A group of businesses, the identities of which have not been revealed, has retained the Mishcon de Reya law firm in order to mount a legal challenge to the UK Government’s plan to withdraw from the EU.
In a statement posted on its website yesterday, the law firm said it is taking legal steps “to ensure the UK Government will not trigger the procedure for withdrawal from the EU without an Act of Parliament…on behalf of a group of clients”.
It said it had retained retained Blackstone Chambers’ Lord Pannick QC and Tom Hickman to act as counsel in the action, along with Matrix Chambers’ competition and EU law expert Rhodri Thompson QC and Monckton Chambers’ Anneli Howard.
Mishcon de Reya partner Kasra Nouroozi said that while the result of the 23rd June referendum was not in doubt, “we need a process that follows UK law to enact it”, and noted that the referendum result in itself was “not legally binding”, with the result that an effort by the current or future prime minister to invoke Article 50 – the formal notification of Britain’s intention to leave the EU – without the approval of Parliament would be “unlawful”.
“We must ensure that the Government follows the correct process [in order] to have legal certainty and protect the UK Constitution and the sovereignty of Parliament in these unprecedented circumstances,” Nouroozi, who was said by The Lawyer magazine and website to be understood to be overseeing the legal action on behalf of Mishcon, said.
Observers said the legal challenge could end up significantly delaying and disrupting the UK’s planned EU exit, particularly given that a majority of MPs said they were in favour of remaining in the union ahead of the referendum, and have subsequently said they want to stay in the single market.
According to The Lawyer, both Pannick and Hickman have written articles in the wake of the Brexit vote regarding the legal ramifications of the decision to leave.
“Hickman’s article argued that Government would be violating parliamentary sovereignty if it activated Article 50 on its own, as it would contradict rights established by the European Communities Act 1972,” The Lawyer noted. In an article published yesterday evening, it said the Mishcon action had not yet been filed with the courts.