Lawyers aim for fresh legal challenge to Brexit in Irish court

At issue is whether Brexit can be reversed once Article 50 is triggered

DUBLIN • A group of British and Irish lawyers is seeking to challenge Britain's decision to leave the EU in the Irish High Court to try to establish if Brexit can be reversed once divorce talks have been triggered.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she wants to invoke Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty by the end of March next year, kicking off up to two years of exit negotiations following the vote to leave in the June 23 referendum.

The lawyers hope the court in Dublin will ask the European Court of Justice, the EU's highest court, to determine whether Article 50 can be revoked and also whether leaving the European Union means that Britain automatically leaves the European Economic Area (EEA).

The EEA is the trading club comprising the 28 EU states together with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. These non-EU nations can access the bloc's single market in return for applying its rules and accepting the free movement of EU citizens.

European Council president Donald Tusk has said that Britain might ultimately decide not to leave the EU, and that if it unilaterally withdrew its request to leave before the two years were up, then it could stay in the union.

However, in the final judgment of a ruling last month that Article 50 cannot be triggered without Parliament's assent, Britain's High Court said that once notice of leaving was given, then it will "inevitably result in the complete withdrawal of the United Kingdom".

That challenge is now in front of Britain's Supreme Court.

The case proposed for the Dublin courts is being brought in Ireland because the lawyers say the Irish government colluded in a breach of the EU treaties by wrongly excluding Britain from some EU Council meetings after the referendum.

That claim can only be made in the courts of Ireland, the lawyers wrote on a crowdfunding website seeking to raise £70,000 (S$125,900) to initiate the proceedings. More than £30,000 was raised in less than 24 hours after the launch of the appeal.

The group hopes to launch proceedings in the Irish courts by the end of the year and, if successful, move to the European Court of Justice within months, Mr Jolyon Maugham, the British lawyer behind the campaign, told Irish national broadcaster RTE.

Supporters of Brexit have cast the legal battles as an attempt by a pro-EU establishment to thwart the result of the June referendum, which saw Britons voting by 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave the EU.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 11, 2016, with the headline 'Lawyers aim for fresh legal challenge to Brexit in Irish court'. Print Edition | Subscribe