An anti-Brexit group has won the right to disclose the government’s legal justification for using royal prerogative powers to trigger the country’s withdrawal from the European Union.
London firm Bindmans, which represents the group, says the development will ‘shine a floodlight’ on plans to bring about Brexit without consulting parliament.
Last week claimants of crowdfunded initiative the People’s Challenge submitted detailed legal submissions to the High Court arguing that Article 50 cannot be invoked using prerogative powers and that only an act of parliament preceded by proper parliamentary scrutiny will be constitutionally sufficient.
Following an application from the group, Mr Justice Cranston last night ordered that the government’s complete legal defence could be published after certain sections of the submissions were redacted.
’The parties are not prohibited from publishing the defendant’s or their own detailed grounds,’ said the judge. ’Against the background of the principle of open justice, it is difficult to see a justification for restricting publication of documents which are generally available under the rules.’
The government had objected to the defence being published, arguing that a case management order made in July meant that all court papers had to remain confidential. Bindmans argued that the government had placed too much reliance on a commitment to protect litigants from online abuse to prevent disclosure of the main points of its defence.
Bindmans partner John Halford (pictured) said today: ’The court’s order allows a floodlight to be shone on the government’s secret reasons for believing it alone can bring about Brexit without any meaningful parliamentary scrutiny.
’Those who were unsettled by the government’s insistence on its defence being kept secret, will now be surprised by the contents, including submissions that Brexit has nothing constitutionally to do with the Scottish and Northern Ireland devolved governments, that parliament “clearly understood” it was surrendering any role it might have in Brexit by passing the EU Referendum Act, that it has no control over making and withdrawal from treaties and that individuals can have fundamental rights conferred by acts of parliament stripped away if and when the executive withdraws from the treaties on which they are based.’
’These arguments will be tested in court next month, but now they can be debated by the public too.’