A top law firm, on behalf of an anonymous group of clients, will launch a legal bid to block the new Prime Minister triggering Article 50.
Senior figures in the European Union (EU) and European governments have stated they want ‘Brexit’ to be a “quick divorce”, pressuring the government to invoke Article 50. Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that his successor as Conservative leader will trigger the mechanism.
Popular Tory leadership contender Andrea Leadsom pledged to begin the UK’s exit from the EU “as quickly as possible” if she becomes Prime Minister. Doing so would give investors and the public certainty, Ms Leadsom said.
But law firm Mishcon de Reya, representing a group of unnamed clients understood to be major businesses, seeks to block the country’s future leader from enacting the will of the people. The legal challenge will demand the decision to formally exit the UK be voted for by MPs.
Labour MP David Lammy sparked fury when he demanded Parliament “stop the madness” and overturn the referendum results in the Commons. Around three-quarters of MPs backed Remain and so if the law firm’s challenge it is very likely the British public’s decision will be overturned.
Mishcon de Reya has been in talks with the government since last week seeking “assurances that the government will uphold the UK constitution and protect the sovereignty of parliament in invoking article 50”.
Some lawyers have dismissed the law firm’s constitutional challenge to Article 50, stating the UK does not have a written constitution.
Last week however, another legal initiative began to see whether the advisory status of the referendum means it should be Parliament who has the final say on leaving Europe.
A partner at Mishcon de Reya, Kasra Nouroozi, said: “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.
“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.”