First came the Brexit demonstrators, then came the lawyers.
Acting on behalf of an unnamed group of clients, the London law firm Mishcon de Reya has launched a legal challenge to the government. It argues that Article 50—the legal process that starts a country’s withdrawal from the European Union—should not be invoked without first being debated and voted on by Parliament.
As the legal blogger David Allen Green explains, the referendum vote for Britain to leave the EU is advisory, not mandatory, and does not trigger immediate ramifications in British law. Once Article 50 is invoked (and there’s some discussion over who can in fact invoke it), the UK will have a two-year window to negotiate the terms of its departure from the EU.
Kasra Nouroozi, a partner at Mishcon de Reya, explains:
The result of the Referendum is not in doubt, but we need a process that follows UK law to enact it. The outcome of the Referendum itself is not legally binding and for the current or future Prime Minister to invoke Article 50 without the approval of Parliament is unlawful.
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. Everyone in Britain needs the Government to apply the correct constitutional process and allow Parliament to fulfil its democratic duty which is to take into account the results of the Referendum along with other factors and make the ultimate decision.
With UK politics in the middle of a civil war, when Article 50 will be invoked is anyone’s guess. Andrea Leadsom, one of the candidates bidding to be the next leader of the UK’s Conservative Party, has indicated the process should start sooner rather than later, while two of her rivals, Theresa May and Michael Gove, are in favor of delaying action (paywall) until further talks have taken place.