With Theresa May’s revised Brexit deal rejected by MPs and Exit Day edging closer, we bring you up to speed with Brexit, what’s going on in Parliament and the courts, and the key Brexit litigation brought to life by CrowdJustice backers.
How did we get here?
If the last 2 years have been a blur, here’s a quick reminder of how we got to this point:
We got the result of the Brexit Referendum in June 2016. Britain voted 52:48 in favour of leaving the EU.
On 29 March 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May gave notice that the UK was invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union.
Following lengthy negotiations, Theresa May published a withdrawal agreement, which had been agreed with the EU, on 14 November 2018.
On 15 January 2019, MPs rejected the withdrawal agreement by a vote of 432 to 202. Theresa May survived a confidence vote the following day.
Why was the original deal rejected?
MPs rejected Theresa May’s original deal partly because of concerns surrounding plans for the border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (which will remain in the EU following Brexit).
No one wants to see conflict return to the border in Ireland, which endured decades of violence known as ‘the Troubles’. This ended with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
The concern now is that introducing a ‘hard border’ between the two countries, with infrastructure to manage customs, excise and trade between the UK and EU, could re-ignite tensions in the region.
To try and solve this, the deal included a ‘backstop’ that would apply to the border after Brexit, if another deal or technological solution could not keep trade frictionless. Some were concerned, however, that the backstop could last indefinitely.
What’s happening now?
This week, MPs are taking part in a series of crucial votes to determine whether to leave with no deal or seek to extend the time period for negotiating a deal.
Theresa May secured some changes to her withdrawal agreement and pushed hard for MPs to accept it. But Attorney General Geoffrey Cox confirmed the legal risk remained unchanged that if a trade agreement could not be reached post-Brexit, the UK would have "no internationally lawful means" of leaving the backstop without the EU’s agreement.
On 12 March, MPs voted to reject the Prime Minister’s revised deal. There was another vote yesterday on whether we should leave the EU without a deal. The no-deal scenario was rejected by a majority of MPs. Today, there will be a further vote on whether to delay Brexit.
What’s going on in the courts?
Several cases have determined who has legal rights to bring about Brexit. Litigation also opened up a potential avenue to stop Brexit, should the UK change its mind.
The ‘meaningful vote’ taking place this week was granted to MPs following a case heard by the Supreme Court in January 2017. Thousands of people supported the People’s Challenge and raised over £150,000 on CrowdJustice.
Thousands also supported a case before the European Court of Justice, which declared that the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 notification and remain in the EU if we decide not to leave after all. The Good Law Project raised £190,000 on CrowdJustice.
Other important Brexit cases are progressing through the courts and continue to raise funds on CrowdJustice:
The Good Law Project is bringing a judicial review over plans for pharmacists to dispense medicines of different strength or quantity from prescription if a no deal Brexit triggers serious medicine supply shortages.
Fair Vote UK is challenging the Government’s decision not to hold a public inquiry into the Referendum result, as the Electoral Commission found that Vote Leave breached electoral spending rules.
A campaign group is raising funds for a judicial review of the Irish backstop proposal, aiming to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is respected while alternative Brexit arrangements are made.
The path to Brexit remains uncertain. With the Prime Minister’s deal defeated and nervousness around no deal, time will tell, but whatever happens, Brexit issues look set to remain in the courtroom for the foreseeable future.
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