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A letter before action, the precursor step to proceedings in the Irish High Court, will tomorrow (13 January 2017) be issued to clarify EU citizenship rights in the event of the UK’s departure from the European Union.
The proceedings seek a referral to the Court of Justice of the EU of the question whether Article 50, once triggered, can unilaterally be revoked by the British government without requiring consent from all other 27 EU member states.
If the CJEU were to rule that Article 50 is revocable, it would give the UK power to reject the outcome of Article 50 negotiations and remain in the EU should the Brexit negotiations being led by Brexit Secretary David Davis MP yield a deal that was not acceptable to the UK Parliament or British voters.
Without this ruling, Britain will be forced to take whatever deal Mr Davis emerges with, or leave with no deal on a range of crucial economic and social issues, including access for British firms to the single market, and the rights of British citizens living, travelling or wishing to retire in Europe.
The Letter Before Action will be made available to recipients of this press release at 5.30pm. The proceedings consequential on that letter before action will be issued on or before 27 January. The claim will target a hearing date of the application for a reference as soon as possible after March.
The Letter Before Action will name Jolyon Maugham QC as the Claimant, however, Mr Maugham holds unconditional written confirmations from several elected United Kingdom politicians that they will act as Plaintiffs. Their names will be made available no later than 27 January.
There are continuing discussions with other elected representatives of whether they will issue parallel proceedings.
Specifically, the Plaintiffs will seek clarification of what rights as EU citizens will be lost (by triggering Article 50 will the UK automatically also leave the single market); whether it is certain that their rights as European citizens will be lost (can Article 50 unilaterally be revoked by the UK); and when they will lose their rights as European citizens (might Article 50 already have been triggered).
The £70,000 costs of the litigation were crowd-funded by Jolyon Maugham QC largely from small donations. There were almost 1,300 donations of £25 or less and over 1,700 donations of £50 or less.
Andrew Marr has said of the litigation: “This is the single biggest problem for May. Potentially… gives Commons its moment.”
Jolyon Maugham QC said: “The United Kingdom must retain sovereignty over the shape of its future relationship with the EU. If we change our minds we must be able to withdraw the notice without needing the consent of the other 27 Member States. I want to establish clarity for British voters and deliver sovereignty to the British Parliament over the question of its future relationship with its biggest trading partner.”
[The Letter Before Action can be read here ireland-letter-before-action].