‘Ordinary Guy’ Files Suit to Force Brexit Vote in Parliament

Brexit: Why It Might Not Happen
  • U.K. hairdresser’s challenge to be discussed July 19
  • Legal challenge is first to June referendum backing EU exit

A U.K. man, described by his lawyer as an “ordinary guy,” filed the first lawsuit seeking to slow Brexit through the courts.

The bid for a judicial review contends that Parliament, not the prime minister alone, must vote to trigger Article 50, which starts the two-year process to leave the European Union, said Dominic Chambers, a lawyer working on the case. Judge Ross Cranston will hold a hearing July 19 to set a timetable for the proceedings.

“The purpose of a judicial review is to correct the executive when they have gone wrong,” Chambers said Friday. “We say the executive will be abusing their powers if they give an Article 50 notification without the approval of Parliament.”

British voters chose to leave the EU in a June 23 referendum that rocked markets, plunged the main political parties into turmoil and led to the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron. It’s not yet clear how and when the government will trigger Article 50 and start the timeline to Britain’s exit.

Oliver Letwin, the minister overseeing preparation for the exit negotiations, told lawmakers July 5 that the prime minister is responsible for starting the exit process, rather than Parliament, citing advice from government lawyers. Those comments prompted the first challenges in what could grow to a wave of lawsuits, Chambers said.

A spokesman for Cameron declined to immediately comment on the lawsuit. Chambers said he represents Deir Dos Santos, a U.K. hairdresser.

Dos Santos "is just an ordinary guy," Chambers said. "If his rights are going to be taken away, he wants it done in a proper and lawful manner."

QuickTake Q&A: How U.K. and Europe Might Relate After Breakup

The field fighting to succeed Cameron and manage the transition out of the European Union has been reduced to Home Secretary Theresa May, supported by the bulk of Conservative lawmakers, and controversial newcomer Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom.

The leadership contest is taking place against a backdrop of tumultuous markets, with the pound trading near its lowest in more than three decades. The victor will be announced on Sept. 9.

Mishcon de Reya

While Chambers was the first to file a Brexit-related case, he may not be the last. Mishcon de Reya, a top London law firm, said July 4 that it’s representing a group of unidentified clients threatening legal action.

Mishcon de Reya said in a statement earlier this week that the Article 50 process can only begin with lawmakers’ consent.

“Whether the prime minister has the authority to notify or whether that authority lies with Parliament is quintessentially a legal question and ultimately for an authoritative ruling you can only look to the courts,” said Jeff King, a professor of law at University College London. “It is a legal question and it’s one that the momentous times that we’re in are calling for” to be answered.

A judicial review is a legal challenge looking at how a decision has been reached, rather than the rights and wrongs of the conclusion.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE