Legal Business Blogs

‘Misrepresentations and promises’: Barristers latest to take Brexit action as 1,000 sign petition over article 50

In the latest legal lobby against Brexit, more than 1,000 barristers have signed a letter to urge MPs to pass an act of parliament before invoking article 50.

The barristers signed a letter to the prime minister and MPs calling for a free vote in parliament on any decision for Britain to leave the European Union in the wake of the EU referendum.

The letter said the result of the referendum is not legally binding, although the result must be acknowledged. The barristers call for a vote due to the impact of the referendum on the UK’s future relationship with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, as well as the market unrest and economic fallout of the vote.

‘In view of the extremely serious constitutional, economic and legal importance of the vote either way, we believe that there should be a free vote in parliament,’ the barristers write.

The barristers said the result of the referendum was influenced by misrepresentations during the campaign. ‘It cannot be discounted that the misrepresentations and promises were a decisive or contributory factor in the result.’

The lawyers are also calling for an independent Royal Commission to analyse the risks and benefits of leaving the EU.

Lead signatory Philip Kolvin QC of Cornerstone Barristers said:  ‘MPs are elected to exercise their best judgement on the basis of objective evidence,’ he said. ‘At this time of profound constitutional, political and possibly social and economic crisis, we look to them to fulfil the responsibility placed upon them.’

Aidan O’Neill QC of Matrix Chambers said: ‘The Brexit referendum has made clear that the UK is not a united nation-state, but a divided state of nations. But it has given no mandate or guidance as to what our nations’ future relationship might be with Europe, and with each other.’

The letter is the latest in a series of questions raised by lawyers and law firms following the referendum. Last week, Mishcon de Reya, announced it was representing clients to challenge whether the referendum result could trigger article 50 without an act of Parliament, being activated by the PM alone. The potential legal action led to protests outside the doors of the firm’s London office.

On Friday (8 July), a separate letter was sent to the government legal department on behalf of more than 400 backers who raised £10,000 on the crowdfunding website The letter, from the law firm Bindmans, also seeks clarification that the triggering of article 50 will require an act of Parliament.