Brexit faces legal challenge; Farage quits as leader

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jul 04, 2016 18:29 IST
Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), leaves a news conference after announcing that he was stepping down as leader of the party. (Reuters)

A law firm acting on behalf of businesses and academics is launching a challenge to ensure Britain does not leave the EU without parliamentary sanction, while Monday saw a happy Nigel Farage resign as leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

As political flux continued in the Conservative and Labour parties, home secretary Theresa May has emerged as the favourite to succeed David Cameron as the prime minister and party leader by early September. The first round of elections among Conservative MPs is due on Tuesday.

Mishcon de Reya, a London-based law firm, said the decision to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty for Britain’s exit from the European Union rests with representatives of the people under the Constitution. If the correct process of parliamentary scrutiny and approval is not followed, the notice to withdraw from the bloc would be unlawful, it said.

A large section of the British population remains opposed to leaving the EU, reflected in the June 23 vote of 48% opting to remain and 52% voting to leave. Sunday saw a major demonstration in London by pro-EU supporters.

Kasra Nouroozi, partner at the law firm, said: “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. 

“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.”

UKIP was not part of the official “Vote Leave” group during the referendum campaign, but leaving the EU has been the party’s single issue. Its eurosceptic plank helped it gain much support, particularly in the 2013 local elections, 2014 European elections and 2015 general election.

Mission accomplished in the referendum, 52-year-old Farage said: “I am fully behind the party. Let’s see where we are in two-and-a-half years’ time. But I don’t need to be leader of UKIP. I will be part of the 2020 campaign if we don’t get what we want. 

“I am not a career politician. I came into this business because I wanted my country back. We’ve got our country back. If the terms aren’t right, I will do whatever I can to help people to make it right.”

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