06:52, August 17 95 0 theguardian.com

2018-08-17 06:52:06
Government given two weeks to respond to Brexit legal challenge

Government lawyers have been given a two-week deadline to respond to the latest legal challenge over the legitimacy of the Brexit vote.

A judicial review has been launched by the UK in EU Challenge group, which represents Britons living in France, Italy and Spain.

It argues that the Electoral Commission’s findings on BeLeave and Vote Leave, which resulted in two officials being reported to the police and fines being imposed, mean the 2016 EU referendum was not a lawful, fair or free vote.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Warby issued a high court order requiring those representing Theresa May and the commission to submit a summary of their legal defence by 4pm on 31 August.

The order also asks the government to reply to the request for an expedited hearing in the case “as soon as reasonably practicable”.

Warby’s order states that “the question of permission [for the case to proceed] deserves urgent consideration”.

It continues: “These directions, as they stand, ensure that a high court judge will be able to give detailed consideration to the merits and appropriate directions in early September, within a few weeks of issue, with the benefit of a tailored, reasoned response from the defendant [the prime minister] and, if so advised, the interested party [the Electoral Commission].”

The UK in EU Challenge is hoping the case will reach court in October, with what is known as a rolled-up hearing that deals with the question of permission and the substantive issues at the same time.

The claimants are represented by Croft Solicitors, Patrick Green QC and Jessica Simor QC, all of whom acted for successful parties in the article 50 case at the supreme court.

The government is resisting the action on the grounds that it is out of time and a similar challenge has already been dismissed. But the claimants maintain that the claim is not out of time because the commission only found in July that BeLeave spent £675,000, which should have been declared.

The speed of the high court’s response makes it clear that the case is being given legal priority because of the significance of the issues involved.

Rupert Croft, the managing director of Croft Solicitors, said: “It’s extremely good news and very encouraging. It’s critical that it’s heard on an expedited basis. It will be interesting when we get the government’s response.”

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