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A group of ‘concerned British Citizens’ involved in the challenge to the Government’s plans to use the Royal Prerogative to evoke Art 50 have won the right to publish its complete legal defence and an unredacted version of their submissions ahead of a Court hearing in October. The Government had strongly objected to the defence being published arguing that a case management order made in July meant all Court papers had to remain confidential. However, in an Order made last night in response to an urgent application by the group, Mr Justice Cranston ruled that:
… the parties are not prohibited from publishing the Defendant’s or their own Detailed Grounds… 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 People’s Challenge group has been crowdfunding to raise money to actively participate in the Article 50 litigation begun in July by Dier Dos Santos and Gina Miller so it can ensure a range of British Citizens’ interests are at the forefront of the Court’s mind. Last week, the group’s legal team made detailed legal submissions to the 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.
John Halford of Bindmans LLP represents the group. He commented 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.
Members of the People’s Challenge group also welcomed the ruling. Robert Pigney commented:
After much secrecy the government have been made to show their legal arguments by the High Court – a big a step for the public to get closer to the truth of the government’s position and intentions.
Tahmid Chowdhury said:
In initially withholding disclosure of their arguments, the Government made a mockery of the transparency needed in a thriving democracy. They clearly now know they had no leg to stand on, and one can only hope the same thing happens in this case that should never have needed to come to court.
Grahame Pigney said:
It is good to see that the court has injected common sense and natural justice into the case. Proof, if any is needed, that that ordinary people working together, well organised and supported are capable of challenging and winning anything.
Chris Formaggia added:
It is hugely pleasing to learn that the court finds for the disclosure to the public of the arguments for and against the use of the archaic Royal Prerogative in a case that is of such enormous public interest.