London | The battle over Brexit reaches the High Court today in a legal challenge to Prime Minister Theresa May’s right to start negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union.
The case was launched in the aftermath of Britain’s June 23 referendum which saw 52 per cent of Britons vote to leave the EU.
It seeks to challenge May’s assertion that she as prime minister has the right to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which would spark two years of negotiations on Britain’s departure from the bloc.
The government says it has “royal prerogative” — a type of executive privilege — to negotiate Brexit without needing a legally-binding parliamentary vote.
But those behind the legal challenge — including an investment fund manager, a hairdresser and an expatriate living in France — argue such a process cannot begin without a vote in parliament.
Gina Miller, co-founder of investment fund SCM Private, wants parliament to legislate on the terms of Brexit before May can trigger Article 50.
“This is not about whether we should stay or leave — this is actually about how we leave,” Miller told AFP yesterday.
The fund manager is being represented on a pro bono basis by Mishcon de Reya, a prestigious law firm whose offices were picketed by pro-Brexit campaigners in July for taking on the case shortly after the referendum.
Although May has accused the claimants of trying to “subvert” the results of the referendum, the prime minister yesterday signalled she would let parliament scrutinise her Brexit plan before starting the formal EU exit process.
But she stopped short of agreeing a vote for MPs on her plan before the government triggers Article 50.
Asked in the House of Commons if there would be a vote, May only replied: “The idea that parliament somehow wasn’t going to be able to discuss, debate, question issues around (Brexit) was frankly completely wrong.”