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Brexit challenged: Mishcon takes on article 50 action for mystery clients

Mishcon de Reya is preparing to launch a legal action over the triggering of article 50 and the process of Brexit, for a group of unnamed clients.

The LB100 firm is bringing the case on behalf of a group of clients to ensure the UK does not begin the process of leaving the European Union without an act of parliament.

Mishcon has retained David Pannick QC and Tom Hickman of Blackstone Chambers as well as Rhodri Thompson QC of Matrix Chambers and Anneli Howard of Monckton Chambers.

The firm said it had been in correspondence with government lawyers since 27 June to seek assurances that the process of leaving the EU would be started by parliament invoking article 50, rather than relying solely on the result of the public vote on 23 June.

Mishcon partner Kasra Nouroozi said: ‘We must ensure that the government follows the correct process to have legal certainty and protect the UK constitution and the sovereignty of parliament in these unprecedented circumstances.’

He said the result of the referendum was ‘not in doubt’ but that it was not legally binding, and for a prime minister to invoke the act without the approval of parliament would be unlawful.

Nouroozi (pictured) added: ‘We must make sure this is done properly for the benefit of all UK citizens. Article 50 simply cannot be invoked without a full debate and vote in parliament.’

Mishcon executive partner James Libson added: ‘The challenge is going ahead because we have clients who wanted to raise it, of course it is driven by clients and not the law firm. Their concerns are that there is a lot of debate about article 50 and it is a matter for the sovereignty of parliament. If it weren’t on the subject of Brexit this would be a standard judicial review of executive power.’

Leadership challengers for the Conservative party have offered differing viewpoints on the process of triggering article 50. Theresa May, who campaigned for Remain, has said the UK would need to wait until the government’s negotiating stance was clear, while pro-Brexit challengers Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox have both said they would push on with negotiations as early as September.

The announcement from Mishcon follows Devereux Chambers barrister Jolyon Maugham launching a crowdfunded legal challenge the Brexit process last week.

Maugham said: ‘The narrow point that we are taking is that parliament enacted an advisory referendum. It could have enacted a referendum that had the effect of triggering article 50 but it didn’t. So who is to take that advice from the voters?’

Carter-Ruck barrister Peter Smith, a member of the pro-Brexit group Lawyers for Britain told Legal Business: ‘It’s a question of the prerogative. It’s the prerogative of the government to engage the article 50 process and it doesn’t require an act of parliament.

‘I wouldn’t want to be the high court judge who declares the government has to seek an act of parliament on this.’

He added the government ‘probably could have been clearer in its wording’ of the referendum act, since the European Union Act 2011 declared that all future EU treaties must be put to both a referendum and an act of parliament.