Brexit Day One at the Royal Courts of Justice


Proceedings in the much anticipated ‘Brexit Litigation’ commenced on Thursday 13th October 2016 with Lord Pannick QC opening the case for Gina Miller.  An official transcript of the first day can be found here.

The Courtroom was packed with barristers, solicitors, the press and the public. The proceedings were being streamed live to two nearby courtrooms such was the public interest in the case. The case is being presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Sales. Outside the Court, security was tight with lawyers’ ID’s being checked before they were allowed entry into Court.

Lord Pannick QC opened by making it plain that this case was not about Ms Miller, or indeed any of the other claimants, interested parties or interveners wishing to halt Brexit. He stated categorically that this was a case which raised

“…an issue of fundamental constitutional importance concerning the limits of the power of the executive. Can the defendant, on behalf of the government, lawfully use prerogative powers to give a notification under Article 50 of the treaty on European Union of this country’s intention to withdraw from the EU?… It is not concerned with the political wisdom or otherwise of withdrawal by this country from the EU.”

Lord Pannick QC addressed five main topic areas including (1) the construction of Article 50 EC; (2) the Referendum Act 2015; (3) the relevant featured and constitutional significance of the European Communities Act 1972; (4) the legal limits on the use of the prerogative powers; and (5) the issues raised by the Government in their now widely available skeleton argument.

One of the most significant points which the Lord Chief Justice questioned almost immediately was that once invoked, can Article 50 EC be stopped? And secondly, can you give a conditional notice?  The Court thought this an imperative to the extent that the basis of the claim was that once Article 50 EC is triggered the withdrawal from the EU and the repeal of all laws, rights and freedoms which now form part of our jurisprudence as a result of our membership of the EU will be lost, notwithstanding any suggestion by the Secretary of State that they may be ‘re-granted’ at some later date.

The Court also heard from Dominic Chambers QC who made extensive submissions on the history and development of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Helen Mountfield QC addressed the Bill of Rights 1688 and issues of Devolution.

On Monday 17th October 2016 it will be the turn of the AB Parties and Manjit Gill QC to make submissions on issues relating to the effect of triggering Article 50 EC, in the absence of legislation, on children and their carers.

Tony Muman, assisted by Thomas Green appears for the AB Parties led by Mr Gill QC.

The primary submissions are expected to be concluded at the end of Monday with the replies due on Tuesday.

For any further details or enquiries about either Mr Muman or Mr Green please contact the clerks.

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