Brexit to be challenged in High Court in October
A LEGAL challenge over Brexit is to be heard by the High Court in October, two judges have decided.
Government lawyers told the court in London that Prime Minister Theresa May had made clear she did not intend to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty before the end of 2016.
That would give the High Court time to make a ruling, and for the Supreme Court to hear any subsequent appeal before the start of the formal process for Britain's departure from the EU.
The judges were assured that if the government position changed the parties bringing the legal challenge would be warned.
Many "concerned citizens" have joined the legal action over Article 50, and it has been described as "the most important constitutional law case in living memory".
The judges heard that one of the law firms involved, Mishcon de Reya, had received letters of abuse which led to potential clients who had wanted to join the action withdrawing their names.
Lord Pannick QC, instructed by Mishcon, told the court that publicity generated by the case "has provoked a large quantity of abuse directed at my solicitors".
"It is racist abuse, it is anti-Semitic abuse and it is objectionable abuse," he said.
The QC asked that the names of persons who had been intending to join the action but were no longer claimants should be redacted from pre-action protocol letters to protect their identities.
Sir Brian Leveson, president of the Queen's Bench Division, sitting with Mr Justice Cranston, agreed to the request and warned there was a real risk that individuals acting in an abusive and threatening manner would be guilty of contempt of court.
"The court will be concerned to deal severely with anyone who interferes in the course of this litigation."
The legal challenge will be heard over two to three days in October and is a bid to prevent the Government from triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without the prior authorisation of Parliament, said the judge
Government lawyers are expected to assert that the prime minister can use the royal prerogative to start the process of withdrawing from the EU.
Those mounting the challenge say the course proposed by the government is unlawful because only Parliament is empowered to authorise service of the Article 50 notice and consequent withdrawal from the EU.
The judges ruled that the lead case in the action should be that of Mishcon client Gina Miller, (51), an investment manager and philanthropist living in London who voted Remain in the EU referendum.
"This case is all about the sovereignty of Parliament. It is very important that the (Article 50) issues are dealt with in a serious and grown-up way," said Ms Miller.
"We are making sure that happens."