'I can see this whole issue dribbling past another election,' says lawyer Mark Stephens on Brexit

'I can see this whole issue dribbling past another election' says lawyer Mark Stephens on Brexit

Lawyer Mark Stephens explains the complexities behind triggering article 50

Monday, July 4, 2016

A law firm is taking action to ensure the government don't trigger Article 50 without an act of parliament. Lawyer Mark Stephens claims it will be difficult to trigger.

Mishcon de Reya claims it would be illegal to trigger the Article without a full debate and vote in parliament, meaning it can't be triggered by the Prime Minister, as the outcome of the referendum is not legally binding.

Solicitor Stephens explains why he believes politicians haven't gathered a large amount of advice yet. 

"The legal position is very simple and it's slightly unfortunate that politicians [who] in their business stab one another in the back, and sometimes from the front, have not resorted to getting legal advice from the government's legal advice service, or the attorney general," he told Julia Hartley-Brewer.

"You would be in breach of the law if you then triggered an Article 50 notification without repealing the European Communities Act 1972.

"The only reason [courts] will intervene is if they see inappropriate behaviour and it would be totally inappropriate for somebody to try and issue an Article 50 notice without repealing the European Communities Act."

If the decision goes to a vote, Stephens believes there is a strong chance the issue will continue for a long period of time.

"There are about 140 Brexiteers in parliament out of about 600 MPs, so they don't really have the numbers to get through a repeal of the European Communities Act. If that is the predicate to a trigger of Article 50, then they won't be able to do it if people stand firm on their principle.

"I suspect that the realpolitic of this situation is there are a significant number who will not change their vote, they will want to remain.

"I can see this whole issue dribbling past another election, and if it does go past another election we will be in a position where political parties will be standing on a mandate of not repealing the European Communities Act, and if they do that, they will be able to say if they're elected, that they have an alternative."

Britain does not have a codified constitution, but many claim it has an unwritten one within acts of parliament. The lawyer calls for one to be created. 

"You can't start changing the rules just because you don’t like the result. The problem is referendums are only advisory to parliament.

"Why the mother country doesn't have one frankly beggars belief. It's much better that we have legal clarity of a constitution and we know exactly what the arrangements are for changing it."