Lawyers voice doubts over PM’s Brexit Bill

Senior lawyers, business leaders and academics urged the government to give MPs the power to block an ‘unpatriotic Brexit’ if the Prime Minister, Theresa May, does not strike a deal that is in the national interest.

A letter in The Times newspaper, organised by Mark Stephens, a media law partner at London firm Howard Kennedy, came as peers began to debate the controversial ‘Brexit Bill’.

It said: ‘We believe Parliament should amend the Article 50 notification bill to ensure that it can determine what should be done if negotiations break down.

‘Parliament’s vote on any emerging settlement must also permit, if the terms are not in the national interest, amendment or extension of the negotiations, and to allow the country the option of an alternative relationship with the EU, including the possibility of membership.’

Signatories included Baroness Kennedy QC, Ben Emmerson QC, of Matrix Chambers, Alexander Layton QC, of 20 Essex Street, Peter Montegriffo QC, John Vater QC, of Harcourt Chambers, Tim Ward QC and Jon Turner QC, of Monckton Chambers, and Jolyon Maugham QC, of Devereux Chambers.

It followed an opinion from three of the UK’s most senior EU law experts – Sir David Edward QC, Sir Francis Jacobs QC, and Sir Jeremy Lever QC, commissioned by law firm Bindmans. Dubbed the ‘three knights opinion’, it suggested that the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill does not authorise Brexit and that a further Act of Parliament would be required if it is to occur in a way that is lawful.

Parliament passed the Brexit Bill unamended on 13 March.

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Brexit judgment

In a historic judgment, the Supreme Court ruled, by a majority of eight to three, that the government was required to consult Parliament before triggering Art 50 and starting the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. See further 'Miller and the modern British Constitution' and 'Miller, BrEXIT and BreUK-up'.

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Citizenship initiative

The Bar Council and Citizenship Foundation have developed lessons to teach secondary school children about the importance of the rule of law and the role of the judiciary in the democratic process. The pilot initiative comes in the wake of newspaper headlines critical of judges in the Art 50 Brexit process. Email:

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Westminster Watch

With the triggering of Art 50 imminent, Mark Hatcher examines preparations in Westminster and Whitehall, with a white paper providing some comfort to the Bar

Tucked away behind the Old Treasury Building at No 9 Downing Street is the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU). 

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Miller, BrEXIT and BreUK-up

The Supreme Court’s treatment of the devolution issues in Miller is troubling, argues Aidan O’Neill QC, who examines the UK’s complex multi-national constitutional history and potential impact on the devolved political constitution

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Miller and the modern British Constitution

Miller reveals the malleability of the parliamentary sovereignty doctrine, argues Professor Mark Elliott in his examination of the many tensions which lie at the heart of the majority judgment

There are few aspects of the modern British constitution that the Supreme Court’s judgment in Miller does not at least engage (R (on the application of Miller and Dos Santos) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and associated references [2017] UKSC 5). 

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Westminster Watch

Six months on from the ‘quiet revolution’, Theresa May’s vision for post-Brexit Britain is becoming clearer. Mark Hatcher examines the Prime Minister’s domestic agenda

A little over six months after she was appointed Prime Minister last July, and barely eight weeks before the government formally invokes Art 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, Theresa May’s vision for post-Brexit Britain is becoming clearer. 

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Economic sanctions

From ‘smart’ sanctions to judicial review, closed hearings to the Brexit/Trump effect, Maya Lester QC briefs readers on the varied legal issues surrounding the foreign policy tool of choice: economic sanctions

Economic sanctions have been a foreign policy tool of choice for some time. 

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Bar Brexit Papers

A Bar Council working party has published a briefing to help the government get the ‘best deal possible for Britain’.

In an introduction to the paper from a group led by Hugh Mercer QC, the former Bar Chairman, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, said Brexit was the most ‘profound legal and constitutional challenge’ for the government to grapple with in living memory.

The paper identified key legal issues to be addressed to minimise the risk of legal uncertainty, the loss of rights, and possible adverse consequences to the national economy, and capitalises on the opportunities for post-Brexit global Britain.

It covers cross-country cooperation for the speedy arrest of suspects, child protection across the EU, ensuring firms can compete and trade profitably, changes to intellectual property law, and maintaining consumer protection and human rights.

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The Bar’s Brexit blogs

Following the capsizing uncertainty generated by Brexit, the general public and businesses are increasingly looking for answers. No surprise, then, that the Bar has become a rich source of reliable and politically neutral information on a wide range of complex legal issues, deciphering events as they happen. Counsel brings you the cream of the Brexit Bar blog crop

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