Date set for major court showdown over no-deal Brexit

PUBLISHED: 10:18 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:17 13 August 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

Anti Brexit demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

A date has been set for a hearing of a court case which seeks to stop Boris Johnson pushing ahead with a no-deal Brexit without the approval of MPs.

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Judge Lord Raymond Doherty agreed to expedite the timetable for the legal challenge to take place, setting the date for the substantive hearing as Friday 6th September - days after MPs return to the House of Commons to push ahead with their own plans to stop the UK crashing out of the EU on October 31st.

Anti-Brexit campaigners have chosen to use the Scottish courts to hear their case because it sits throughout the summer period.

The legal bid, backed by more than 70 MPs and peers, is seeking to get the Court of Session in Edinburgh to rule that suspending parliament to make the UK leave the EU without a deal is "unlawful and unconstitutional".

The cross-party group of politicians is backing the legal petition, supported by the Good Law Project, which won a victory at the European Court of Justice last year over whether the UK could unilaterally cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50.

During today's initial hearing petitioners Jolyon Maugham and Joanna Cherry MP argued that the courts "must do their duty" as no-deal Brexit significantly affects Scotland and the UK as a whole.

The petitioners argued that a public expenses order was needed to protect MPs from significant legal costs and to avoid preventing access to justice on an "issue of national importance".

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Maugham and Cherry also urged judge Lord Doherty to fast-track the decision to prevent any delays that would benefit the government.

Andrew Webster QC representing the government, however, argued that a contribution should be made to "protect the public purse" from the costs of litigation.

Speaking before the hearing Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project, told PA: "A man with no mandate seeks to cancel parliament for fear it will stop him inflicting on an unwilling public an outcome they did not vote for and do not want.

"That's certainly not democracy and I expect our courts to say it's not the law."

One petitioner, Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray, said: "When Boris Johnson unveiled his vacuous slogan 'taking back control', voters weren't told that this could mean shutting down parliament.

"The prime minister's undemocratic proposal to hold Westminster in contempt simply can't go unchallenged.

"On behalf of voters across the UK, this cross-party legal challenge aims to prevent him riding roughshod over British democracy.

"A no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for Scotland and the UK, and voters deserve a final say on whether they want to keep the best deal we have and remain in the EU."

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