08:24, May 30 237 0 theguardian.com

2017-05-30 08:24:02
Crowdfunded legal challenge over article 50 abandoned

A crowdfunded legal challenge to test whether Brexit can be reversed has been abandoned.

More than £70,000 was raised in a few days before Christmas to launch the case centring on article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which formally initiated the UK’s departure from the EU.

But the case has now been abandoned by three Green party politicians and the London barrister co-ordinating the case.

Jolyon Maugham QC and his backers had planned to take their case to the Dublin courts after British courts declined to refer the question of reversibility to the European court of justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg.

They had intended to argue that article 50 could be unilaterally revoked by the UK government without requiring consent from all other 27 EU member states. The Luxembourg court is the ultimate judicial authority on interpretation of EU law.

The Irish government signalled its opposition to any referral to the ECJ. Its stance would have resulted in severe delays as the case was appealed up through the Irish courts. The Luxembourg judges probably would not have reached a decision before Brexit takes place.

The three Green politicians supporting the claim were the party’s co-leader Jonathan Bartley, Steven Agnew, a member of the Northern Ireland assembly, and Keith Taylor, an MEP for south-east England.

In a statement explaining their decision to call off the case, Maugham said: “With regret, we have agreed between us and with Ireland that the litigation should be discontinued. It is clear that Ireland does not want a reference to the court of justice in Luxembourg of the questions in the proceedings.

“If, as is likely, Ireland takes every point available to it, it is unlikely we would have a full hearing in the [Dublin] high court until the autumn … So we 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.”

Maugham also acknowledged that the cost of fighting case all the way up through the Dublin courts would “not be insignificant” and could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The barrister said £4,000 had been spent in fees and more on legal costs for other lawyers. The remaining sum, he promised, would go “either to other Brexit-related litigation with sympathetic aims or, if there is no other such litigation, to a charity.”