU) countries, which is having to crowd-fund the thousands of pounds required to take the matter to court.
Last night the group’s legal team told The Sun that Juncker’s so-called order “breaches the duty of ‘sincere cooperation’ that the Commission is required to abide by” as it “discriminates against the UK and its people”.
They further claimed that the order “infringes the fundamental rights of EU citizens who live in another EU country because no immediate and direct negotiations can take place to secure those rights”.
Immediately following the historic vote, European leaders snubbed Britain, demanding Article 50 be invoked immediately, and, in a fit of pique, announced that no informal talks could take place before that happened.
But the British government announced that it planned to delay invoking Article 50, which sparks a two-year exit negotiation, until early 2017 in order to consolidate its negotiating position.
Juncker soon joined their ranks. On June 28, addressing the European Parliament, Juncker said in a mixture of French and English: “I have completely forbidden – Presidential Order, and this is not my style – Commissioners to discuss with representatives of the UK government ‘in or out’; ‘leave or remain’.
“I’ve told to all General Directors that there cannot be any discussion ahead [of invoking Article 50] with British government representatives. No notification, no negotiation!’.”
In response to inquiries by Fair Deal for Expats, the Commission admitted that there is no such thing as a Presidential Order, and suggested that it may have been a mistranslation. But the Commission’s own press release translates “Ordre Presidentielle”, as uttered by Juncker, correctly into the English “Presidential Order”.
John Shaw, President of Fair Deal for Expats said: “Juncker’s ban needs to go and the UK needs time to have discussions and negotiations before the UK triggers Article 50, in accordance with the UK’s constitutional requirements – which we contend requires Parliament’s involvement”.
In a statement, his group added:
“We are trying to make sure that discussions and negotiations can take place between the UK Government and the EU Commission now – before the UK has triggered Article 50. This is really important because the UK is in its strongest negotiating position before Article 50 has been triggered.
“Juncker’s ban on the Commission talking to the UK is harming the rights and interests of the UK and all its citizens right now, especially for those who have made their lives or business in other EU countries.
“We believe that there is no lawful basis for banning any such discussions, not least because at the moment the UK remains a full member of the EU and it is wrong for the Commission to discriminate against the UK and against its citizens by refusing to discuss matters that affect them.
“We believe it is also contrary to the correct interpretation of Article 50, as well as the Commission’s duty of co-operation with the UK.”
Last night a European Commission spokesman said: “President Juncker, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, the European Parliament President Martin Schulz, and a series of national leaders have all made clear that the legal ground for exiting the EU is Article 50 of the Treaty and that negotiations begin after that is triggered.
“President Juncker has instructed Commissioners and EC officials also to follow that principle.”