A high-profile barrister has launched a publicly-funded campaign with human rights firm Bindmans to consider a public law case on the result of the EU referendum.
Jolyon Maugham QC of Devereux Chambers set up the campaign on Crowdjustice.co.uk, raising its target of £10,000 in 12 hours from more than 400 backers.
The money raised will be used to take advice from public and human rights partner John Halford of Bindmans, who will instruct a team of constitutional law barristers.
The campaign questions the premise of the EU referendum held last week: that the vote would be ‘advisory’ to the government. Maugham’s campaign asks who is being advised by the referendum, the prime minister, the government, or parliament.
Maugham (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘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?
‘If parliament had intended the result of the referendum to be binding it could have done so. But it did not intend that.’
Maugham said the group would confirm a lead counsel by the end of today (30 June) and aimed to send a letter to the government to discover its position next week.
Maugham said if parliament votes on the referendum result MPs would have to consider a number of additional factors, such as the quality of the campaign that Leave fought and the impact of exiting on the UK.
The campaign limited individual donations to £100, but Maugham said he was not surprised they had hit the £10,000 target so quickly, adding there was ‘profound concern’ over the referendum.
Questions have been raised over parliament’s role in leaving the EU, having joined the group after passing the European Communities Act in 1972. Senior lawyers have said the result of the referendum poses a threat to Parliamentary sovereignty, as the vast majority of MPs supported the Remain campaign.
Pump Court Chambers barrister Matthew Scott wrote earlier this week: ‘Referendums have a legitimate place where popular endorsement is sought for a decision that parliament has made. They are far more problematic when they are used as a tool to force parliament to do something that it would not otherwise do.’
Writing in the Times today (30 June) Blackstone Chambers QC David Pannick said triggering the article is a decision for parliament.
‘Whether parliament would enact legislation to allow for an article 50 withdrawal is a matter for it. However without such legislation the prime minister cannot legally give a notification.’
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