It’s just over six months since Theresa May sent her “Brexit means Brexit” letter to President Donald Tusk purporting to give notice of the UK’s intention to exit the European Union, and already there are six legal challenges in the pipeline. That’s an average of one per month.
The results of legal actions may not perhaps be the ultimate cause of a reversal of Brexit, that will be political, but our democratic system is based upon the rule of law; if the rule of law is abused, our democracy is devalued and threatened. By the same token, if the law is not enforced, it has no power.
The Gina Miller et al case ensured that the government follow the rule of law. Since then, the government has continued to flagrantly disregard the law and the proper role of Parliament. As a result the legal challenges have been launched.
These are the current actions as of end of October 2017:
1 Action for Expat Votes – challenging the validity of the referendum in EU courts, due to the lack of votes given to millions of UK residents abroad. Led by Action for Europe. This case may go to the Court of Justice of the EU.
2 DUP Bribe: a legal action by NI Green Party political figure Ceiran McClean claiming that the £1bn promised to the DUP to buy votes is illegal.
3 DUP bribe: action is planned by DUPbribe.org.uk which will allege criminal misconduct by Theresa May.
4 Article 50 non-validity : Legal challenge launched in the name of Liz Webster and supported by A C Grayling claims that the Article 50 Notice is invalid and therefore there is no clock ticking towards 29 March 2019.
5 Criminal Misconduct in Public Office by May and ministers: criminal allegations laid and a 4200 signature letter sent to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, led by the Wolchover Action Group :
6 Fifty Secret Studies: Good Law Project led by Jolyon Maugham demanding disclosure of the secret Brexit Impact Assessments:
It will take some time for these actions to proceed through the courts and for the results to have an impact. Meanwhile, political and practical events continue to develop. Negotiations with the EU are proceeding slowly if at all. The UK still appears to be unsure what it actually wants, 18 months after the referendum. The good news is: the prospect of a Hard Brexit is fading away rapidly. Labour and sensible Tories both now seem to favour a Soft Brexit with close access to the single market and free tariffs. The soft deal offered by the EU would be close to a Norwegian or Swiss model. Unfortunately for the Brexiteers, that will most likely entail acceptance of freedom of movement and possibly even of Schengen, ECJ jurisdiction, and certainly the loss of the rebate secured by Margaret Thatcher. In which case the question which will be raised is : what is the point of it?
If Soft Brexit is pointless, the only other option is No Brexit. Legal and political opinion is that a cancellation of the Article 50 Notice would be accepted by the 27. To do so in good time before March 2019 would allow the UK to preserve the special advantages it has at present. Not to do so would put those special deals at risk. What is “in good time”? I think the crunch time will come well before Spring 2018. It is Countdown to Crisis.