The Second People's Challenge: helping Parliament take control

by Grahame Pigney

The Second People's Challenge: helping Parliament take control

by Grahame Pigney
on 28th January 2017
pledged of £100,000 stretch target from 2797 pledges

Latest: Jan. 2, 2019

The past two years very much resemble the curate's egg

The past two years very much resemble the curate’s egg.

On the one hand there has been blind adherence to a non-existent plan, which has resulted in a deal between Theresa May and the EU that vi…

Read more

The Second People’s Challenge: helping Parliament take control on Article 50

The People's Challenge has argued before the High Court and the Supreme Court that the Government needs statutory authorisation from Parliament to trigger Article 50.

Our position has been vindicated in both courts. Parliament must authorise leaving the EU. Only Parliament can take away fundamental citizenship rights and this needs an Act of Parliament. The cornerstone of our constitution– Parliamentary Sovereignty – has not crumbled. 

But will this make a real difference to the rights and freedoms of 65 million UK citizens? Will Parliament squander the opportunity it now has to ‘take back control’ by passing a Bill that simply hands the Prime Minister all of the power she wrongly believed she had under the Royal Prerogative? Could ordinary UK citizens’ rights then be thrown or negotiated away? The vote in the Lords and Commons on the withdrawal treaty promised by Mrs May will have limited value if the only alternative is withdrawal without an agreement. 

Now is the critical time to follow through on the Supreme Court victory. Our MPs now need all our support against bullying and populist rhetoric, so that they can do their sworn duty to act in the best interests of the country, with special reference to their constituents, and be fitting successors to the Parliament of 1688. 

Providing that support, based on our existing legal team’s expertise and that of other leading lawyers, will be the Second People’s Challenge – to help make Parliament make a difference on Article 50. 

The plan is to do that by: 

  • urgently seeking authoritative legal advice on how Parliament can maximise its control over the Article 50 notification process as part of any authorising Act, including the possibility of a ‘conditional notification’ in a form that would make parliamentary approval of proposed terms of withdrawal meaningful and, if it would be useful to them, sharing this with key MPs and peers;  
  • with our legal team, producing a plain English guide for all MPs and peers to the fundamental citizenship rights that are imperiled by the Article 50 process and what may be done to preserve them; 
  • distributing the guide to MPs and key peers, publish it and explain how you can raise your concerns directly with them (constituents’approaches will maximise the prospects of MPs engaging with the guide); 
  • ensuring members of the legal team can meet with key MPs and peers who want to take up the issues covered in the legal advice and guide in parliamentary debates; and 
  • exploring and seeking legal advice on how fundamental citizenship rights can be protected by law after Article 50 notification.

We will want to work with other like minded-campaigners and groups, sharing our legal advice and ideas with them and the public whenever practical. This is not about ‘blocking Brexit’; it is about removing some of the blocks on MPs discharging their constitutional functions and empowering them further.  

To turn this plan into urgent action, the People’s Challenge needs your support again. The funds raised in our first two campaigns and the limited costs recovered from the Government will all be used up by the work done so far.  

We have set an initial target of £30,000 to cover the costs of the most urgent work on the Article 50 notification advice, our legal team’s time producing the guide, publishing and disseminating it, immediate work on the Supreme Court’s judgment itself and associated expenses. We hope you will help us reach it soon – and help make Parliament make a difference. 

Background to the Second People’s Challenge

Before taking their seats, all Members of the House of Commons swear an oath to act in the best interests of the country, with special reference to their constituents. Similarly, Members of the House of Lords must act in the public interest.

What could be more relevant to every constituent in the UK, more in the public interest, than rights granted by Parliament? This affects all UK citizens, wherever they live.

This is how we see the current situation:

We can only speculate on what Maidenhead’s voters (majority for Remain) think of their MP Theresa May. But we could assume that Mrs May is acting in what she believes to be the best interests of the country. This would confirm her oath and certainly shows the way to all MPs to do likewise;

MPs have their sworn duty, and we must support them in it, making it clear that the views of 37% of the electorate do not constitute an overwhelming mandate for Brexit on whatever terms the Government agrees with other EU states.

We want to help demonstrate that the other 63% of the British electorate want MPs to support them and validate their wishes. Above all, we want to support Parliamentary democracy and resist the power-grab of an unelected and autocratic government.

We must make sure that the rights of ordinary UK Citizens are not, once again,ignored.

That's the value, importance and impact that ordinary peoples' involvement adds to the challenge that arises from the unique political situation at this time.

What should happen now? 

The first step should be for a White Paper to be brought before Parliament for debate (as demanded by the cross-party select committee on Brexit on 14 January 2017), clearly stating what the Brexit objectives are, how (factually) they would benefit the UK, and what must happen if they are not achieved.

This would be an opportunity for the House of Commons to stipulate that MPs must retain control of the process until an acceptable withdrawal agreement has been negotiated for their consideration.

In practical terms, this means a major effort to ensure MPs, Select Committees and others both here in the UK and in other EU countries as necessary are aware of what they can do to protect ordinary citizens’ rights and to dispel the notion that it is inevitable they will be lost. 

We are supporting our Parliament, but it is also important for the wider EU world to understand what the democracy issues are, and also that public opinion in the UK is not universally in favour of ‘Brexit at any price’.

As always, we’re asking for your money. It’s the generosity of our supporters which has been the key factor in our success. It has allowed us to retain experts to advise and represent us, people who are also committed to what we and our supporters are doing. We hope that you’ve seen, not only what’s been achieved using the funds donated in previous campaigns, but also our commitment to openness and honesty about everything we do.

To our existing supporters, we would thank you again so and ask you for a little more help. 

To new readers/supporters, we’re getting a real head of steam up here, please would you help us to buy more fuel for the fire?

For further information and background on our first legal challenge see:

The People's Challenge in the High Court

The People's Challenge resisting the Government's appeal

My Commitment to You

I will keep you informed regularly of the progress of both the Crowd Justice fundraising, what we are doing with the money we raise and the responses we get from the people we talk to and campaign work we do. I will also make sure there are updates from the legal team for those who want more detail.

Why am I doing this?

Whatever the opinions about the result of the referendum on 23rd June, the result has thrust a far more important issue to the fore – Parliamentary Sovereignty. The challenge in the courts has ensured that Parliamentary Sovereignty is maintained and is respected by the Government of the day.

What we must do now is ensure that Parliament is fully aware of the fundamental citizenship rights that are at risk and that Parliament maintains control of the process of deciding when, how and under what conditions the UK leaves the EU.

Parliament has granted us these rights

This is not about whether there would be or could be equivalent rights following a Brexit.

It is about the fact that those rights exist now, granted by Parliament to UK Citizens and why it must be Parliament, the Sovereign body in the UK, that decides when, how and under what conditions the UK withdraws from the EU and thus removes these rights.

It is for Parliament to decide whether to take our rights away

Since the passing of the European Communities Act in 1972 the UK Parliament has granted us rights and privileges relating to the membership of first the EEC and now the EU.

If we do not challenge the appointed UK Executive, the Government, on its intention to withdraw from the EU and the Single Market without direct supervision by Parliament, we are allowing our Sovereign Parliament to be weakened and even usurped.

This Government wants to ignore Parliamentary process

Following the referendum this Government proposes ignoring the rest of the process that Parliament set in train when it passed the 2015 Referendum Act.

Even after the Courts have ruled that the use of Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50 is unconstitutional the Government persists with the notion that it can refuse to allow the UK's Sovereign Parliament effective control of the process of leaving the EU.

This is an act of constitutional vandalism.

About the claimants

I am Grahame Pigney, one of many UK Citizens greatly concerned about the consequences of the Referendum result and the effects of a "Brexit". I am co-ordinating the People’s Challenge –a group of campaigners who are absolutely committed to ensuring that it is the UK's Parliament that decides on when, how and with what conditions the UK leaves the EU.

Our group includes my son Rob Pigney, 22, Paul Cartwright, 50, a Gibraltarian national who runs Brex-IN, Christopher Formaggia, 49, who lives in Wales, Fergal McFerran, a student leader, from Northern Ireland and Tahmid Chowdhury, 21, a London student.

The legal team

Bindmans LLP, a leading London law firm, is representing us. Solicitor of the Year award-winner, John Halford is leading the Bindmans' team. Our barristers are all public and constitutional law specialists and, just as importantly, are fully committed to ensuring that ordinary members of the public have a say in this challenge. They are presently Helen Mountfield QCGerry Facenna QCTim Johnston, Professor Robert McCorquodale, David Gregory and Jack Williams. We will deploy and add to the team as needed, drawing on the best legal talent available to maximise the impact of our advice.

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Update 53

Grahame Pigney

Jan. 2, 2019

The past two years very much resemble the curate's egg

The past two years very much resemble the curate’s egg.

On the one hand there has been blind adherence to a non-existent plan, which has resulted in a deal between Theresa May and the EU that virtually nobody in the UK wants, and it seems that nobody in the EU really wants it either.

On the other hand, there have been two momentous legal decisions.

The first was when the government was defeated in the Supreme Court over its intention to use the Royal Prerogative to Trigger Article 50, and the second when the Court of Justice of the EU agreed that the UK can unilaterally withdraw the Article 50 notification.

Both of these decisions are connected by a long legal thread, starting with our successful Article 50 challenge, running through The Three Knights Opinion which in turn underpinned the successful question to the CJEU by Andy Wightman and his colleagues. It is a legal thread that has been funded in large part by your contributions and support for our fundraising campaigns.

Neither of these challenges has stopped Brexit, but nobody said they would. Indeed, no legal challenge can of itself stop Brexit. But they have been the only ones to pull the government up short and restrain its autocratic deceit.

In doing so, they provided our parliamentarians with tools to help them force through a meaningful vote on the results of Theresa May’s shambolic and damaging negotiations, and gave hope that the outcome will be something that doesn’t damage our and our country’s future for decades to come.

You have also helped us fund another significant piece of legal work, The Millions in the Margins. This document highlights the ways in which the draft Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU is not only discriminatory but seriously deficient in protections provided to UK citizens at home and overseas.

 Although Theresa May’s deal is being touted as the end of the process, this is not so. The only way that Brexit will finish on 29th March 2019 is if the UK continues as a member of the EU.

Theresa May’s deal does nothing more than kick the can down the road yet again, with the distinct possibility of a no-deal exit from the EU on 31st December 2020.

Even a no-deal exit will not finish the Brexit process. Does anybody seriously believe the UK can walk away from the EU and not have treaties and agreements with our closest neighbours covering trade, security, defence co-operation…? Even the most myopic of the unicorn hunters don’t think that.

Fortunately, Parliament as a whole seems disinclined to believe in the myths of unicorns and rainbows spouted by Theresa May, added and abetted by Jeremy Corbyn and the brexiters.

There is still much work to be done, persuading and informing MPs on what we think and preparing for a possible People’s Vote by encouraging people to ensure they are registered to vote. There may even be new legal challenges, depending on the course things take over the coming weeks.

We send out supporters’ e-mails via Crowd Justice when we can, but as we are not currently running a Crowd Justice campaign that doesn’t always happen as quickly or punctually as events dictate.

You can also follow us via our Blog, Facebook page, or Twitter @PeoplesChalleng .

Many thanks, once again, for your support, we hope you had a good Christmas/New Year and let’s see what we can do to make 2019 A Very Good Year.

Update 52

Grahame Pigney

Dec. 31, 2018

Brexit, It's no good harking back, what is best for our country NOW?

It’s no good harking back…

Were we told that our country would be better off outside the EU, that we could establish a new world position at the drop of a hat, that we could write our own ticket to exit the EU? Yes to all.

Was this all moonshine, is it all in the past, do we need to move on? Yes to all.

We need to channel our inner Dr Phil and say something like, “It is what it is, and the only time is now.”

There may have been lies, misdemeanours and (maybe) misunderstandings, but the important thing is what to do NOW.

Here are some suggestions:

Now we (kind of) know what leaving the EU means, even if it’s so complicated that no one (truly no one) understands all the ins and outs, we should consider the consequences for us, our workmates, families, friends and neighbours, and the economy, prospects and future of our country;

We should inform and support our MPs – that means tell them our views, and that we rely on them to do what is best for our country;

Political circumstances have put our Parliament in an almost impossible situation, so we should press for another referendum – if the last one was democratic, why wouldn’t another one be equally so? TM’s snap election last year apparently wasn’t undemocratic, so what’s the difference?

We should do all we can to make sure that everyone eligible to vote is properly registered to do so where they now live. This may be particularly important for younger people who are more likely to have relocated in the last couple of years. Perhaps you could contact your local schools, colleges, universities, employment agencies to alert people to the necessity for registration?

But just as importantly, we really shouldn’t hark back. Who did what, for what reason, in 2016 in relation to the referendum is HISTORY. Anybody reading this now has over 2 years more experience and information to draw on. As the old saying goes, it’s not where we came from, but where we’re going, that counts.

This issue has been so very deeply divisive. Building bridges is important, or at least not making the canyons any wider. What’s imperative is that we work together to get the best outcome for our country.

You can find this article and others on our blog:

Update 51

Grahame Pigney

Dec. 30, 2018

When you have nothing to say for yourself, spread stories about your opponents

Theresa May’s government is actually verbally bankrupt, as well as morally bankrupt and much shorter of the readies than it needed to be.

We’re getting the usual stuff about what they’re “very clear about” (yawn), but there’s nothing new, nothing real.

So what are they doing? They’re trying to talk about their opponents in a derogatory fashion, so as to draw attention away from their own disarray.

Jeremy Corbyn said in Parliament that Theresa May was a “silly woman”, did he? According to lip-reading experts, he didn’t (though it would have been hard to disagree with him). Apparently, what he said was that the Conservatives opposite were “silly people”. Nobody disputes the “silly” bit, it would appear. The accusations about reducing proceedings to pantomime are equally hard to refute.

But trying to get us to think that Jeremy Corbyn insulted Theresa May personally is good distraction … look, bright and shiny!

Amber Rudd also pitched in about how she doesn’t like European-style hugs. I understand that Ms Rudd is (according to the credits in “Four Weddings…”) an authority on proper behaviour in UK posh circles, but she clearly doesn’t understand social behaviour in Europe.

Nor, it would appear, has she taken advice. Hell, even I could have told her, and I’m no expert. Here’s what you do to avoid hugs: you hold out your right hand and proffer your cheek, then the other one - for the avoidance of doubt, those on your face. This will signal “no hugging”. You can still appear pleased to meet someone if you do the cheek-kissing properly.

But there’s no news in taking advice and being prepared, is there? Well, the Brexit proceedings had already told us that!

Lyn Pigney

Update 50

Grahame Pigney

Dec. 23, 2018

In The Deep Mid-Winter Jeremy Corbyn joins Theresa May hunting Unicorns and Rain

As we traverse the winter solstice and head toward the Christmas/New Year break, we can spot Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May out together, hunting for rainbows and unicorns.

It has long been know that Theresa May is an enthusiastic participant in this mythical sport, but views on Jeremy Corbyn’s participation have until now been largely speculation, based on observations of him indulging in fence-sitting rather than fence-jumping.

They are both after a super-unicorn – an 11th hour capture somewhere in the vicinity of Brussels.

Of course, the more rational among us do actually know that unicorns exist only in myth, and have certainly not been seen around Brussels, or indeed anywhere else in the known world, since time immemorial.

While Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn indulge their Walter Mitty fantasies, others that they represent are faced with the reality of much more meagre fare, this Christmas and for a long time to come.

This holiday season there is both more and less optimism than there was this time last year.

Reasonable people know quite clearly what is Best for Our Country despite the undemocratic and dogmatic statements that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn spout in a manner reminiscent of 1930s dictators.

We hope and believe that wiser council will prevail and the UK will not be dragged down a path that compromises its heritage, principles and democracy.

Time for us all to draw breath, close the doors on the world for a few days and enjoy the festive season, very best wishes from all of us.

You can find this article and others on our blog:

Update 49

Grahame Pigney

Dec. 18, 2018

A vote of no confidence in the Government is not as simple as it sounds.

There has been a lot of talk about Labour forcing a Commons vote of no-confidence.

The no-confidence motion that Jeremey Corbyn has tabled is largely symbolic. The government doesn’t have to provide time for it to be debated and the motion won’t, of itself, trigger a General Election or force Theresa May to resign.

If it is debated and passes, Theresa May’s authority will be reduced, but as her authority already seems to be around zero, will that make any difference?

Tabling a vote of no-confidence in the government is another thing.

However, what that has meant since 2011, when the Fixed Term Parliament Act received Royal Assent, is very different to what it meant in the past.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act was introduced to provide a more stable parliamentary environment for a coalition government. As a consequence it also protects a minority government. It also removed the prerogative that the Monarch had, on advice from the Prime Minister, to dissolve Parliament and call a General Election.

The no-confidence procedure was significantly modified by the introduction of the FTP Act:

A vote of no-confidence in the government, using the form of words prescribed in the FTP Act, has to be passed;

If a confidence motion, again using a prescribed form of words, has not been passed within 14 days of the no-confidence vote, Parliament is dissolved and a General Election is called.

What does the Fixed Term Parliament Act say must happen after the no-confidence vote and ahead of a confidence vote held in following 14 days?

The House of Commons Public Admin & Constitutional Affairs Committee says it is not defined.

The Act provides no guidance on what happens during the 14-day period following a FTP Act no-confidence motion being passed. The Clerk of the House says that what happens during this period is a matter of politics, and not of procedure.

The 14 days allow time for confidence in the government to be re-established. Whether through a change in personnel, policy or party is a matter for the political process.

It is possible that the DUP and/or the ERG could vote against the government in the no-confidence vote and then, having extracted commitments from the government, support the government in the confidence vote.

So it doesn’t look as if a Commons no-confidence vote will unlock the door to No 10 in the short term.

A People’s Vote on what is Best for Our Country may well be the surest way to secure those elusive keys.

You can find the full version of this article on our blog:

Update 48

Grahame Pigney

Dec. 17, 2018

Theresa May's rainbows and unicorns

In her speech on 9th January 2017, i.e. nearly 2 years ago, at the Charity Commission annual meeting, the Prime Minister promised that her government would have a "comprehensive, wide-ranging plan" to split from the EU.

"A plan to build a country where wealth and opportunity are shared; where all of us, no matter what our background, play by the same rules; and where future generations enjoy the same opportunities from which their parents have benefited throughout their lives."

"I will say more about this plan in the coming weeks. I will talk more about our plans for economic reform, our plans to build a Global Britain and our ambitions to build a more united country."

OMG, how time has eroded these statements – I can hear Prof Brian Cox explaining entropy!

From the top:

"comprehensive, wide-ranging plan" is now clearly risible. There was no plan at all, and the sorry result is not her government’s plan but Theresa May’s so-called solution – an attempt to placate all camps in her party. This has not attracted support from anyone except loyal Tories supporting the party (literally at any cost) and those who value their political careers more than the good of the country;

"A plan to build a country where wealth and opportunity are shared…” now looks more like “we’re all poorer (cost of living, sorry state of the exchange rate of the pound, inflation…) and our shared opportunities have diminished even before Brexit has actually happened (businesses and financial markets closing down or moving away from the UK, even food crops rotting in UK fields)”;

“…where all of us, no matter what our background, play by the same rules…” - one word, “Windrush”;

“…where future generations enjoy the same opportunities from which their parents have benefited throughout their lives.” How long have you got? Loss of freedom of movement, uncertainty about UK citizens’ business interests and property in EU27 countries, recognition of UK professional qualifications in the EU27, ease of working (whether temporarily or permanently) in the EU27, threat to easy accumulation of pension rights acquired throughout the EU27…

"I will say more about this plan in the coming weeks.” No! Over time, less and less has been said about this Utopian fantasy. For good reason: because that’s exactly what it was. UK citizens were being promised something that was undeliverable, and we now have a clear idea of what the outcome of the “plan” would be – more dystopian than Utopian.

How much worse it is, even at its best, than EU membership. It would cost dearly, leave us subject to many rules but with no voice in the decision-making process, abdicating our key role in the development and future of Europe. And for what?

Brexit, before it’s even happened, has dealt body blows to our beleaguered NHS, farmers who grow our food, people whose work it is to keep us safe, employment prospects all over the country as well as losing us institutions and organisations that contribute to our national prestige (EU Youth Orchestra, EU drug approval body…).

“…our ambitions to build a more united country." Even when she said this, it was clear that Brexit was dividing the country, not uniting it.

The situation for Scotland (which clearly voted to remain, and had been made promises at the time of its own independence referendum about what continued membership of the UK would mean), for Northern Ireland (where a peace achieved after centuries of conflict and bloodshed is now threatened by the let’s-try-to-placate-everyone “solution” being proposed), and even for friends, neighbours and families divided on the issue – all these show the “ambitions” as the hogwash they are.

And then of course there are the EU27 citizens, who in fact are net contributors to the UK economy and have skills we are already missing, who are leaving the UK because they’re being made to feel unwelcome.

Plus there are the UK citizens who live in Gibraltar, of course. The situation with Spain has been delicate for decades, and they have been sold down the river because their circumstances just don’t fit in with the “plan”.

This also applies to any number of other UK citizens (no one knows how many), whether with personal or business interests in the EU27, resident there or with plans to be so. There are many ramifications to their situations which are just too varied and inconvenient for the negotiators on either side to deal with. These people are going to be losing rights without even the courtesy of this being acknowledged.

In 2016, nobody warned that it would be like this. Leaving the EU was supposed to be as easy as pie, new trade deals in a heartbeat, the whole of the rest of the world at the UK’s feet…

What’s being offered is nothing like what people voted for in 2016. And as TM herself is so fond of saying, “I want to be very clear about this”: it is an offer. We do not have to accept it. It’s now time to have a vote on what’s on offer… or not on offer. And the options to be voted on must be based on What is Best for Our Country a question which must include an option to continue to be a member of the EU.

You can also find this article with links on our blog:

Update 47

Grahame Pigney

Dec. 12, 2018

From the Three Knights Opinion to the CJEU ruling on Article 50 - a long year’s

Almost exactly a year ago the germ of an idea started to develop at The People’s Challenge, based on the High Court decision in the Miller case and the work our legal team had done for the Supreme Court defence against the Government’s appeal.

If Parliament had to authorise the Article 50 notification of intention to leave the EU, wouldn’t they also have to make a decision to authorise leaving the EU once the terms were known? We sketched an outline of our thoughts and asked John Halford at Bindmans LLP to explore it from a legal standpoint.

During January the legal team started shaping the arguments based on the question. By the time the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Miller case, we had a clearer idea of what was required.

By the time the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was published at the end of January, the legal team was sufficiently confident on the issues for us to produce briefing documents for MPs and Peers about the requirement for an Act of Parliament once the terms were known.

We continued this work during the progress of the EU (NoW) Bill through Parliament.

In parallel, what was now known as the Three Knights Opinion was being finalised and was ready to be published in mid-February.

Our final briefings to Peers and MPs included the published Three Knights Opinion.

As we know, the EU (NoW) Bill eventually went through in a very brief form and received its Royal Assent on 16th March 2017.

It was clear to us that there would, in all probability, have to be a reference to the CJEU at some point to get a definitive answer on the question of unilateral revocability of the Article 50 notification. The primary reason for this was that it was essential for Parliament and the public to understand what the options were, when it was time to decide whether the withdrawal terms were acceptable or not.

With the legal team, we considered the possibility of mounting a campaign ourselves. It was clear that we were not the people best placed to initiate such a claim, as we may well not have been able to get past the permissions stage. As ever there was also the question of timing.

Our view was that parliamentarians, particularly Westminster MPs, would be best placed to bring such a challenge as they would ultimately have to decide what course to take when the terms of the withdrawn agreement were known.

Nevertheless, we were ready to intervene or assist if we could add to an eventual challenge and offered to do so where it seemed appropriate.

The challenge by Andy Wightman & others was the first that looked as if it had serious “legs” and even so they had a long struggle to get the Court of Session to refer the question to the CJEU.

Also Chris Leslie MP and Tom Brake MP decided to intervene in the case, increasing the number of Westminster MPs. Just as importantly, John Halford at Bindmans and Gerry Facena QC, one of our QCs in the Miller case and a co-author of the Three Knights Opinion, agreed to act for them.

We have already commented on the hearing at the CJEU in Luxembourg and the Opinion written by the Avocat General assigned to the case.

The CJEU’s ruling justifies not only the Opinion written by Sir David Edward QC, Sir Francis Jacobs QC, Sir Jeremy Lever QC and the QCs that acted for us in R (Miller) vs SSExEU, Helen Mountfield QC and Gerry Facenna QC, but also the initiative started nearly a year ago with the support of our backers.

Today’s ruling is not only crucial in the campaign for our Parliament to take back control from an increasingly authoritarian government, it is a stunning example of perseverance and the power that people have when they believe in what they’re championing and work together.

Congratulations and thanks to the named individuals in the case, whether claimants or interveners:

Andy Wightman MSP, Ross Greer MSP, Alyn Smith MEP, David Martin MEP, Catherine Stihler MEP, Jolyon Maugham QC, Joanna Cherry QC MP and Chris Leslie MP, Tom Brake MP;

the two legal teams and above all the thousands of people who helped fund this long journey and make the result possible.

BTW, we are asked from time to time why this wasn’t resolved during the Miller case.

During the hearings in the Miller case, the Government had asserted that once they had triggered Article 50 there was no going back. It was an assertion we were quite prepared to go along with, as it strengthened the arguments in favour of ensuring Parliamentary sovereignty.

Note 1. Court of Justice of the European Union.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has one judge from each Member State, assisted by eleven advocates general whose role is to consider the written and oral submissions to the court in every case that raises a new point of law, and deliver an impartial opinion to the court on the legal solution. Although Advocates General are full members of the court, they do not take part in the court‘s deliberations, and the Advocate General’s opinion is not binding on the court.

Although the court reaches the same solution as the Advocate General more often than not, it cannot usually be stated that the advocate general’s opinion has been ‘followed’ in any given case, because the court may have reached the same conclusion via different legal reasoning. The role of Advocate General is created by Article 19(2) of the Treaty on European Union and Articles 253 and 254 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Note 2. The Three Knights Opinion.

The Three Knights Opinion was commissioned by The Peoples Challenge after successfully resisting the Government’s attempt to use Royal Prerogative to trigger the Article 50 notification.

The Opinion’s authors are Sir David Edward KCMG PC QC, Sir Francis Jacobs KCMG PC QC, Sir Jeremy Lever KCMG QC (retired) and the QCs that acted for the People’s Challenge Group in R (Miller) vs SSExEU, Helen Mountfield QC and Gerry Facenna QC.

Sir David Edward QC practised at the Bar in Scotland prior to his appointment as the United Kingdom’s Judge at the European Court of First Instance from 1989-1992 and subsequently Judge of the European Court of Justice from 1992 until 2004. In 2004 he returned to become a part-time judge of the Court of Session in Scotland. He is a Privy Councillor, Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh and an Honorary Fellow of University College, Oxford.

Sir Francis Jacobs QC served as the United Kingdom’s Advocate General at the European Court of Justice from 1988 to 2006, having previously combined an academic career as Professor of European Law at the University of London with practice at the Bar. He is the President of the Centre of European Law at King’s College London and a visiting professor at the College of Europe. He was appointed a Privy Councillor in December 2005 and continues to practice at the Bar.

Sir Jeremy Lever QC is one of the most senior and respected figures in EU and competition law. During his more than fifty years at the Bar he acted in many of the leading cases in the fields of European law, competition law, and regulatory public law, including on behalf of the UK Government, the European Commission and the European Parliament. He is a Distinguished Fellow and Senior Dean of All Souls College, Oxford and in 2003 was knighted for services to European Law.

Note 3. Supreme Court decision in R (Miller) vs SSExEU

The People’s Challenge played a significant part in the arguments in the Divisional and Supreme Courts which resulted in the ruling that the Government was not allowed to trigger the Article 50 notification using Royal Prerogative and it required primary legislation by Parliament because of the implications for UK citizen’s fundamental rights.

Update 46

Grahame Pigney

Feb. 14, 2018

Why protecting EU citizenship rights needs more than one approach.

I have been asked whether the work we are doing isn’t duplicating the “Amsterdam” challenge and the questions being asked of the CJEU.

In fact the two issues are separate and reasonably distinct and both, for their own reasons, deserve to be supported and followed through.

The Amsterdam challenge is based in what has been called the “stone-by-stone” approach that the CJEU follows when making decisions and establishing the jurisprudence of EU law.

In this case the stones are a series of CJEU rulings relating to the right of individuals to their EU citizenship rights under circumstances where individual member states had sought to remove or ignore those rights.

The Amsterdam challenge is seeking to add another “stone” to the process and asking the CJEU to declare that EU citizenship rights are personal and individual and as such cannot be removed because your country of nationality decides to leave the EU. The CJEU is also being asked what, if any, criteria apply to the retention of EU citizenship rights under such circumstances.

The work we are doing is focused on the arbitrary and possibly discriminatory framework being used by the EU and the UK to protect what they define as EU citizenship rights for the purposes of the exit negotiations.

Broadly speaking the EU and the UK have decided that EU citizenship rights have only been exercised, and therefore need protecting, in the situation where an EU citizen is currently resident in an EU country other than his/her country of nationality.

This is plainly a nonsense as there are many ways of making significant personal, family and financial decisions based on EU citizenship rights which do not involve being resident in another EU member state at the time of making the decision or perhaps at all.

Equally nonsensically the individual may well have been resident in another EU state at some time in the past, the fact that they are currently not resident in that state, or any other of the states, does not in some way “un-exercise” those rights.

We are looking at the various courses of action open to individuals and groups of individuals in a wider context than just EU law and in a wider context than just the British nationals currently living in EU27 countries.

We also want to be able to present this researched and documented legal advice to MPs, MEPs and members of the UK devolved assemblies. Ultimately it is these representatives of ours who need to be fully informed of what is happening so that they can make the appropriate decisions.

Both sets of work are important, perhaps even crucial, for the reasonable and equitable treatment of all EU citizens, including British nationals at home or in EU27 countries, at a time when governments and administrations are seemingly focused on simplistic and expedient solutions.

Contrary to what the Government would like us to believe, we are faced with a complex, multi-facetted problem.

A problem which is open to multiple solutions and it will require a number of the best of those solutions in order to find the answer that is the best interest of Britain and its people.


Our aim is to help people see what’s going on, understand what they are, or aren’t, being told, and decide what is the best outcome for the UK: an outcome in the national interest, protecting fundamental citizenship rights and ensuring Parliament and not the executive is sovereign.

To help protect our fundamental rights, and support Parliament in safeguarding them, please send us a donation so we can maintain our campaign and make your voice heard.

Please share this article as widely as you can, thank you very much for your support.

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.

Update 45

Grahame Pigney

Feb. 12, 2018

Everybody, not just the few, deserves to have their citizenship rights protected.

Ensuring the rule of law and the protection of people’s fundamental citizenship rights are key elements of our challenge.

They go back to the very first action we took when we initiated a challenge to the UK government’s intention to illegally use the Royal Prerogative to trigger the Article 50 notice.

The arguments we put forward in court about fundamental citizenship rights were decisive in winning that case; indeed some involved in the case have said the government would have won the case if we had not put those arguments forward.

We originally launched our current GoFundMe campaign in order to do two things: raise money to sustain the campaign work and relieve the financial burden on the 2-3 people who previously shouldered it, we also needed funds in order to update some of our previously-published material and re-examine the opportunities for further challenges in the light of the on-going exit negotiations.

The questions of people’s fundamental rights and the observance of the rule of law are now coming into sharp focus again.

At this time the negotiations are still extremely vague and it is still unclear who will be protected under the final agreement.

It is even less clear who should be protected by law from the fallout of a politically expedient set of negotiations.

The EU and the UK are treating EU citizenship rights as something that is only triggered by a single event: you move to a country and stay there, like transplanting a tree. We are not trees.

The reality of the situation is that EU citizenship rights are embodied in a variety of laws and regulations that enable an individual to live, study, work, retire in any of the EU member states. Exercising these citizenship rights can happen in a singular, discrete moment or they can be exercised as part of an ongoing event or events. Entitlement to these citizenship rights is in no way predicated on residing in an EU state other than your country of nationality.

It is unlikely that all EU citizenship rights can be preserved for all UK citizens; there is only one way that can be done with certainty. On the other hand it is clear that both the UK and the EU have opted for an arbitrary and simplistic scenario as a basis for the agreement on citizenship rights.

We have discussed this with our legal team led by John Halford and feel that The People’s Challenge can make a significant contribution to casting light on these issues, as indicated in previous posts.

Therefore we’ve put together an expert team to advise on who should be protected by the draft citizens’ agreement but have been left out of it, and the deficiencies in the protections being proposed for those groups covered by the draft.

We will then publish two documents – one for those groups of people who have reasonable prospects of being able to protect some or all of their EU citizenship rights through some form of legal challenge, and another document for those who have been left behind with seemingly little or no practical legal recourse.

And so now we have raised the limit for our campaign in order to fund work which will be undertaken by a team of legal experts led by John Halford.

This work affects millions of people. As well as publishing this material we will use it to inform and lobby MPs, MEPs and the members of the UK devolved assemblies on the deficiencies in the current draft agreement on protecting EU citizenship rights.

The era of governments being unaccountable for their actions is long gone and we need your help to again remind our political representatives of this.

If you care about the fundamental rights that Brexit puts in jeopardy, and the need for Parliament to safeguard them effectively, please help us to maintain our campaign and continue to stand up for you.

We need your support, please share and donate.

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.


We value your support. If you share our concerns about the work needed to promote the outcome which is in the best interests of the UK, please consider making a donation by clicking on the Gold Card image.

Our aim is to help people see what's going on, understand what they are, or aren't, being told, and decide what is the best outcome for the UK: an outcome in the national interest, protecting fundamental citizenship rights and ensuring Parliament and not the executive is sovereign.
 To help protect our fundamental rights, and support Parliament in safeguarding them, please send us a donation so we can maintain our campaign and make your voice heard.

Please share this article as widely as you can, thank you very much for your support.

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.

Update 44

Grahame Pigney

Jan. 3, 2018

Another year, another challenge.

It’s 18 months since we initiated the challenge to the Government over its intention to bypass Parliament and use the ancient Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50.

This was the start of a fight to ensure that it is Parliament that decides where the future of the UK lies and not a handful of people in Whitehall.

In less than a fortnight it will be the first anniversary of the UK’s Supreme Court upholding our challenge by saying that it was for Parliament to decide and the Government could not use Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50.

At the same time as the Supreme Court did this we commissioned the “Three Knights Opinion”, the most authoritative opinion yet on the revocability of the Article 50 notification, which takes into account both UK and EU law.

The Three Knights’ assertion that Article 50 is unilaterally revocable is supported by the opinions of both Lord Kerr, one of the authors of Article 50, and Jean-Claude Piris, Legal Counsel to the EU Council, Director of its Legal Services from 1988 to 2010 and also Legal Advisor to the inter-governmental conference which negotiated the Treaty of Lisbon of which Article 50 is a part.

The question of the revocability of Article 50, the EU law element of it at least, is now to be tested in the courts. A group of Scottish parliamentarians have asked the Court of Session in Edinburgh to refer the question to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Obviously we, with our legal team, are keeping a close watch on this challenge, if we feel that we can contribute to the challenge, and by doing so improve the chances of the challenge being successful, we will apply to be a participant.

The other work that has occupied a great deal of our time, and money, over the past year has been working with other groups to inform people and politicians of the absolute necessity to ensure that decisions are made based on “What is Best for the UK” rather than some dogmatic philosophy of “Brexit is Brexit”.

From the very start of our campaign 18 months ago, a fundamental principle has been “What is in the best interest of the UK?

That is why we have to ensure that Parliament makes these decisions: MPs and members of the House of Lords have a sworn duty to act in the national and public interest.

While the referendum result said, by a miniscule margin, that more UK citizens who voted preferred to leave the EU than to remain, the decisions about what happens next have not been made by the public or their representatives in Parliament.

Indeed, it seems as if not even the Cabinet has made these decisions.

What has happened is in-fighting within the Government, in-fighting which sadly seems to have more to do with personal political advancement than what is best for the UK.

This has produced an inconclusive and ill-defined position based on anodyne soundbites, as the Government seeks to take the UK out of the EU without Parliament ever making the decision on what is best for the future of the UK and its people.

But our Sovereign Parliament has demonstrated that this is not acceptable behaviour by the Government.

The unprecedented number of amendments tabled to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which brought on the first Government defeat when the Dominic Grieve’s amendment 7 was passed, shows that Parliament is not prepared to see the Government annexe wide-ranging powers to take further action without Parliament’s approval (i.e. the passing of an Act of Parliament). And the debate over amendments isn’t finished yet!

MPs’ sworn duty is to act in the best interest of the UK, also taking account of the views of their constituents. Making them aware of the feeling in the country is vital. This is a major objective of the lobbying process.

Another key objective is to inform them of important facts they might be unaware of – given the amount of information not being divulged by the Government unless it’s compelled to, this latter role becomes even more important.

To this end, we have been working on how best to pursue the lobbying process. Working with experienced professionals, we have expanded what we do from lobbying UK parliamentarians to lobbying EU parliamentarians and other key decision-makers in both the UK and the rest of the EU.

As an example we have written to key decision-makers in the EU setting out how the deal on EU citizenship rights falls far short of protecting those EU citizens, including those from the UK, who have made life-changing decisions based on the UK’s membership of the EU.

This work is far less obvious and much less dramatic than beating the Government in court. However, it is no less important.

There were 494 amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in the committee stage, all of which we had to read and understand so that we could decide where to apply our resources most effectively.

Whatever the outcome of the “Brexit” process, what is happening has an even greater significance for the future of UK democracy and Parliament’s sovereignty.

If the UK is to leave the EU it has to be because that is “What is Best for the UK” and not because some cabal in the Government has decided that leaving the EU is in their best interest.

At present, Parliament is being “allowed” a very grudgingly-given opportunity to debate and vote on some of the “mechanics” of the leaving process. But when the result of the negotiations is known, our MPs must have a meaningful vote as to whether that result will leave the UK in a better position than its current one.

So the work goes on. We continue to be vigilant about costs, but the making of omelettes inevitably involves the breaking of eggs! Aside from the usual overheads of running any campaign organisation we need specialist advice from our litigation team, plus advice from professionals on how best to influence what is happening in the UK and EU parliaments.

So we continue to rely on contributions from our supporters both new and existing. As always, thank you to those who have been sticking with us along the way, and to new supporters, thank you for joining us. Please help us as much as you can, any and every contribution is valuable, and again, thank you.

Finally, let us wish you a Happy New Year! And may this year be even more successful than the last!


We value your support. If you share our concerns about the work needed to promote the outcome which is in the best interests of the UK, please consider making a donation by clicking on the Gold Card image.

Our aim is to help people see what's going on, understand what they are, or aren't, being told, and decide what is the best outcome for the UK: an outcome in the national interest, protecting fundamental citizenship rights and ensuring Parliament and not the executive is sovereign.
 To help protect our fundamental rights, and support Parliament in safeguarding them, please send us a donation so we can maintain our campaign and make your voice heard.

Please share this article as widely as you can, thank you very much for your support.

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.



Update 43

Grahame Pigney

Dec. 13, 2017

Democracy Strikes Back

On Wednesday evening, in the most emphatic manner, Westminster democracy delivered a blow to Whitehall dictatorship. Parliament will endure the Government’s Brexit shenanigans no more.

The most extreme and condescending of the Henry VIII powers the Govt. was seeking to grab in the EU (Withdrawal) bill was turned into a “meaningful” vote in Parliament by principled and persistent MPs who disclosed the whips’ methods.

David Davis had tried to head this off by offering each chamber of Parliament a largely meaningless resolution on the eventual exit agreement, as a sop supposedly evidencing that the Govt. had no intention to ignore Parliament.

As anybody with knowledge of Parliamentary procedure knows, a resolution, even of both houses, is not binding. A Govt. can easily ignore such parliamentary devices, as they have been doing for months now with various Opposition resolutions passed in the Commons.

The Govt. whips have gone to extraordinary lengths to persuade MPs to “toe the line”, to the extent that they have apparently threatened legal action against MPs who disclose the whips’ methods.

Wednesday’s result is the product of a great deal of effort and resilience by MPs, and the campaigners who have mobilised support for them, to make sure that Parliament and not the Govt. retains control of both the process and the final outcome.

This is what The People’s Challenge has been talking about for some time: Parliamentary Sovereignty. Our elected MPs are taking charge, as they have done before and will continue to do.

This is not the end of what we need to do. The Govt. is likely to try and reverse this vote before this bill receives Royal Assent and more Henry VIII powers are surely to come in future Bills, but it could be the beginning of “Taking Back Control”.

Thank you to all of you who have contacted your MPs to express your concerns about unrestricted Govt. powers, you helped tonights victory happen. If your MP supported amendment 7 congratulate him/her on making a stand on your behalf, if not, ask them why he/she did not support Parliamentary Sovereignty?


We value your support. If you share our concerns about the work needed to promote the outcome which is in the best interests of the UK, please consider making a donation by clicking on the Gold Card image.The People's Challenge - logo

Our aim is to help people see what's going on, understand what they are, or aren't, being told, and decide what is the best outcome for the UK: an outcome in the national interest, protecting fundamental citizenship rights and ensuring Parliament and not the executive is sovereign.
 To help protect our fundamental rights, and support Parliament in safeguarding them, please send us a donation so we can maintain our campaign and make your voice heard.

Please share this article as widely as you can, thank you very much for your support.

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.

Update 42

Grahame Pigney

Dec. 9, 2017

Forging ahead to secure accountability and protect rights

Fuelled by the generous donations of our supporters to our ‘core funding’ GoFundMe campaign, we have been preparing in earnest for the next stages of The People’s Challenge. Here’s a short update on what we and our lawyers have been up to.

To begin with, we asked our solicitor, Bindmans’ John Halford, for a full update of our unique Legal Milestones Guide on the direction of travel, the points at which the politics of Brexit must give way to the demands of the law and how some of the fundamental rights which individuals currently enjoy, thanks to the UK’s membership of the EU, might be protected for the future.

Here then is the updated Guide packed with hyperlinks to the information that underpins it.

John and some of our barristers have also been busy identifying where legal and other action might most effectively safeguard rights and genuinely democratic accountability. They have identified five pressure points where we are actively considering action, or supporting others in taking it.

They are:

  • Helping enforce information rights. Parliament has secured a “compendium” of the much-mentioned sectoral impact assessments, but the public has yet to see even that. Depending on developments in Parliament, we may take or intervene in litigation to press for full disclosure of civil servants’ view of the impact of Brexit in all of its forms.


  • Shining a spotlight on the EU ‘fundamental rights safety net’. There is no prospect whatsoever of a withdrawal agreement preserving all EU rights that have been exercised in the past by UK nationals elsewhere in the EU or other EU nationals here in the UK in a form that means they will be freely available for future use.


But, to be lawful, any withdrawal agreement must itself be compatible with the basic principles of the existing EU treaties, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights (of which the UK but also the EU as an institution are signatories).


We are investigating who might be ‘left behind’ by the citizens’ rights chapter of any UK/EU withdrawal agreement, and how MEPs may intervene to test whether this is lawful. 


  • Enforcing anti-discrimination rights. Pending Brexit, EU law remains fully enforceable within the UK too. Besides the Charter, there are the free movement and anti-discrimination provisions of the Treaties and particular directives. And this is complemented by the UK’s own domestic anti-discrimination framework, found in the Equality Act 2010 and relevant parts of the Human Rights Act 1998. We are on the lookout for systemic policies and practices of discrimination against EU and EEA nationals in the UK that might be decisively challenged by ourselves, or affected people, using existing law.


Brexit must not become a licence to discriminate against anyone.


  • Unpacking the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. It is well known that the Bill is riddled with Henry VIII clauses – power granting provisions that purport to allow Ministers to amend the law without further Parliamentary scrutiny to manage the consequences of Brexit behind closed Whitehall doors.


It is far less well understood how that might be challenged, especially when fundamental rights end up overridden. We are planning a citizens’ guide to the Bill, the true extent of what it could permit and the dangers that presents.


  • Securing Parliament’s final say. The current Withdrawal Bill cannot satisfy the UK constitution’s loudest demand – that Parliament always has the final say when citizens’ rights may be lost.


This applies to any withdrawal agreement – and to departure from the EU if talks break down. And the demand will not be met by the Bill being amended to set 29 March 2019 as an EU departure date. That is because the negotiations are not yet concluded, the Bill is likely to be passed ahead of any agreement and, at best, the Bill is concerned only with those rights that can be transposed into UK law.


Once the extent to which rights will be abrogated or extinguished it becomes clearer, and if at that time the Government is unwilling to seek Parliament’s authority for withdrawal in an Act, a further Miller-style challenge may be mounted by way of judicial review.


Ultimately, this issue would need to be determined by the UK’s Supreme Court. As in Miller, it would need to decide who must ultimately take responsibility for Brexit on the terms that will then be known – the Government or Parliament itself.

We are pleased to see that our and other groups’ efforts on one subject are starting to produce results: Guy Verhofstadt has said that UK citizens living in the EU 27 having their EU freedom of movement rights guaranteed post-Brexit should be one of the EU Parliament’s red-lines.

It’s a start, and it’s one of the topics we covered when writing to Messrs Barnier, Juncker, Tajani, Tusk and Verhofstadt in October.

We also made a submission last month to the House of Lords EU Justice sub-committee on how the currently-proposed protections fall short of providing “reciprocal protection for Union and UK citizens, to enable the effective exercise of rights derived from Union law and based on past life choices, where those citizens have exercised free movement rights by the specified date”.

 As we have said all along, for UK citizens resident in the EU 27, right to reside on its own is insufficient for them to retain parity of rights with EU 27s resident in the UK, let alone their existing rights.

Nor will the currently-proposed protections stop major losses of rights for UK citizens currently living in the UK who have made life choices based on the EU freedoms they currently enjoy.

In order to develop and publicise these issues further, we will be compiling a categorised list of people directly affected by Brexit-related loss of rights, and more information about what they stand to lose (rights, guarantees, recourse, etc.) as things currently stand.

This list will be a “roadmap” for a (hopefully) clearer understanding of who is affected and how. Although we have written quite extensively on this subject, we feel that a lot of people will still be unpleasantly surprised by the extent of the losses and the numbers affected.

This list will be as exhaustive as we can make it, but we have to produce it in a meaningful timescale. We hope to co-operate with other groups in this endeavour in order to minimise any duplication of effort and to produce a consolidated and verified list.


  1. EU Commission Press Release on “sufficient progress” having been made;
  2. The Three Knights Opinion on the revocability of the Article 50 notification;
  3. The People’s Challenge “Legal Milestones on the road to Brexit”.


We value your support. If you share our concerns about the work needed to promote the outcome which is in the best interests of the UK, please consider making a donation by clicking on the Gold Card image.

Our aim is to help people see what's going on, understand what they are, or aren't, being told, and decide what is the best outcome for the UK: an outcome in the national interest, protecting fundamental citizenship rights and ensuring Parliament and not the executive is sovereign.
 To help protect our fundamental rights, and support Parliament in safeguarding them, please send us a donation so we can maintain our campaign and make your voice heard.

Please share this article as widely as you can, thank you very much for your support.

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.


Update 41

Grahame Pigney

Nov. 15, 2017

The most unlikely of Government allies defers to amendment 381

Frank Field has been a bit of a rebel for most of his time in the Commons.

Governments, both Labour and Conservative, have been in his sights except for a brief period (14 months) when he was Minister for Welfare Reform under Tony Blair.

He had tabled an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, NC49, attempting to fix 30th March 2019 as the date that the UK ceased to be a member of the European Union.

Following a vigorous debate yesterday evening, he withdrew his amendment.

Why does he want the date put in the Bill? You may well ask, but it seems that he is allying himself with those in Whitehall who seek to trap the UK into a deadline that is not only unnecessary but also imprudent – some would say foolish.

The government has tabled its own amendment, 381, which not only sets the date for the UK leaving the EU but also defines it as the “Exit Day” for the various purposes in the Bill. This amendment will not be voted on until day 8 of the committee stage, something that may not happen until just before the Christmas recess.

Not that that should be any reason for complacency.

Why would a government committed to getting the best possible deal for the UK seek to impose on itself a fixed date for completing the negotiations? How can that possibly be a wise negotiating strategy, let alone something that works in the best interest of the UK?

Unless the real purposes is to close down the UK’s options and try to convince the UK, its people and the rest of the world that Theresa May is in charge with her “Deal or No Deal” strategy.

It appears to be yet another example of the Government’s sleight of hand, another deliberate attempt to mislead and fool us. A move that seems designed to increase the chances of the UK crashing out of the EU with “No Deal”, which most informed people agree would be the worst possible outcome for the UK.

Apart from anything else how can it possibly be a sound and prudent idea to set an end date for the current arrangements without having even defined what it is that the UK wants post EU membership?

Ask your MP: what the reasoning behind amendment 381 is and how this helps to ensure that the UK will better off as a “third country” than as a member; how is amendment 381 a prudent course of action that is in the best interest of the UK and its people?


We value your support, both moral and financial. If you share our concerns about the work needed to promote the outcome which is in the best interests of the UK, please consider making a donation by clicking on the Gold Card image.The People's Challenge - logo

Our aim is to help people see what's going on, understand what they are, or aren't, being told, and decide what is the best outcome for the UK: an outcome in the national interest, protecting fundamental citizenship rights and ensuring Parliament and not the executive is sovereign.
 To help protect our fundamental rights, and support Parliament in safeguarding them, please send us a donation so we can maintain our campaign and make your voice heard.

Please share this article as widely as you can, thank you very much for your support.

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.


Update 40

Grahame Pigney

Nov. 10, 2017

Whitehall telling Parliament what it can or can’t do is not “Taking Back Control”

On 9th September we published an article “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.” This is a quote from an address given by David Davis in 2012.

Just before we wrote the article, David Davis’s Dept for Exiting the EU was quoted as saying “There can be no attempts to remain inside the EU and no attempt to rejoin it”. This constitutes a blatant attempt to stifle Parliament’s authority and also our democracy, not to mention being apparently contrary to David Davis’s beliefs.

This morning Theresa May is quoted in the Daily Telegraph (paywall) as saying:

“We will not tolerate attempts from any quarter to use the process of amendments to this bill as a mechanism to try to block the democratic wishes of the British people by attempting to slow down or stop our departure from the European Union”.

Apart from the foolishness of pre-judging where the best interests of the UK will be some 16 months in the future in our rapidly-changing world, we have the chief executive of the UK’s government insisting that she is entitled to tell the members of our Sovereign Parliament what they can and cannot do.

What sort of “Taking Back Control” is this – certainly not the sort that puts that control in the hands of Parliament, the UK’s sovereign authority, whose members have a sworn duty to do what is best for the nation and its people.

Why does Theresa May, who expresses such devotion to “the democratic wishes of the British people”, repeatedly attempt to ignore or overrule the UK democratic process? Is democracy important to her or isn’t it?

As we know, the right to confirm, or otherwise, the decision on what is best for the UK is in the hands of the UK’s Parliament: The Three Knights Opinion gives an authoritative legal confirmation of that. Lord Kerr, a co-author of Article 50, has confirmed it again in The Guardian today, and in a case in the EU Court of Justice, the EU Council has said that an action for the loss of rights can only be taken on signature of an irreversible final withdrawal agreement.

There is a political will within the EU for the UK to withdraw the Article 50 notice of intention and for the UK to return to the status quo ante.

But, and this is vastly more important, Parliament must have control of the situation and decide what is in the best interest of the UK, at the point where Parliament and the public know what the exit negotiations have produced.

As we said in our article yesterday "It’s not just the 3 Knights clause that is important", the issues involved go far beyond the immediate question of whether the UK remains in the EU or not, they strike at the very roots of our system of representative democracy and parliamentary sovereignty.


We value your support, both moral and financial. If you share our concerns about the work needed to promote the outcome which is in the best interests of the UK, please consider making a donation by clicking on the Gold Card image.The People's Challenge - logo

Our aim is to help people see what's going on, understand what they are, or aren't, being told, and decide what is the best outcome for the UK: an outcome in the national interest, protecting fundamental citizenship rights and ensuring Parliament and not the executive is sovereign.
 To help protect our fundamental rights, and support Parliament in safeguarding them, please send us a donation so we can maintain our campaign and make your voice heard.

Please share this article as widely as you can, thank you very much for your support.

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.

Update 39

Grahame Pigney

Nov. 9, 2017

It's not just the 3 Knights clause that is important

What is the EU (Withdrawal) Bill?

The bill is supposed to be the legislation required to transform the legislation derived from the UK’s membership of the EU into standalone domestic legislation.

What are “Henry VIII” powers?

The parliamentary website gives this definition of Henry VIII powers:

“The Government sometimes adds this provision to a Bill to enable the Government to repeal or amend it after it has become an Act of Parliament. The provision enables primary legislation to be amended or repealed by subordinate legislation with or without further parliamentary scrutiny.

Such provisions are known as Henry VIII clauses, so named from the Statute of Proclamations 1539 which gave King Henry VIII power to legislate by proclamation.”

Why are the Henry VIII powers in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill so extraordinary?

The Henry VIII powers sought in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill enable the government to amend not only that bill, but any and all legislation including other Acts of Parliament.

This is clearly not the same as what the Government “sometimes” does as explained above.

For instance, the government could use the powers in this bill to extend the period between General Elections or amend the authority, and restrictions placed on that authority, which Parliament has given the government in relation to the UK leaving the EU.

Why is deleting the Charter of Fundamental Rights necessary for the UK to leave the EU?

It is not necessary to delete the Charter of Fundamental Rights in order to transpose EU-derived legislation into standalone UK law.

The only conceivable reason for deleting the Charter is to remove the protections it gives. The government can then, without parliamentary supervision and control, reduce or remove legislative and regulatory provisions which protect ordinary citizens.

As Harriet Harman said (she was talking about women’s rights, her point is valid across the piece), “You should never be complacent about rights which have been really hard-won. There are always people who want to turn the clock back”.

Why is the combination of “Henry VIII” powers and deletion of the Charter so dangerous and sinister?

Deleting the Charter of Fundamental Rights from the UK’s Statute Book removes basic protections for ordinary citizens. This includes essential elements needed to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Once that happens, those seeking to tear down hard-won legislation and regulation protecting us from discrimination on the basis of race, colour, creed or gender can do so without parliamentary oversight and control, simply by using the Henry VIII powers contained in the bill.

They can even roll back the Bill of Rights of 1689, where (for example) regular parliaments, free elections, and freedom of speech in Parliament are enshrined, to suit the government’s own interest. In effect they can impose an elected (at least in the first instance) autocracy.

This is a power-grab of monumental proportions.

The government says it won’t abuse the powers it seeks to grab, so why is it trying to grab them? Given the government’s penchant for secrecy and sleight of hand, why should any of us rely on its assurances?

Furthermore, future governments could retain these powers and would not be bound by any assurances given by individuals in the present government as to how they are to be used.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill must be based on three things: parliamentary sovereignty, proportionality of the legislation (i.e. what’s actually needed to achieve the supposed objective) and what is in the best interest of the UK and its people.

It’s clear that close scrutiny will be required to make sure that none of these are swept away or lost sight of.

Why is “The Three Knights Opinion” important in confirming Parliamentary Sovereignty?

The proposed amendment (number 7 put forward by Dominic Grieve and others) that is probably most widely discussed is that which requires that whatever the exit terms are, they enter into law by means of an Act of Parliament.

This gives Parliament the “meaningful vote” on exit terms agreed (or not agreed). It also ensures that the vote takes place before the exit, which must happen, whatever the nonsense that has recently been talked.

The “meaningful vote” is in line with the legal opinion embodied in “The Three Knights Opinion” we commissioned. At the time of the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) debates, all MPs were provided with a copy of that opinion and a briefing note on its importance. This obviously included Theresa May and David Davis.

But the bottom line is that Parliament’s sovereign authority over the acceptance or rejection of the exit terms continues to exist until such time as it is exercised. The exercise of it will be the definitive confirmation of the UK’s exit from the EU or of its decision to remain in the EU.

Although it would be much clearer if that authority were embodied in the EU (Withdrawal) Act, its exclusion does not invalidate Parliament’s authority.

If all of this seems to you to be grounds for concern, please contact your MP, write a letter or make an appointment at the “surgery” perhaps, to discuss things. Here are some suggestions for questions you might want to ask:

  1. Do you think it’s necessary to delete the Charter of Fundamental Rights? If so, why? If so, what will be done to protect ordinary people from abuse of their rights? If not, what will you do to defend the rights of ordinary people threatened by this and/or preserve the Charter?
  2. Do you think these wider-ranging-than-normal Henry VIII powers are necessary? If so, why? Do you see them as potentially dangerous? If not, why not? How can they be limited to what is proper and prevented from becoming an Executive “blank cheque” to ride rough-shod over any and all existing legislation for an indefinite time? If that is not done, will you refuse to support them?
  3. Is this momentous decision one that should be made by our elected sovereign Parliament or by an appointed executive?

Please don’t let yourself be told, “We’re strong and stable…”, “We’ve been very clear about this…”, “If there’s a problem, come and see me…” or similar platitudes.

Whatever the political colour, now is not the time to be fobbed off with such soundbites!


We value your support, both moral and financial. If you share our concerns about the work needed to promote the outcome which is in the best interests of the UK, please consider making a donation by clicking on the Gold Card image.The People's Challenge - logo

Our aim is to help people see what's going on, understand what they are, or aren't, being told, and decide what is the best outcome for the UK: an outcome in the national interest, protecting fundamental citizenship rights and ensuring Parliament and not the executive is sovereign.
 To help protect our fundamental rights, and support Parliament in safeguarding them, please send us a donation so we can maintain our campaign and make your voice heard.

Please share this article as widely as you can, thank you very much for your support.

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.


Update 38

Grahame Pigney

Nov. 7, 2017

Called it!

As some of you may have seen yesterday, we said that the Brexit Impact studies would say more about the Govt than they would about Brexit.

Well now we have it. It seems possible, and even likely, that these papers don't exist, other than as scribbles on a pizza box.

The Govt apparently needs 3 weeks to "compile" these studies. We ordered Impact studies, apparently long since finished, people have been talking about them for weeks! It now seems that we asked for an illuminated Gutenberg Bible in velum and leather bindings.

Did the Govt commission these Impact assessments? When were they commissioned? Have they been completed? Or was the Govt just hoping to string Parliament and the public along, and is only now doing its due diligence because it's being forced to?


We value your support, both moral and financial. If you share our concerns about the work needed to promote the outcome which is in the best interests of the UK, please consider making a donation by clicking on the Gold Card image.

The People's Challenge - logo

Our aim is to help people see what's going on, understand what they are, or aren't, being told, and decide what is the best outcome for the UK: an outcome in the national interest, protecting fundamental citizenship rights and ensuring Parliament and not the executive is sovereign.
 To help protect our fundamental rights, and support Parliament in safeguarding them, please send us a donation so we can maintain our campaign and make your voice heard.

Please share this article as widely as you can, thank you very much for your support.

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.

Update 37

Grahame Pigney

Nov. 6, 2017

Why Brexit Impact studies need to be made public

The contents of the soon-to-be-released Brexit Impact studies may supply more detail on the extent of Brexit's repercussions and give us specifics that we haven’t had up to now.

There is, however, the suspicion that they will simply confirm that the Government is confused about, and unprepared for, where it is taking the UK.

There is also the possibility that our fears, most recently expressed in Gina Miller’s article in the Guardian, will be realised by the Government’s releasing summaries/redactions which tell us far less than the whole story, or even next door to nothing.

However, the options covered in the Brexit impact statements will tell us a lot about the Govt's intentions and whether it can be trusted - you might have noticed that.

Will it be just deal or no deal? Will it also cover staying in with the status quo?

This information will help to confirm whether Theresa May is attempting to force a particular outcome regardless, and how far the Govt is prepared to go in this endeavour.

These papers have been requested and demanded for months and the Govt has consistently turned down anybody and everybody. This is doubly worrying.

First, the Govt is hiding potentially vital information that our MPs will need when approving, or otherwise, a final deal.

Second, Brexit is already rumoured to be the worst idea since powdered water, so how bad do these Impact assessments have to be for them to give Brexit an even worse name?

It is unknown at this point if and when any of these papers were produced, have some been produced, have any of them? Are there more to come? It would be hard for the Govt to release what it doesn’t have.

Is it merely dissembling or actually secretive, bearing in mind that this Govt has made a habit of secrecy.

Beyond the objectionable nature of such secrecy in a democracy, let us look at the implications of the Impact assessments.

If they give a positive view of Brexit, does anyone have any doubt that they would have been released or leaked already? If on the other hand they give an unfavourable view of Brexit, what right does the Govt have to withhold the truth from us (surely “the people” deserve better than that)?

If Brexit is turning into even more of a disaster, our MPs need the information in order to fulfil their oath and make an informed decision on our behalf. Equally, if we are to go ahead, we have a right to know how bad the damage is going to be so we can communicate with our MPs on that basis.

So finally, the Govt has no basis for keeping the studies secret, nor even for redacting them, not in a democracy.

The only logical conclusion is that this is an attempt to subvert Parliamentary democracy and lie (by omission) to the public.

Whatever the content of the Brexit Impact studies, we and our MPs have a right to know in order to exercise parliamentary democracy and self-determination, and in that I think they will prove useful.

But do not expect that they will throw much light on where the government is taking our country, they will say more about what sort of government this is and the state of chaos and confusion in Whitehall.


We value your support, both moral and financial. If you share our concerns about the work needed to promote the outcome which is in the best interests of the UK, please consider making a donation by clicking here.

Our aim is to help people see what's going on, understand what they are, or aren't, being told, and decide what is the best outcome for the UK: an outcome in the national interest, protecting fundamental citizenship rights and ensuring Parliament and not the executive is sovereign.

To help protect our fundamental rights, and support Parliament in safeguarding them, please send us a donation so we can maintain our campaign and make your voice heard.

Please share this article as widely as you can, thank you very much for your support.

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.

Update 36

Grahame Pigney

Oct. 12, 2017

Keeping you posted

We have recently raised our GoFundMe target and accelerated our plans. This money is already being put to good use. It allows us to pay for website maintenance, communication costs and other “everyday” expenses as well as travel and accommodation costs for attending events. We will be able to attend events to support the work of other groups.

Rob will be speaking in Bristol on Saturday 14th October at the “Bristol for Europe” event starting at 14h15. This is one of a series of events to be held on that day at locations across the country. He will be talking about the wider implications of Brexit as well as some of the still as yet undiscussed consequences for individuals and groups of individuals. If you can’t attend, other events are being held across the country, we would particularly draw your attention to the ones being held in Cambridge, Cardiff, and York. For further details see:

Grahame will be meeting next week with our solicitor John Halford to discuss the urgent and important aspects of our plans in light of recent events. We expect this meeting to give us an outline of important future discussions and of urgent work to be undertaken immediately.

As we have previously mentioned, we have brought Susie Alegre on board for our advocacy work, she and John Halford will be working in coordination to ensure smooth cooperation and/or transition between advocacy work and potential legal challenges.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has contributed to our campaign and remind anybody who hasn’t that they can also help by spreading the word.

Update 35

Grahame Pigney

Oct. 9, 2017

"If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy."

Ironically the title is a quote from David Davis back in 2012.

Now David Davis’s Dept for Exiting the European Union is saying “There can be no attempts to remain inside the EU and no attempt to rejoin it.”

By David Davis’s own measure the DExEU is now trying to stifle democracy in the UK.

We have known for some time that legal opinion says that the decision to trigger Article 50 is revocable both under the UK constitution and the EU Treaties. We commissioned and published the opinion from “The Three Knights” back in February this year.

Does the government have equally credible and powerful opinion either supporting or contradicting “The Three Knights”?

Perhaps we will know shortly as Jessica Simor QC from Matrix Chambers has submitted a Freedom of Information request to Theresa May asking her to release the advice she has received. According to Sunday’s Guardian Jessica Simor has been told by “two good sources”:

“that the article 50 notification can be withdrawn by the UK at any time before 29 March 2019 resulting in the UK remaining in the EU on its current favourable terms.

“Such advice would also accord with the view of Lord Kerr, who was involved in drafting article 50, of Jean-Claude Piris, former director general of the EU council’s legal service, and of Martin Selmayr, a lawyer and head of cabinet to the European commission president.” She says “there is no time to waste” and adds: “It is important that this advice is made available to the British public and their representatives in parliament as soon as possible.”

As Labour MP David Lammy said, again in Sunday’s Guardian, “It is frankly quite absurd that the Department for Exiting the European Union is refusing to publish these studies while ministers go around talking about the repatriation of parliamentary sovereignty and taking back control.”

The People’s Challenge knows about this government’s penchant for secrecy. In the Divisional Court we had to force the disclosure of the “secret arguments” it was proposing to use to defend its intention to use the Royal Prerogative.

The government’s lack of openness and transparency about issues such as the revocability of the Article 50 notification, and the extent to which it seeks to reserve to itself “Henry VIII” powers to bypass Parliamentary Sovereignty, constitute a far bigger threat – a threat that the government seems intent on keeping out of sight below the surface of the so-called debate.

Brexit is only the tip of the iceberg we are being driven towards.

On 17th February last we said:

“On Monday the House of Lords will debate a Bill designed to surrender the Parliamentary sovereignty that was upheld by the Supreme Court only weeks ago. We hope this Opinion will help peers understand that the Bill does not have that effect, Parliament will still be able to deploy its constitutional handbrake at any time during the next two years, and the EU will be bound to respect that. This leaves open the option of withdrawing our Article 50 notice if there is no acceptable deal agreed and Parliament decides that a hard Brexit is not in the national interest. The Three Knights’ Opinion is now the most authoritative view available on Article 50, short of a judgment by the European Union’s own Court of Justice. It brings into sharp focus Parliament’s constitutional role in protecting the national interest and the rights of businesses and millions of citizens, whatever the Government might say and whatever promises it makes about being able to negotiate an agreement with 27 other countries during the next eighteen months.“

8 months on it seems that nothing has changed: the government will not disclose what advice it has about the constitutional position and seems intent on telling our Sovereign Parliament what is, or isn’t, allowed.

We must actively defend the Rule of Law, Parliamentary Sovereignty and People’s Fundamental Rights against those who would sweep them away in the pursuit of some dogmatic, self-serving principle.

The People’s Challenge is prepared to step up to this need, as we have done in the past, and with your continued support we will succeed.


Link to the Guardian article - Theresa May under pressure over ‘secret advice’ on halting Brexit

The People’s Challenge Three Knights Opinion - The Three Knights Opinion

The Opinion’s authors are Sir David Edward KCMG PC QC, Sir Francis Jacobs KCMG PC QC, Sir Jeremy Lever KCMG QC (retired) and the QCs that acted for the People’s Challenge Group in Miller vs R, Helen Mountfield QC and Gerry Facenna QC.

Sir David Edward QC practised at the Bar in Scotland prior to his appointment as the United Kingdom’s Judge at the European Court of First Instance from 1989-1992 and subsequently Judge of the European Court of Justice from 1992 until 2004. In 2004 he returned to become a part-time judge of the Court of Session in Scotland. He is a Privy Councillor, Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh and an Honorary Fellow of University College, Oxford.

Sir Francis Jacobs QC served as the United Kingdom’s Advocate General at the European Court of Justice from 1988 to 2006, having previously combined an academic career as Professor of European Law at the University of London with practice at the Bar. He is the President of the Centre of European Law at King's College London and a visiting professor at the College of Europe. He was appointed a Privy Councillor in December 2005 and continues to practice at the Bar.

Sir Jeremy Lever QC is one of the most senior and respected figures in EU and competition law. During his more than fifty years at the Bar he acted in many of the leading cases in the fields of European law, competition law, and regulatory public law, including on behalf of the UK Government, the European Commission and the European Parliament. He is a Distinguished Fellow and Senior Dean of All Souls College, Oxford and in 2003 was knighted for services to European Law.

Update 34

Grahame Pigney

Sept. 30, 2017

Could do better if tried harder...

As we have seen in the wake of Theresa May's Florence speech and the negotiations in Brussels, although some things may be getting slightly less muddled others are becoming or remaining disturbingly foggy.

A large part of our work at The People's Challenge is to research, clarify and inform people about their existing rights and how they affected by Brexit. The debate had by politicians and the public alike has been unable to answer some of the important questions about withdrawal from the EU and, as Susie Alegre points out in a post on the Doughty Street Chambers blog, talking about right to remain barely scratches the surface of the issues that concern UK citizens' rights.

For example, these UK citizens may own property in EU27 countries but not necessarily reside there, they may operate a business in part or entirely in the EU or they may have, or planned to, retire in the EU to make their pensions go further.

For convenience we've reproduced Susie's post here:

The latest round of negotiations on Brexit ended this week in Brussels with mixed reviews.

Citizens’ Rights is one of the three key areas on which the EU insists sufficient progress must be made in the withdrawal negotiations before it will begin to talk about any future relationship between the EU and the UK.  So far, it seems unlikely that the EU will accept that enough progress has been made in this area at the European Council in October and the latest technical note highlights some key areas of disagreement.  

But while there have been numerous reports on the UK proposals on EU 27 citizens’ rights in the UK post Brexit, organisations like the People’s Challenge raise concerns that there has been very little attention given to the impact on British EU citizens, wherever they may live, who look set to lose the EU citizenship they have built their lives around.

The British Government is meant to be representing the interests of British citizens in the Brexit process, but recent statements raise serious questions about their ability to understand and represent the position of British people concerned about losing their EU citizenship and all that entails.

Last Friday Theresa May said, in her Florence speech that “… throughout its membership, the United Kingdom has never totally felt at home being in the European Union.” And Boris Johnson, in his Telegraph article the previous week said: “I look at so many young people with the 12 stars lipsticked on their faces and I am troubled with the thought that people are beginning to have genuinely split allegiances.”

For many, these statements do not reflect the way they feel about being both British and European – so where can we find policy makers that can and will stand up for our rights?

Guy Verhofstadt, the lead European Parliament negotiator on Brexit gave a speech at the LSE yesterday where he spoke passionately about EU citizenship saying: “British citizens will lose their EU citizenship… millions want to keep it… this is the proof that we have to take it into account and proof that the European project is about much more than single market and common currency…

the essence [of the European project] is understanding inside Europe that identities are not simple, not straightforward, that you cannot do politics in categorising identities – there are as many identities as there are people…..

Accusing people of split allegiance is reactionary and reductionist - beware of politicians who want to define your identity. People define themselves how British and how European they feel.”

But while his statements on EU citizenship and related rights are encouraging, his analysis that the EU proposals maintain the existing situation in relation to rights is not borne out in the negotiating documents.

The technical note highlights two key areas of importance to British EU citizens where the EU is not offering a continuation of the status quo:

-Further free movement rights - the EU position is that “UK nationals in scope of withdrawal agreement only have protected rights in the state(s) in which they have residence rights on exit day, without prejudice to Social Security rights. Conditions for return as provided under EU law….” The UK position is that all UK nationals in the scope of the agreement should retain existing rights to move between EU 27 countries.

-Voting rights – the EU position is that “Member states are free to give voting rights to third country nationals regardless of the withdrawal agreement.” This will mean different practices in different countries.  The UK position is to protect existing rights in the withdrawal agreement.

These two issues are the essence of EU citizenship for British people who cherish and rely on both their British and European identities.  This should not be an issue of “us against them” in the negotiations.  

As Guy Verhofstadt made clear, MEPs have a duty to defend citizens’ rights, whatever their nationality, and for the time being MEPs represent British citizens both in the UK and those currently residing in the EU 27.  He says that “we are fighting for EU citizenship as a translation of what it means to belong in Europe…. European Citizenship is not a by-product of nationality, because you are by accident born in an EU Member State…” The European Parliament needs to make sure that this principle is not forgotten by other EU institutions in the negotiations on Brexit.

At the moment, whether or not a British citizen will be able to retain EU citizenship following Brexit depends on a number of accidents – whether you, a parent, grandparent or spouse happened to be born in another EU Member State; whether you happen to be currently residing in an EU Member State; and how the EU Member State you happen to be connected with manages its rules on naturalisation and dual nationality.
None of these factors has anything to do with how “European” a person may feel and none of them fit with the concept of European Citizenship and multiple layers of identity that Guy Verhofstadt is talking about.

Some MEPs, including Guy Verhofstadt, have shown that they understand the importance of EU citizenship to many British citizens and have made proposals around associate citizenship in an attempt to grapple with the issues but so far this has not been recognised in the EU negotiating position. Although not directly involved in the negotiations, the European Parliament will ultimately have to consent to the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the EU and the UK.  But the issues involved are too complex to leave to the blunt instrument of a potential veto from the European Parliament.

The EU and its Member States need to recognise that the issue of UK citizens’ futures in the EU post-Brexit is not just a question of a quid pro quo with the UK Government – rather, the way the EU treats its British citizens and their rights in the Brexit process is a test of its commitment to European values and the essence of EU citizenship. With the clock ticking on the Article 50 timetable, it is crucial that issues of EU citizenship and associated rights beyond the simple right to reside take centre stage if the EU is to live up to its values and send a signal about what Europe means for the future.

‘A “new dynamic” had been created by Theresa May’s speech in Florence last week, Michel Barnier said during a press conference with the Brexit secretary, David Davis.

Both parties agreed that progress had been made, especially on the issue of citizens’ rights, but it became clear from comments in Brussels and elsewhere that outstanding issues remained.’

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Update 33

Grahame Pigney

Sept. 14, 2017

What are they up to now...? Guess!

The People's Challenge on GoFundMe

You cannot be serious, man!

You may not have been able to listen to the Commons debate on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill last Thursday and Monday.

The speeches are available online. Some of them esp. Kier Starmer, Ken Clarke and Hilary Benn are really worth hearing.

The Government is seeking powers (“Henry VIII powers”) well beyond those it really needs, as a number of Honourable Members explained.

If the Bill granting those powers is passed, the Government could make other moves far beyond those necessary to leave the EU.

The Government could even use these powers to change the terms of the Withdrawal Bill itself without referring to Parliament. And let’s not forget that today’s Government could be gone tomorrow, so personal assurances by current incumbents about "come and see me" are worth absolutely nothing.

David Davis wants these "Henry VIII" powers to act without going back to Parliament again. They are supposedly to allow him, as Secretary of State, not only to “fill in the gaps” that are a consequence of the complex process of leaving the EU but also to make changes “wherever necessary”.

And why are they seeking powers of this enormous scope? Because the Government does not have a clue about what those gaps may be and what will be necessary.

Or do they want these powers in order to turn the UK into a low taxation, low regulation "Singapore off the coast of the EU"?

Theresa May has been committed to “Brexit is Brexit” since June 2016. As of September 2017, it is “clear” (a favourite word of hers) that neither she nor her ministers know the extent of what needs to be done.

And so the Secretary of State wants to be granted the power to do “whatever is necessary” (i.e. whatever TM and her Government haven’t yet got a clue about) without parliamentary scrutiny.

“We don’t know what we’re doing, but let us do it unsupervised anyway”.

How is this the UK’s Sovereign Parliament “Taking Back Control”? The Government is seeking to reserve powers to a Cabinet Minister, not to Parliament!

As we and our co-litigants successfully insisted over the triggering of Article 50: as we are doing this, we must do it properly, with our Sovereign Parliament in control.

We must not let Parliament be bypassed – whatever your political standpoint, giving a Government unfettered control is retrograde, undemocratic and very dangerous to boot!

Parliament has voted to approve the second reading, which means there will next be a committee stage before it comes back to Parliament.

This is the opportunity for the bill to be closely examined, for the Government to be closely questioned about why such wide-ranging powers should be necessary and how their use would be limited, aside from the “personal assurance” nonsense (see above) being bandied about in the House during the debate.

And just one more thing: accession to the EU, and treaties amending the EU (Maastricht, Lisbon etc.), were debated in the House for around 20 days. The government proposes that the incredibly important and complex issue of leaving the EU, which they themselves manifestly don’t understand, be allocated just 8 days for debate.

I suggest to you that the Government doesn’t learn from its past mistakes, a very worrying thing in itself. I believe it is in bulldozer mode again, seeking to push this measure through before MPs and their constituents (i.e. the British people) have had a proper opportunity to consider the ramifications and engage in the debate.

Please contact your MP and leave him/her in no doubt of your opinion about this attempted power grab, and the reasons behind it. Parliamentary democracy is hugely important and must not be given away, especially into such ignorant and irresponsible hands.

Please also consider supporting The People's Challenge on GoFundMe

Update 32

Grahame Pigney

Sept. 11, 2017

"Well, frankly the Government can say whatever it wants, it doesn't make it true."

"Well, frankly the Government can say whatever it wants, it doesn't make it true."

Here Tahmid Chowdhury of The People's Challenge talks to RT about the Repeal Bill, Henry VIII powers and Fundamental Rights.

Please consider supporting The People's Challenge on GoFundMe

The Government has produced a Bill that Dominic Grieve described as "a monstrosity of a Bill", Sir Ken Clarke was equally unimpressed with the bill saying that assurances would just not cut it anymore!

Labour was just as scathing, Sir Keir Starmer spent a considerable amount of time lampooning David Davis, tearing great big holes in the Bill and reminding him that he had triggered a by-election over less controversial material.

Update 31

Grahame Pigney

Sept. 9, 2017

The Perfect Storm

We’ve probably all heard of The Perfect Storm. Apart from anything else, it’s a good film based on true events.

It seems the current political situation in the UK might be considered to be a perfect storm. Hmm.

A perfect storm is a naturally-occurring rare combination of circumstances which will aggravate a situation drastically. Classically, there are three elements:

  • hotter air – there’s certainly plenty of that; 
  • cooler air – plenty of that too, although most seems to be abroad; 
  • humidity – there's hardly a dry seat in the house;

Can the UK’s current political situation be considered natural? I don’t think so. It’s the product of cynical manipulation by various self-seeking factions, all of which rate their own ends far more highly than the best interest of the UK.

But there are certainly three very important elements in it which have now come together, whether by accident or by design:

  • Brexit; 
  • The government’s attempted grab of “Henry VIII powers”; 
  • The flagrant disregard of human rights issues inherent in the Brexit situation.

The government is apparently determined to deliver Brexit on “her” own terms, because “the people have spoken”.

The type of Brexit was not part of the question that people were asked in the referendum, so the referendum result can’t be claimed to be a mandate to exit the EU with or without a deal of whatever kind.

The ramifications of leaving the EU are still far from clear, either to us or to the politicians, who are the only ones naïve enough to have allowed themselves to be left with this poisoned chalice.

The government tried to bulldoze its way through to triggering Article 50, but the UK people and the UK courts reined it in. It is now attempting to grab “Henry VIII powers” which would allow it to act without further reference to Parliament.  Again, it must be reined in, and the people of the UK must show Parliament that it has their support to act in the best interest of the country.

This particularly involves MPs abiding by the oath they swore before taking their seats, and not being browbeaten by their party establishment into acting against the interests of their country, their constituents and/or their personal beliefs.

In the EU, many citizens have chosen to move to another EU country, whether temporarily or permanently, to live and work. Some have, perhaps for career reasons, moved round a lot.

 All have relied on their status as not only a national of their own country, but also as an EU citizen, to do this with minimal difficulty. This has been the norm for over 40 years. Their rights to have their situation protected (as a “result” of a referendum in which many of them were refused the right to vote) are being given very little attention.

UK citizens resident in the UK with little desire to go elsewhere except on holiday are also affected…

The UK is heavily reliant on EU citizens to work in UK healthcare, and to harvest, process and serve food in the UK. As I have said elsewhere, UK citizens need other EU citizens to feed them, and to care for them when they’re being born, ill or dying, and it doesn’t get more fundamental than that. Freedom of movement is just the tip of the iceberg…

So, is this the perfect storm?

More like the perfectly dreadful storm! Setting the UK back half a century in its pursuit of a more modern and civilised way to co-exist and work together.

In fact, it’s probably a self-inflicted nuclear winter, where social, political and economic “progress” have all gone into reverse.

A perfect storm is a naturally occurring phenomenon. We can do little or nothing about it.

The current situation in the UK is far from that. 

We can influence what happens, we can stop bigotry and idiocy driving us towards a very bad outcome for the UK, especially if this crazy “no deal is better than a bad deal” idea persists.

Nothing, nothing about the current situation is absolutely inevitable. We can change things for the better if we work together. 

Current weather news shows us how bad storm damage can be. We also see that storms don’t always come one at a time, one hurricane may hide another… or several.

Update 30

Grahame Pigney

Sept. 4, 2017

Once more unto the breach dear friends...

The People’s Challenge is a unique organisation. Formed to ensure ordinary people’s fundamental rights were considered by the courts during the Miller Article 50 litigation, we are now fundraising to continue our active campaign to protect fundamental rights and promote parliamentary accountability during the critical months ahead.

We have already played a decisive role in legal battles and Parliamentary debates. We were active parties in the Miller case, thanks to one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns ever for a legal claim. We began by forcing the Government to publish its ‘secret defence’, and made key submissions to the courts with detailed information about what was at stake including our analysis of  fundamental citizenship rights

When the case was won, we ensured parliamentarians were briefed throughout the passage of the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, using documents like Parliamentary sovereignty worth fighting for and Seven Reasons to Stand up for Parliament’s Sovereignty. We also suggested amendments.

We then published our‘Gold Card’ guide to the UK citizens’ fundamental rights at risk.

Next, we commissioned the Three Knights Opinion,  in which some of the UK’s finest legal minds confirmed that the Article 50 notice is revocable and that further Parliamentary involvement is mandatory before there can be a lawful withdrawal from the EU.

Most recently, we published a detailed but accessible guide to this and other ‘legal milestones’ on the road to Brexit.

We are a small but very active group, supported by Bindmans LLP and Monckton, Matrix and Brick Court lawyers, who work for us at rates far lower than the Government’s advisors charge them.

Nevertheless, our crowd-funded war chest to pay for our lawyers’ work is now empty, and we as individuals can’t continue to fund our time and work entirely ourselves. 

As before, legal and non-legal work will be needed on the road ahead.

CrowdJustice can only be used to fund legal work, i.e. the active involvement of legal professionals. Thanks to our terrific supporters, our CrowdJustice campaign was one of the most successful ever for a legal claim, so of course we’ll be continuing with them for the legal funding. Rest assured you’ll be hearing from us again when that happens!

But we need to ensure that The People’s Challenge remains an effective champion of its supporters and ordinary people in general – people just like you and us.

The individuals of The People's Challenge have funded the organisation and administration of the campaign since July 2016. We need to continue to work and direct the preparations needed for legal and parliamentary initiatives in the near future, and we need support in order to do it.

Without organisers there can be no effective campaign, without a client there can be no legal/judicial challenge. We need a second stream of funding for the non-legal work.

We have therefore set up The People's Challenge Ltd as a not-for-profit organisation, which will provide equivalent standards of regulatory compliance and governance. Transparency about the money we raise and how it’s used is very important to us, as you probably know.

 We are now launching a GoFundMe appeal for this second stream of funding so that we can continue the work over the coming months, we hope you'll support us!

Now more than ever, an independent, non party-political voice must be heard on behalf of ordinary people. Now more than ever, we must ensure that where appropriate, legal challenges are brought and the executive is not allowed to ride roughshod over the public and Parliament. Marches show that people care, but can’t be relied upon to keep the executive within the law.

We will use the money raised to: 

  • hold a series of meetings with legal professionals and others to identify how we can most effectively act in the future as the UK/EU negotiations proceed and the EU Withdrawal Bill (aka the Repeal Bill) passes through parliament;


  • extend the work we do with other organisations;

  • with the help of our legal team, produce further briefings for the public, parliamentarians and campaign organisations on the threats to fundamental citizenship rights and/or parliamentary sovereignty;

  • make modest recompense for the time and effort expended by individuals on The People’s Challenge Ltd and cover the cost of the website, phone calls, mailings, travel, meetings...  

We need your support for these essential activities - activities that any effective campaigning organisation must undertake. Without your continued backing, we can’t continue helping to give ordinary people a voice.

We aim to help people and parliamentarians see what's going on, better understand what they are, or aren't, being told, evaluate it, and decide what would constitute the best outcome for the UK.

We are working for the outcome that's best for the future of the UK: an outcome in the national interest, which protects everyone's fundamental citizenship rights; an outcome that ensures that Parliament and not the executive is sovereign.

That’s the only stance we take.

If you care about the fundamental rights that Brexit puts in jeopardy, and the need for Parliament to safeguard them effectively, please send us a donation so we can maintain our campaign and continue to stand up for you. 

Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd

Update 29

Grahame Pigney

July 3, 2017

The fog separating the UK from the EU seems to be thickening

The fog separating the UK from the EU seems to be thickening, at least when viewed from the UK.

But that might be because the fog that has covered the UK since last year’s referendum vote has thickened significantly since Theresa May’s election “victory”.

From outside the UK's self-generated fogbank things are a lot clearer.

The EU has produced, and agreed with the UK, a timetable for the initial negotiations and published position papers on:

  1. Essential principles on citizenship rights (published 29th May, sent to the UK 12th June);
  2. Essential principles on the financial settlement (published 29th May, sent to the UK 12th June);
  3. Nuclear materials and safeguard equipment (published 23rd June).

The EU has published various other documents which can be found here on its Article 50 negotiations web page.

The EU has also started the process of deciding where to move the EU agencies (European Medicines Agency, European Banking Authority) currently based in the UK.

The UK has now published the first of its policy papers, proposals for dealing with the so called "settled status" for EU27 citizens resident in the UK.

The UK’s proposals fall far short of those published by the EU on 29th May and the UK’s policy document only mentions in passing the need to protect the rights of UK citizens whether living in EU27 countries or living in the UK. Like the “Great Repeal Bill” white paper published in March the UK’s proposals are at best vague

However, both the UK and the EU proposals only deal with UK citizens resident in the EU27 countries and EU27 citizens resident in the UK. Both these scenarios fall far short of addressing the full range of issues affecting UK citizens and EU27 citizens.

All in all, the only fog and confusion apparent from the EU27 countries starts at the White Cliffs of Dover, and is generated by wondering what is going on in the UK.

Looking further ahead, we can see other events which will help shape the direction of the Art. 50 negotiations or provide indicators to the progress and possible outcome.

September, October and November of this year will be particularly rich in these events. Apart from the 3rd (September) and 4th (October) rounds of the initial negotiations there are also:

  1. German federal elections – September
  2. Party conferences in the UK – September & October
  3. The UK’s budget – November

By then we should also know far more about the European Communities Act 1972 repeal bill and the 7 others which will be needed to give effect to the UK leaving the EU. That should also give some clarity to what sort of future the government is intending once the UK leaves the EU and also just how many powers the government intends to reserve to itself rather than leave to parliament.

We don’t yet know what the negotiating timetable will be in 2018, apart from the notional date for completion at the end of September 2018, leaving 6 months to get the necessary parliamentary (UK, EU and EU27) approvals.

We know that there will be a general election in Italy somewhere between March and May 2018, which will provide a further pointer to the direction politics in Europe is going.

By the end of March 2018 the UK’s Parliament will have to make a decision on whether to notify the European Economic Area of its intention to leave.

There are also a number of legal milestones between now and 00:00 30th March 2019. Some of these coincide with those mentioned above; others are more about particular sets of circumstances.

The People’s Challenge, or rather its legal team, has produced a guide to the Legal Milestones on the road to Brexit.

Some of these are points at which legal challenges to the process of leaving the EU or EEA could be mounted, all are points at which we need to check what has been done and how it has been done.

The current government has already shown a propensity to grab for its own use powers that, in a parliamentary democracy, are more properly exercised by parliament.

The two main political parties share a (deliberately?) confusing, and confused, position on what leaving the EU actually means.

We, the people of the UK, and our parliamentary representatives, need clarity.

All the issues and options need to be subject to full, reasoned, public and parliamentary debate, followed by a free vote in parliament.

As a way of determining the future of the UK, this is infinitely preferable to a decision based on the limited options presented by one (or even both) of the UK’s two main political parties.

Update 28

Grahame Pigney

June 23, 2017

Second People's Challenge Q and A on costs

Update on the Second People’s Challenge – Q and A on costs

We will shortly be publishing the last piece of work planned for the Second People’s Challenge –our concise ‘Legal Milestones Guide’ which identifies the scope for future challenges to the lack of Parliamentary accountability in the Brexit process and the stripping away of individual rights. 

Meanwhile, however, we want to summarise what was done with the money you generously contributed. 

How much money was raised via CrowdJustice for the Second People’s Challenge?

£96,406 was pledged by 2797 people. Once CrowdJustice’s and credit card transaction fees were deducted, that left £88,062.18. 

What work was done with this money? 

First, we took stock of the Supreme Court’s judgment in Miller.

Then our legal team had discussions with, and briefed, MPs from all major parties who were interested in pressing for parliamentary control to be embedded in the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill which the judgment had made necessary.  

We also prepared a plain English guide to the EU citizenship rights at stake in the negotiations - rights which cannot be preserved by the Great Repeal Bill – and sent this to all MPs. This builds on the more technical Annex document prepared for the Supreme Court. 

Our legal team then drafted a House of Commons amendment which was tabled, albeit in a revised form, as NC99. A similar amendment, NC110, went to a vote and attracted significant support including from Tory rebels. 

Though neither amendment was passed, the political support for them in the Commons was important when the Bill reached the House of Lords. 

Next our team liaised with peers ahead of the First Reading, prepared discussion notes and briefings for key peers and then for all peers for the Committee stage from Monday 27 February to 1 March 2018. The amendments we pressed for were passed by the Lords so the Bill was returned to the Commons where, regrettably, they were overturned and the Lords then passed the Bill unamended. 

Despite this, Parliament still can have a greater future role than the Government might like – if it chooses to embrace it. That was the conclusion of the Three Knights Opinion which we commissioned, published and sent to every peer and MP along with our plain English guide to the fundamental rights that are so important in the ongoing negotiations. 

Most importantly, the Three Knights Opinion says that notifying intention to withdraw is one thing, but Parliament must authorise actual withdrawal at a later date because “only Parliament that can give legal effect to the removal or conferral of individual rights that necessarily follow from that decision”.

Authorisation must await any proposed deal because “meaningful Parliamentary decision-making cannot be achieved by Parliament authorising exit from the European Union, two years in advance, on as yet unknown terms”. And there must be another Act as “resolutions… cannot change domestic law, nor amend or abrogate existing rights”. Suppose Parliament rejects the negotiated deal or there is none - at that point there will be “very strong arguments” that the Article 50 notification could be withdrawn. 

The Opinion has had attention in the press, legal blogs and, most importantly in the Lords where it was mentioned by several peers. It is intended to be authoritative, but ultimately any dispute would need to be referred to the UK and EU courts for a ruling. Whether that will be needed remains to be seen. So far, Parliamentarians have supported the Government’s withdrawal plans. But if minds change when the deal becomes clearer, the Opinion could well guide them towards making Parliamentary Sovereignty count when it will matter most.   

The final task for the legal team – for now, at least – has been working on the ‘Legal Milestones Guide’ mentioned above. 

Last, we made our presence felt at the Saturday 25th March Unite for Europe March.

We (Chris, Grahame, Rob and Tahmid) have also liaised and formed links with other like-minded organisations. We worked closely with a number of these groups during the recent general election campaign as part of the effort to encourage those groups that feel as if they are ignored (disenfranchised if you will) to make sure that their voice was heard in the campaign and their vote counted at the ballot box.

We have established The People’s Challenge as a limited company so that we can pursue other means of action and funding outside those supported by Crowd Justice which are confined to legal/judicial issues.

How much has been spent on particular things to progress the Second People’s Challenge? 

Once all cheques have cleared, we will have paid out: 

  • barristers’ fees of £42,854.98 inclusive of VAT;

  • solicitor’s fees of £40,778.30 inclusive of VAT; and

  • other costs to progress the case – postage, travel and subsistence to enable attendance at key meetings and events - £4,428.90 inclusive of VAT.  

Will there be any money left over? 

No. In fact, the cost of the lawyers’ work exceeded the sum we raised through CrowdJustice by £41,707.44. The three core members of our legal team - Helen Mountfield QC, Gerry Facenna QC and John Halford of Bindmans - have once again very generously agreed to discount this sum between them. 

Update 27

Grahame Pigney

June 22, 2017

So what have we learnt about the UK from the talks in Brussels and the Queen's Speech?

So what have we learnt about the UK from the talks in Brussels and the Queen’s Speech?

To be frank, very little, and there is a very good reason for that – the cynical and self-serving election that Theresa May called backfired.

It didn’t deliver Theresa May a landslide victory; it was more like a sandcastle being undermined by the incoming tide.

Theresa May wanted to wipe out any parliamentary opposition, whether from within her own party or anywhere else.

She wanted to grab an open-ended mandate so that she could go off to Brussels (didn’t Theresa May say she was going to lead the negotiations?) and say to the EU “My country has given Me a mandate to do what I like”. Instead David Davis was packed off to Brussels to exchange gifts, shake hands and have lunch.

Why did this happen?

A monumental misjudgement on the part of Theresa May is the fundamental point. A misjudgement not just on one issue but on several issues:

  1. Strength of feeling among younger voters, the minorities, those who felt they were being ignored;
  2. Running a campaign based on personality when she did not have the personality to pull it off;
  3. Assuming that the referendum vote and this general election was all about the EU and nothing about the dysfunctional state of the UK;
  4. She took for granted her strongest supporters and loaded up her manifesto with measures that would hit them and their children;
  5. Last but not least, Theresa May misjudged her opponents.

The election was supposed to be all about Brexit and in fact there was very little debate about Brexit, except during Theresa May’s “Strong and Stable” phase.

We have a hung parliament with both major parties maintaining the meaningless position that the UK is going to leave the EU.

I say meaningless because we still don’t know what we are leaving the EU for. The major parties have conflicted and conflicting positions – “Jobs and Prosperity First”, “Leave the Single Market, Customs Union”, “Remain in the Single Market, Customs Union”. The permutations are endless and are spoken with equal conviction, i.e. none, by politicians no matter whether they wear a Red or a Blue rosette.

So almost exactly one year on from the referendum we still don’t know what the major parties intend for the UK post Brexit and substantive negotiations have still not started between the UK and the EU.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, we have a Prime Minister whose judgement is suspect to say the least and it seems that her negotiating skills are not up to much either.

Perhaps we will get some clarification during the debate on the Queen’s Speech.

It is more likely that we will see the two main parties competing to see which can give the most obscure redefinition of “Brexit means Brexit”.

Update 26

Grahame Pigney

June 20, 2017

So much for the "row of the summer".

As widely predicted yesterday's meeting between the EU Chief Art. 50 negotiator Michel Barnier and the UK's David Davis was largely symbolic.

They had lunch and agreed the negotiating programme that covers the next 4 months that the EU had set out.

David Davis's much vaunted "row of the summer" over whether exit talks and trade talks were going to be held in parallel or sequentially didn't materialise, they will happen sequentially as the EU proposed.

We now have to wait until the 17th July for the first substantive round of UK/EU negotiations.

In the meanwhile The People's Challenge will finish its own roadmap of what is likely between now and 00:00 30th March 2019.

We have been working on identifying the legal, judicial, and political events and questions which will shape the coming months as the UK and the EU seek to unravel 44 years of mutual agreements.

Once we know what is in the Queen's Speech and, what parliament approves, we will publish this roadmap.



Update 25

Grahame Pigney

June 18, 2017

And so the dance begins

So, against a background of increasingly confused and confusing stories coming from Westminster, these Brexit “negotiations” are about to “start”.

I use quotes because the agenda for Monday is very reminiscent of something which might be referred to as “flannel”. Lots of talking under vague terms like “working groups” and “Meeting of coordinators”. I get that the dog has to see the rabbit, but still there doesn’t appear to be a single session focused on any particular issue.

This is disappointing, but of course not surprising. Unlike the EU (see here and here for the EU’s position papers) the Govt has not presented its position or policy to Parliament (or anyone else for that matter). It would appear the Govt doesn’t know which way is up following Theresa May’s monumental cock-up in the election.

Currently the only person in the UK who (possibly) knows what will be going on in Brussels is the PM. Parliament has not been presented with the Govt plans for the negotiations, so it’s no longer “no running commentary”, it’s “we’re gonna go and do whatever”.

Again, “no running commentary” is not surprising. It is in the best interest of the PM that the humiliation the Govt is likely to suffer at the negotiating table remains a private one.

If only it wasn’t just Michel Barnier who had committed to open and transparent negotiations…

Update 24

Grahame Pigney

June 11, 2017

MPs say “Drop hard Brexit plans” – this is when the Three Knights Opinion really counts

It’s been 5 months since the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the People’s Challenge – confirming that Brexit was a Parliamentary and not a Royal Prerogative decision. It’s worth noting that this decision was made by a UK court, composed of UK judges, according to UK law.

Following that, the People’s Challenge commissioned the “Three Knights Opinion“. This provided convincing and authoritative evidence that the UK’s Parliament has the opportunity, and indeed the obligation, once the outcome of the Article 50 negotiations is known, to make the decision about which of all the possible options is in the best interest of the UK and its people.

The necessity for this decision, one that obviously has to be made independent of party political interests, has been thrown into sharp relief by the outcome of this general election (June 2017) called by an autocratic and out-of-touch Prime Minister.

Former Tory cabinet minister Stephen Dorrell, said in today’s Guardian:

“At the beginning of the general election campaign, Theresa May said she was seeking a mandate to negotiate her sort of Brexit; the result denies her that mandate.”

He added: “The prime minister’s version of Brexit was set out in the Conservative election manifesto; it said that sovereignty was a red line, and concluded that Britain must withdraw from both the single market and the customs union. In doing so, it threatened our economic interests, and funding for our public services.”

“At a time when many families have seen no improvement in their living standards for more than a decade, and public services are grappling with rising demand and squeezed budgets, voters concluded that these priorities were simply perverse and refused to endorse them.”

“That will require parliamentarians to maintain an open mind; they will need to question the negotiating mandate developed by ministers and they will need to make it clear to ministers that they cannot take support for granted at the end of the negotiating process.“

“Most importantly, despite anything the prime minister may say, it is essential that parliament maintains for itself the option of voting for Britain to remain a member of the EU if it becomes clear that this is the best way to secure Britain’s national interest.”

Source: ‘Drop hard Brexit plans’, leading Tory and Labour MPs tell May | Politics | The Guardian

Update 23

Grahame Pigney

April 15, 2017

The People's Challenge – Thank you and a brief moment to draw breath.

We have achieved very nearly all we aimed for during The Second People’s Challenge. This has only been possible because of your support. Thank you for the time, effort and money you have given us.

We collectively must not forget just what we have achieved together and how it all works towards our being able to protect people’s EU citizenship rights and the Sovereignty of the UK’s Parliament.

  1. We have challenged the Govt. over its intention to use Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50 and we won in the Divisional Court and the Supreme Court.
  2. Whilst doing this we also successfully challenged the Government over its demand to keep its and others’ arguments secret.
  3. In challenging the Govt. on its right to use the Royal Prerogative, we established an important Constitutional point - only the UK's Sovereign Parliament can remove or restrict fundamental citizenship rights, and to do so it must pass primary legislation.
  4. We developed this by commissioning the Three Knights Opinion. This opinion sets out clearly and authoritatively that the UK's Parliament must decide, through an Act of Parliament, what happens at the end of the Article 50 negotiations, and that the options include deciding to Remain in the EU.
  5. The Second Challenge was to convince Parliament to add this to the face of the EU (Now) Bill. We were able to convince the HoL to pass an amendment to the Bill. Unfortunately we did not convince enough MPs to keep that amendment in the Bill.

The Three Knights Opinion remains in place and we are ready to mount a challenge if the Government attempts to force the results of the negotiations through without a meaningful vote on what is the best among all the available options for the UK.

We will also monitor the powers the Government intends to use to implement the “Great Repeal Bill”. The Government cannot be allowed to side-line Parliament on the scrutiny and implementation of legislation for any eventual decision in favour of the UK leaving the EU.

At the moment we are extending our partnerships with other organisations and establishing The People’s Challenge as a Community Interest Company. These two moves will help us to continue the work we are doing and raise funds from sources in addition to our direct supporters.

Once again, thank you for all your support.

Chris, Fergal, Grahame, Paul, Rob and Tahmid

Update 22

Grahame Pigney

March 31, 2017

What's next?

In our last two updates we discussed the ongoing challenge to democratic accountability and individual rights presented by the Brexit process and the Government’s tactics.

But what are we going to do about it?  

The work we planned for the Second People’s Challenge campaign is almost concluded. The most important outstanding task is to produce a concise guide to the anticipated battles ahead over the next two years and the opportunities each presents for legal and other action to be taken by concerned citizens like us and our supporters. The Great Repeal Bill, foreshadowed by today’s White Paper is one example, but there are many others.

Besides planning this ‘battles ahead’ guide, we have been:

  • considering whether we might make a helpful intervention, based on the Three Knights Opinion, in Jolyon Maugham QC’s Dublin case on revocability of an Article 50 notice;
  • liaising with other organisations like Liberty, 89UP, the3million and Open Britain to identify opportunities for working together effectively;
  • investigating how practical help might be given to the tens of thousands of EU nationals struggling with the bureaucratic process surrounding applications for residence and what opportunities there may be for strategic litigation; and
  • looking into incorporating the People’s Challenge to make fundraising from different sources easier in future.

The funds we have raised so far have been exhausted by the work immediately following the Supreme Court judgment, briefing and liaising with MPs and peers at multiple stages of the parliamentary process of the EU (Notification of Withdrawal Bill), producing, publishing and distributing our plain English guide to rights under threat and, critically, the Three Knights Opinion.

Given this, and the fact we extended our commitments, we would greatly appreciate one more small donation from each of our supporters towards the current CrowdJustice fundraising campaign. This will help close the gap between the funds raised to date and our £100,000 stretch target, so our legal team can be properly paid once all other expenses are covered. The campaign was to close today but we are extending it for 14 days to help with the additional fundraising needed. 

We will keep our supporters informed of what we’re up to after the current campaign closes and the ‘battles ahead’ guide is posted. We are very grateful for your support so far – financial and otherwise. 

Update 21

Grahame Pigney

March 29, 2017

Article 50 notification - Time to hold people to their promises

Today, Theresa May has given notice under article 50 that the UK intends to leave the EU.

A leaked resolution by the European Parliament has come to light, detailing its position on Brexit negotiations. The red lines in this resolution will have to be respected by the UK if we are to have an exit deal. 

As the Government has finally admitted, “no deal” would be bad for the UK.

The balance in these negotiations is already tipped so far in favour of the EU that a positive outcome for the UK will be dependent on the goodwill of the EU -  not the skill and judgement of the PM or her negotiators.

This is a “high point” in a divisive premiership. There has been a disastrous run-up to negotiations. 

Theresa May and the Brexiters have so antagonised the EU and its members that now the UK is triggering a set of negotiations so unbalanced they will make schizophrenics look positively focused. 

At the conclusion of these negotiations, Theresa May will try to force Parliament's hand to choose between two options: her way or the highway.

She is calling now for unity behind a common cause. What she wants is our support for her cause, a cause that maintains support for her among the UKIP wing of the Conservative Party and the right wing press.

She is not seeking support for a common cause.

The common cause should be and must be the cause that is in the best interests of the whole UK and all its citizens.

With your support in all its forms, the People's Challenge has already upheld Parliamentary Sovereignty and will continue to do so, taking the case back to court if necessary.

The “Three Knights Opinion” has given us the material to mount this case, if we have to. We think we will probably have to. Given the story so far, it's hard to believe otherwise.

We believe that ordinary people like us will help defend our fundamental citizenship rights and the UK's Parliamentary Sovereignty.

At the conclusion of these negotiations, Parliament will decide what is inthe best interest of the UK and its people. It will choose what is best for the UK from all the options available.

It is not a “deal/no deal” choice. The expert legal opinion of the “Three Knights” says so.

With your help, we will quench the fires of rabid Brexiters, enabling cooler, calmer heads to prevail.

Update 20

Grahame Pigney

March 27, 2017

The People's Challenge - The next phase begins

The weekend's march in London was a resounding success. Over 100,000 people participated, more than in any other event in Europe, on the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. 

Excellent speeches were made by people from across the political spectrum, and the age spectrum too, criticising the Prime Minister's policies and attitudes, as well as her shocking disregard for anybody and anything she doesn't agree with.

The march demonstrated the incompatibility of the Prime Minister's hard Brexit objective with the views, opinions and values of those the 100,000+ present, as well as the many others they represented who couldn't be there in person (some placards listed the names of absent supporters).

It is increasingly apparent that the PM only cares about the will of "her" people as she struggles to impose her will on those who do not agree.

An example is her insistence that the UK only has two choices: leave with a deal or leave without one. Many disagree with her "Deal/No Deal" strategy, and for good reason.

The People's Challenge commissioned the most authoritative legal opinion on the subject of article 50 and British Parliamentary Sovereignty, the "Three Knights Opinion". This authoritative document, the product of some of the finest legal minds in the country, has given us the tools to uphold our system of representative democracy and our Parliament's Sovereignty.

Notification of withdrawal will shortly be given to the EU and they will respond in June, thereafter negotiations will take place. At the conclusion of these negotiations we will be able to see whether the Brexiters assertions have been realised, the deal will be put before Parliament for approval.

Despite all Theresa May's assertions, Parliament will do what it will with the deal: accept it, send the PM back to the negotiating table, reject it and fall out of the EU, or alternatively, withdraw notification for want of an acceptable deal. Parliament will decide what is in the best interest of the UK and all its peoples and nations.

If necessary, the People's Challenge will take legal action, as it has already done. The Government will be held to account and MPs will be encouraged and supported in the process of deciding what is in the best interests of ALL the nations and citizens of the UK.

Many MPs are already stepping forward to take a stand against the rhetoric and abuse directed at them - abuse that is aided and abetted even by some senior Government figures.

What we must do to ensure the continued functioning of our democracy is threefold:

First, we must help support our MPs in the face of vitriolic abuse and threats by hardcore Brexiters and others who are prepared to cut a deal with the devil and destroy our democracy in order to get what they want.

Secondly, we must help to uphold the rule of law, a fundamental cog in the wheel which moves all democratic and safe societies, going to the UK courts if necessary.

Thirdly, we must protect EU citizenship rights. Lives and futures have been planned and built based on these rights: therefore any modification of them must be very carefully thought through and executed if we are to live in a just and humane society.

Update 19

Grahame Pigney

March 26, 2017

March 25th - 100,000+ say Stop The Silence and Unite For Europe

The People's Challenge is delighted to report (particularly when the BBC among others is not) that the Unite For Europe March yesterday was fantastic. 

Police estimate that over 100,000 people attended and it generally went without a hitch.

Some great speeches were made and a great sense of polite and controlled discontent was expressed regarding the Prime Minister's stance on Brexit, EU citizens rights, pending austerity, etc.

The People's Challenge is leaving its Crowdjustice page open. There is work still to be done to contact movers and shakers both in the UK and in the EU, as well as preparatory work for the next stage of our plan.

More information will follow when details are firmed up.

Update 18

Grahame Pigney

March 24, 2017

March and make our voice heard - March 25th London

Tomorrow's march is going ahead, the organisers (Unite For Europe) have confirmed this, and although European Movement UK have pulled out, all other participants(and several additions) will be present - you can find the text of the Unite for Europe press release here.

Chris Formaggia of The People's Challenge said:

“I am sure that we have all been vexed by the march this weekend in the light of the murders at Westminster.

My initial worry was would it be viewed to be in bad taste and then secondly was it fair to be placing additional burden on the security forces at a time when they are clearly very stretched.

My conclusions are that on balance it is right to continue the march because it is a clear and graphical illustration of how civilised people go about seeking political change and therefore it is the best way that we can honour the memory of those that lost their lives or who were injured.

For this reason I intend to continue to participate.”

Sadiq Khan said at yesterday's vigil in Trafalgar Square: “[The vigil was held]to send a clear, clear, message – Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism”.

This message of course applies to everyone, not just Londoners. We must not let violent thugs take our freedoms - freedom of religion, freedom of politics, freedom to demonstrate... If we stop exercising these and other freedoms as a result of terrorism, then hate and intolerance have already won.

Although it's not genuine in its origin, the now-famous Tube sign says it all:C7kLZp9WsAAFjDF.jpg

Threats to democracy, as always, come from many different directions and we must resist every one of them.

The People's Challenge will meet up with supporters in front of The Dorchester tomorrow from 10:00 onwards.

We look forward to seeing you there! 

Booklet front cover

Update 17

Grahame Pigney

March 15, 2017

It is not about what we have not yet achieved, it is about those things we have achieved – so far.

This update is about reminding you of the things that you’ve helped to achieve.

It can be hard to remember where we all started from, especially when things seem as if they aren’t going our way. So let’s look back on a few “impossibles” we’ve achieved to date.

We obliged the Government to abandon its attempt to keep its arguments secret prior to the Divisional Court case, which the Government then lost.

The crucial element in the winning of the case in the Divisional Court were the arguments we put forward, showing that only Parliament can authorise the removal of fundamental UK citizenship rights.

Not many people thought we could win. But we did win, and thousands of you backed us by contributing to the huge amount of money raised through Crowd Justice.

If we and others hadn’t taken on the government, Theresa May would have triggered Art. 50 when she walked into No 10.

Having won in the Divisional and then the Supreme Court, we knew that was not going to be the end of it, and we had a plan ready to put into action.

Having kicked off research about the revocability/conditionality of Art 50, we commissioned the “ThreeKnights Opinion”, written by 5 experts with impeccable credentials. It is fair to say that the “Three Knights Opinion”, together with the skills and savvy of our legal team, was pivotal in influencing the HoL to support the meaningful vote amendment.

Ultimately, the HoC removed the amendment, BUT they cannot remove the “3 Knights Opinion” – it is there to be used to hold the Government to account, we just have to judge when the time is right to do that.

So we must keep our chins, tails and dander up.

The Government has tried and failed four times to “see us off”, we are still here and we’re not out of ammunition!

The conductor is playing her dissonant symphony for now (see the reports of the Commons Brexit Selecte Committee where David Davis admits that the Gov. has NOT done an economic impact assessment of leaving the EU without a deal).

But we are waiting in the wings, ready to act when the time is right.

If it is necessary and when the time is right we will mount or support a challenge to any attempt by the Government to force the results of the negotiations without a meaningful vote on what is in the best interests of the UK.

The Fat Lady is there with us, under strict instructions that there will be no singing until Parliament has decided what is in the best interests of the UK.

Update 16

Grahame Pigney

March 11, 2017

The decisive moment

On Monday afternoon MPs will debate the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill again. The Government’s aim is to strip away the EU residents’ and parliamentary approval amendments, then return the Bill to the Lords and press there for it to be passed in its original form, unamended. The Prime Minister hopes to give the Article 50 notification soon afterwards, as soon as Tuesday, according to some reports.

We promised to take urgent action to remind MPs of their constitutional and moral responsibilities ahead of the next Commons debate, so that they can decide which way to vote on an informed basis.

We are taking that action.

First, our legal team prepared a fresh briefing, Seven reasons to stand up for Parliament’s sovereignty. It explains that Parliament is being asked to write a ‘blank cheque’, giving ministers power to withdraw the country from the EU, two years from now, on whatever terms ministers agree, or indeed without any agreement at all and that allowing the Government to proceed in this way would be the most serious abdication of parliamentary sovereignty in living memory. The manner and terms on which we withdraw from the EU will have implications for the rights and interests of every citizen and business, for years to come. Parliament must take responsibility for those decisions. The parliamentary approval amendment asserts parliamentary sovereignty and puts it in its proper place - in black and white on the face of the Bill.

Secondly, 650 briefing packs were prepared for containing an introductory cover sheet, the new briefing, the Three Knights Opinion and a professionally printed version of our plain English 'Gold Card' booklet about the citizenship rights at stake in the Brexit negotiations. Every single one of the country's MPs has been sent one.

Thirdly, over the weekend, the team will send the briefing in electronic form and links to the other materials to all MPs and parliamentary assistants. They will also make contact with key MPs to emphasise its importance and answer questions.

The value our work is adding to the debate over Parliament’s role becoming very clear. The Three Knights Opinion was referred to repeatedly in the Lords debates, and many peers draw on our Lords briefing in their speeches on the parliamentary approval amendment. Labour has said it will fight to keep the amendment in place. And yesterday the House of Commons Library, which produces authoritative, non-partisan briefing papers for MPs, published a special 49 page paper discussing the Three Knights Opinion to inform Monday’s debate.

Our action is effective because of your support. Please do continue to back us at this critical time.

You can take action yourself today, first by making contact with your MP, ideally at a local constituency surgery this weekend, or by e mail, or via their parliamentary assistant by phone on Monday morning (020 7219 3000 and ask to be put through to their office giving your MP’s name). Urge them to read the briefing pack, especially the Seven reasons to stand up for Parliament’s sovereignty briefing. If you can meet with them, download it and take a copy along. Tell them why this issue is so important to you. Some key points are set in the last update.

Secondly, please consider making a further small donation towards our fundraising stretch target via CrowdJustice. This last, big push is time consuming and costly. But whatever happens on Monday, we believe we should do everything in our power to improve the Bill now, at this decisive moment.  

Update 15

Grahame Pigney

March 9, 2017

Make sure your MP stands up and is counted in the fight for parliamentary democracy

As discussed in previous updates,  the government is determined to overturn the parliamentary approval amendment we backed  as well as the earlier amendment that aims to protect the position of economically  active EU nationals here on the date Article 50 notification is given. 

Worse still,  the government is acting very swiftly. The debate to  overturn the amendment is likely to take place next Monday, 13 March in the afternoon  and could well be followed by a further Lords debate the same evening. 

We are moving as quickly as we can to brief MPs on why they should resist the attempt to overturn the parliamentary approval amendment. 

We also believe the EU nationals amendment should remain in place:

the proposed protection would be both compassionate and pragmatic;

case-by-case decisions on the fate of millions are impractical;

and acknowledging that resident EU nationals should remain here would encourage other EU states to reciprocate with their UK national residents.

In the meantime, however, you can take direct action yourself by making your MP aware of your own views on the parliamentary approval amendment  on the importance of Parliament, not the Government, deciding on your own and your family’s future once the outcome of negotiations with the EU and the 27 remaining  member states  becomes clear. 

You can do this by: 

  • finding out who your MP is using this link;  

  • making direct contact with them or, if they are unavailable, their Parliamentary assistant (whose details you should be able to obtained by calling 020 7219 4272);and 

  •  either  setting out your views clearly and concisely in writing and asking them  to reply and commit to  defending Parliamentary sovereignty; or 

  • better still,  arranging to see them tomorrow or over the weekend at a local constituency surgery to explain your views in person; and

  • telling them that they can expect to receive a briefing from the People’s Challenge solicitors, Bindmans, and asking them to look out for and read it. 

 Some key points you might want to consider making are: 

  • what is at stake for you and your family in the Brexit process and who you want to be the ultimate decision maker over what happens to you– Parliament or the Government; 

  • whether you are concerned about there being no deal agreed with the EU at all, if so, why and what role you would expect Parliament to have at that stage; 

  • whether you believe Parliament been given a good reason for surrendering its sovereignty to the Government in relation to the most important constitutional decisions of a generation;

  • whether the Government’s reason for not giving Parliament a meaningful say on the outcome of negotiations – to improve its negotiating hand – makes sense toyou; and

  • what you expect your MP to do now, as your elected representative

Last, if you have not already done so, please consider making a further donation to back the The Second People's Challenge: helping Parliament take control

Update 14

Grahame Pigney

March 9, 2017

Rock on the Lords, can the Commons Jive - a resounding cheer for the Lords and now, thanks to your support, on to the fight in the Commons .

On Tuesday evening, a record number of peers passed, by a majority of 98, an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal Notification) Bill, giving Parliament a meaningful vote on what happens at the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations. The Bill now says that the power to notify can only be exercised subject to Parliament’s final decision on the outcome of the negotiations.

This amendment is a massive improvement on the Bill in its original form.  As we said in our briefing to peers, there is no good reason why Parliament should not explicitly define in the Bill its sovereignty over the most important constitutional decision of our time – whether we should leave the EU on any terms the Government negotiates or, if no terms can be agreed, what should happen next.

This was a principled position championed time after time during the debate.

The five key points we made about the merits of the amendment were all highlighted.

First, the amendment ensures a meaningful choice for Parliament, not just a “Deal/No Deal” vote on the result of the Government’s negotiations.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering picked up this point and quoted from the “Three Knights Opinion” including:

“I will refer also to an article written by five eminent QCs, including three knights, who gave their opinion on the matter and stated:

‘Meaningful Parliamentary decision-making cannot be achieved by Parliament authorising exit from the European Union, two years in advance, on as yet unknown terms. Equally, it cannot be achieved by a single ‘take it or leave it’ vote at the end of the process’”.

Lord Hailsham added:

“I believe that the proper interpretation of the referendum is this: it is an instruction to the Government to negotiate withdrawal on the best terms they can get. But that raises an absolutely fundamental question to which this proposed new clause is directed. When the negotiations have crystallised and there are agreed terms—or, perhaps, no agreed terms—who determines the way forward: is it the Executive or is it Parliament? That is the old question we have to resolve. In my view, any believer in a democratic state has to say that the authority lies with Parliament.”

Second, the amendment would give Parliament genuine control.

On this, Lord Pannick told the House:

“I find it disappointing that those who most loudly asserted the importance of the sovereignty of Parliament during the referendum campaign are now so alarmed by the prospect of the sovereignty of Parliament at the end of the process.” 

Lord Hailsham added:

“Our sole purpose is to ensure that the outcome—agreed terms or no agreed terms—is subject to the unfettered discretion of Parliament. It is, in our view, Parliament and not the Executive which should be the final arbiter of our country’s future. Ironically, in this sense we stand with the campaigners for Brexit who wanted Parliament to recover control over policy and legislation.”

Third, the amendment would make explicit the need for Parliament’s approval of any agreement and that an “assurance” from the Government that Parliament will be asked to express a view in a consent motion is constitutionally meaningless.

On this Baroness Smith, Labour’s Shadow Leader in the Lords, explained:

“Our priority is Amendment 3, to ensure that Parliament has a meaningful vote and that we maintain parliamentary sovereignty… “ 

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean added:

“We need this in the Bill because the Government have form for bypassing Parliament, and we need to know that that will not happen again.” 

Lord Heseltine said the same:

“This amendment, as the noble Lord so clearly set out, secures in law the Government’s commitment, already made to another place, to ensure that Parliament is the ultimate custodian of our national sovereignty.”

Baroness Jones added:

“During the referendum we voted for taking back control. However, taking back control does not mean giving such a momentous decision for the future of the UK to a tiny cohort of politicians.”

then went on to say:

“People change. Governments change. We cannot be sure that the same people will be in power when this finally happens, so it is important to get a commitment. Parliament has to have scrutiny, and a say in something so incredibly important—a deal that is being thrashed out between the UK and the EU that will affect our future for ever. I also think it is a mockery if the European Parliament gets a vote on this and we do not. That again is not taking back control.”

Fourth, the amendment was clear about what Parliament must decide.

Baroness Altmann put the point in this way:

“I believe it is my duty, given the very serious concerns that I have expressed, to ask the other place to reconsider the need for elected MPs to take responsibility for the future of their constituents. I believe that they must have the final say on the Bill and I want to ask them to think again.”

Last, the amendment would provide greater legal certainty, important because the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU can only be effective for Article 50 purposes if taken in accordance with the UK’s constitutional requirements.

Baroness Kennedy developed this point very powerfully:

“the Supreme Court’s principal conclusion was that primary legislation is required to authorise the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. I make it clear that this Bill is a notification Bill; it is not an authorisation Bill.”

Baroness Kennedy went on to say:

I also remind the House what the Supreme Court judges said. They said that the reason why this was a matter for Parliament—both the notification and, finally, withdrawal—was because any fundamental change to our laws that inevitably amends or abrogates our individual rights requires the approval of Parliament.”

What now?

The Bill returns to the Commons for further debate focused on the Lords’ amendments.

Our next step is to send every MP a briefing pack and to support key MPs who will influence the debate (anticipated to take place in the first half of next week).

It is an ambitious objective to hold the parliamentary control amendment in place, but it was ambitious to believe we could get this far.

As ever we need your backing. We’ve got this far because of you.

We must never doubt our ability as individuals to gather together and change circumstances.

Please help keep the campaign rolling by making another donation and/or encouraging others to support what we’re doing. This will mean we can continue to make your voices heard and ensure Parliament’s control over all our futures.

For the moment, I’ll let Michael (Lord) Heseltine have the final word on the amendment:

It ensures that Parliament has the critical role in determining the future that we will bequeath to generations of young people.”

Thank you,

Grahame Pigney

Please back the The Second People's Challenge: helping Parliament take control and help our parliamentarians ensure that Parliament has meaningful control over the Brexit process.

Update 13

Grahame Pigney

March 7, 2017

We must not lose our faculty to dare

By the end of today we will know exactly how high the House of Lords has set the bar for the House of Commons in terms of sensible amendments to the Brexit Bill and explicitly embedding Parliamentary Sovereignty in the process.

This is not about blocking Brexit, indeed, contrary to what many would have you believe, the Lords cannot block Brexit, it can only ask the Commons to reconsider the Bill.

What it is about is ensuring that our constitutional law is upheld, that our democratic processes are followed and that Parliament is properly informed on the terms of the exit deal, or the absence of such a deal, when deciding the future direction that the UK is to take.

I have said elsewhere that this is not a time to take momentous decisions without knowing the circumstances under which the UK will be leaving the EU. This is reinforced in the “Three Knights Opinion” (commissioned by The People’s Challenge) which says that Parliament cannot make decisions based on an unknown deal and set of circumstances 18 months or so into the future.

The world is in a state of flux: Europe (including the UK) is not immune to this and has no control over many of the factors causing it.

Furthermore, there are elections due in the next few months in a number of the EU’s major member states, and we still do not know Trump’s attitude towards Europe in general and the EU and NATO in particular.

Not only is it properly respectful of our Parliament’s Sovereignty for its role in the Brexit process to be explicitly defined , it is prudent to do it to ensure that the decision is made in the best interests of the UK when the terms of the deal, if there is one, are known.

We explained in our last update how effective you’ve been in enabling The People’s Challenge to brief members of the Lords and explain, among other things, the impact of the “Three Knights Opinion”.

So it’s “game on” again with the Commons, building on the success of influencing the decisions in the Lords, to which we are proud to have contributed.

We will need to close much of the gap between what we’ve raised so far and our £100,000 stretch target to have a real impact in the Commons when the Bill returns there. Our success so far in making a difference gives us hope of making an ever-greater difference.

That’s why we’re extending our CrowdJustice campaign to cover this crucial next phase, to help us do the very best we can to support Parliamentary Democracy and good sense.

Please carry on helping us to make sure your voices are heard – making a small further donation now to the campaign could help make a big difference to what the Bill allows and how much say Parliament will have about the rights that your family and you will enjoy two years from now.

“We must not lose our faculty to dare, particularly in dark days”.

Update 12

Grahame Pigney

March 5, 2017

The difference you and the People’s Challenge are making to the debate in Parliament.

This week the House of Lords acted decisively and courageously to amend the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill  to require proposals to protect the future of EU nationals resident in the UK when notification is given. 

On Tuesday, 7th March, they will have the opportunity to do so again during the Bill’s Report Stage debate. That will be when the ‘parliamentary approval’ amendment (see page 2) we are backing will be debated.

All peers were sent our amendment briefing electronically, and over 100 with a special interest in EU and constitutional issues were also sent hard copies. There has been a high level of interest in the briefing, including from those who used it and the Three Knights Opinion (commissioned by the People’s Challenge) in their speeches, and many have kindly contacted us to say how useful the information is.

If further evidence is needed of the practical contribution the People’s Challenge makes to the debate, you only have to read what Baroness Wheatcroft says in her piece for the Guardian:

The “Three Knights” legal opinion, commissioned by the People’s Challenge campaigners, allied to Gina Miller’s Supreme Court case on Article 50, is clear that the government does not have the legal authority to leave the EU without a new Act of Parliament.

So when the Lords vote next week, they will have not only sense but the law on their side. That should make them brave enough to send a very strong message and, if necessary, to repeat it.

The Bill is now sure to go back to the Commons.  We are very hopeful that when it does, it will contain the parliamentary approval clause which will make Parliament’s future role explicit.  There will then be a final battle in the Commons to make sure the amendment stays in place.

In the meantime, we plan on sending out a further briefing to those peers who have already supported amending the Bill.

If you personally want to encourage peers to consider voting for the parliamentary approval amendment, then do take action now by e-mailing them, telling them why embedding Parliament’s right to make final decisions on withdrawal and any future agreement with the EU is so important,  and encouraging them to read our amendment briefing if they have not  already done so. You can find peers’ e-mail addresses here.

Thank you for your backing which makes it possible for us to support peers with an interest in fighting for parliamentary sovereignty. We will post a further update once the outcome of the Report Stage debate is known. 

Update 11

Grahame Pigney

Feb. 27, 2017

Peers highlight the importance of Parliament’s ‘final say on individual rights’ in debates on the Bill

The House of Lords Second Reading debates on the European Union(Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2017 were completed last Tuesday.The Committee Stage debates begin today (the second day is 1 March).This will be the peers’ first opportunity to vote on any of the proposed amendments to the Bill. Votes on amendments are also very likely at Report stage on 7 March.  

There is no prospect of the Bill as a whole being defeated, but there are encouraging signs that peers will fight hard for Parliament’s right to decide both on the acceptability of any withdrawal agreement the Government negotiates with the remaining 27 EU states and on what to do if the negotiations stall or fail altogether. That right reflects Parliament’s responsibility for future decisions that impact on individual rights, repeatedly stressed by Supreme Court in the Miller judgment (paragraphs 5, 82-83, 87, 101, 111 and 124). 

The Three Knights Opinion which we commissioned and sent to peers helped ensure this issue featured prominently in the Second Reading debates. Shortly afterwards, The Sun ran an exclusive story suggesting ministers had been so unsettled by what Lord Hope and others had said about the Opinion that they were contemplating consenting to an amendment to embed parliamentary sovereignty in the Bill and ‘secret talks’ had begun about its form. 

We will need to wait and see what comes of this.The Bill is unlikely to be amended in a way that confronts all of the constitutional problems identified in the Three Knights Opinion, but it certainly can be improved by amendments. 

Having reviewed those that have been submitted for debate and the support they are likely to attract, we have decided to urge peers to support the ‘parliamentary approval amendment’proposed by Baroness Hayter, Lord Hannay, Lord Pannick and Lord Oatesand have sent all active peers a detailed briefing about this. 

In our briefing, we point out the irony of ministers telling Parliament it will be offered no more than a ‘take it or leave it’vote bearing in mind what was decided by the Supreme Court in Miller and accepted in the White Paper: “[t]he sovereignty of Parliament is a fundamental principle of the UK constitution”.Parliament cannot fulfill its own constitutional role by writing a‘blank cheque’ authorising withdrawal from the EU two years from now, either on whatever unknown terms may  be agreed, or without any agreement at all. To do so would be a serious abdication of parliamentary sovereignty, with implications for the rights of every UK national and business. 

The parliamentary approval amendment would improve things considerably. It would make it clear that the UK cannot agree to leave the EU on agreed terms unless Parliament consents to the terms of any withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU and, if there is one, an agreement relating to the future trading relationship. It would also prevent the Government from unilaterally abandoning negotiations without Parliament’s authority. The amendment would create meaningful choices for Parliament on the face of the Bill,give Parliament genuine control by confirming its approval a precondition to any new agreement, clarify much of what Parliament must decide and so provide greater legal certainty.

Many peers have shown they appreciate just how important it is not to surrender parliamentary sovereignty. For example, Lord Heseltine has said he will back amendments that protect it. In the Second Reading debate Lord Kerr, former UK ambassador to the EU, former head of the UK diplomatic service and author of Article 50, told fellow peers:  

“…we need to consolidate in the Bill the Government’s quasi-commitment to give Parliament its say before the die is cast on any emerging settlement.The European Parliament’s similar right is enshrined in the language of Article 50. This Parliament deserves no less. It will not do just to give Parliament Hobson’s choice—to say, “It’s this deal or no deal”. Timing is crucial. Parliament must have the chance to consider at least three other options. 

Under option one,Westminster could follow the frequent practice of the United States Congress, say that it does not like the emerging deal or some particular aspect of it, and ask the Executive to go back and try harder…

As regards the second option, if timing proves tight Westminster could invoke Article 50(3) and invite the Government to seek an extension of the two-year period. The European Union is a union of democracies. If this Parliament asked for an extension, and our Government conveyed our request, in my judgment it would certainly be given.

Under the third option, Parliament could invite the Government or the country to think again. An Article 50 notification is not irrevocable. The President of the European Council and a gallery of EU legal luminaries have confirmed—of course, the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, is among their number—that a member state may, in accordance with its constitutional requirements, withdraw its notification within the two-year period or its extension. This morning, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, asked about the Government’s motive in conniving in the High Court at the fiction of irreversibility. I cannot answer her but the fact is that Article 50, which first saw the light of day under the heading“voluntary withdrawal” is not an expulsion procedure. We remain full members of the European Union throughout the negotiating period—the two years or its extension. If, having looked into the abyss, we were to change our minds about withdrawal, we certainly could and no one in Brussels could stop us. If it were not so, I would have to oppose the Bill. As it is, all we need do is improve it and make sure that the rendezvous with history, which comes when we know what the Government want for the future of our country and its relationship with our continent, is clear.”

Lord Lisvane commented:

In the referendum campaign we heard a lot about regaining our parliamentary sovereignty; perhaps it is a little ironic that we have had in the first instance to rely upon the assistance of the courts. However, it would be even more ironic if the legislative process of withdrawal involved a major transfer of power to the Executive….”

Lord Strasburger commented: 

Should we not be asking ourselves: why are the Government in such a hurry? Why are they so intransigent and intolerant of meaningful scrutiny of the deal they hope to bring back from the negotiations? The explanation must be that deep down they realise that they cannot  possibly secure a deal anywhere near as good as the one we have right now. What everthey get will not stand up to close comparison with membership of the single market and the customs union…

Our patriotic duty is to scrutinise and amend the Bill. We must protect Parliament’s sovereignty and give it a chance to accept or reject the deal, with the status quo as one of the alternatives, rather than automatically going over the WTO cliff. We must protect the rights of EU nationals already in the UK and we must give the people a say in the final decision. That way, if the best deal the Government can get is not good enough, Parliament and the people will have a final chance to stop the self-destruct button being pressed.”

and Lord Pannick also made a powerful speech observing:

I think that the Bill requires amendment, in particular to ensure parliamentary sovereignty as the process of withdrawal occurs over the next two years. Noble Lords know that the Prime Minister has promised that any agreement with the European Union on the terms of our withdrawal and our future relationship with the EU will require the agreement of both Houses of Parliament. She has said that the agreements will so require before any agreement is put to the European Parliament for its consent. That promise should be written into the Bill. A political promise, made by the Prime Minister in good faith, is no substitute for a clause—an obligation—in an Act of Parliament.The reason for that is that political circumstances can change; Prime Ministers can change over the next two years. On a matter of this importance, it is vital to ensure that there is a clear and binding obligation on the Government to return to Parliament at a defined time to seek the agreement of both Houses of Parliament for the terms of any agreement. As the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said, this Parliament must have at least the same powers that the European Parliament has to disagree with the terms of any draft agreement…

I am also concerned about what happens if there is no draft agreement between the UK and the EU on the terms of our withdrawal. In my opinion, parliamentary sovereignty must also apply in those circumstances. Surely it must be for Parliament to decide whether we prefer no deal or the deal offered by the EU. It is for those reasons that I have added my name to an amendment that would require parliamentary approval for an agreement or for no agreement. The Supreme Court recognised the constitutional requirement for Parliamentary sovereignty. I hope noble Lords will do likewise.” 

In total, 184 peers took part, making this the largest second reading debate on record. 

As the debates progress, we will continue to do all we practically can to support peers who are willing to fight to preserve Parliament’s final say so that it remains responsible for the individual rights at stake. 

Update 10

Grahame Pigney

Feb. 21, 2017

First reactions to the Three Knights Opinion in the press and Parliament.

Last week our Three Knights Opinion on the UK’s constitutional requirements for leaving the EU and revocability of an Article 50 notice was published and sent electronically to all active peers. Our legal team also made contact directly with around 100 key peers by letter and e mail to ensure they had received the Opinion and appreciated its significance. 

Meanwhile, there were early reactions to the Opinion in the media. It was featured in the Times’ Daily Brief to lawyers. The well known legal journalist Joshua Rozenberg wrote about it (‘Pro cake and pro eating it’). Professor Mark Elliot published a blog to which other academics are preparing responses. The Independent and Sputnik News published short pieces. The New European is to run a more detailed story. 

Most heartening,however, were the contributions to yesterday’s Second Reading debate in the Lords that drew on the Opinion. 

One of the last to speak yesterday, Baroness Lister, said she had been strengthened in her belief: 

“…for the reasons I have given and many others—including the Three Knights’Opinion on the constitutional implications of Article 50—that, to turn around the words of the Brexit Secretary, it is our patriotic duty to return the Bill to the Commons with key democratic and rights safeguards added.”

and Lord Hope, a former Supreme Court Justice, had this to say: 

I would caution the Government against thinking that by introducing this legislation they have done all that the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller requires. Brevity is all very well but much more lies ahead. If passed, the Act will give the Government all the authority they need to give notification of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU under Article 50. That is what the Bill says. However, the notification does no more than start the Article 50 process. The article makes it clear that the process involves two more stages,both mentioned in the article: negotiation, and the concluding of an agreement between the Union and the state in question. The Bill says nothing about these two further stages. I do not think it needed to give the Government the authority to negotiate, as none of the rights of the people who have written to us will be affected or lost at that stage. However, the concluding of an agreement is another matter entirely. The Bill does not say anything at all about that stage of the process.

The White Paper—written, of course, after the Bill was published—now tells us that the Government will put the final deal agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament. That was confirmed by the Secretary of State in the other place on 7 February when he said that it was intended that the final agreement would “be approved by both Houses of Parliament” and that “this will happen before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement”.—[Official Report, Commons, 7/2/17; col. 274.]

The timing is right,but obtaining approval by a resolution in Parliament is not the same thing as being given statutory authority to enter into that agreement—or, indeed, to withdraw from the EU if there is no agreement.

There is a respectable argument, which other noble—and noble and learned—Lords may say something about later in this debate, that only Parliament has the constitutional authority to authorise, by legislation, the concluding of an agreement with the EU or the act of withdrawal if that is what the Government decide that they have to do. As the Supreme Court said in Miller, at paragraph 123, a resolution of Parliament is an important political act, but it is not legislation and “only legislation which is embodied in a statute will do”.

That was why the Court held that the change in the law that would result from commencing the Article 50 process must be made in the only way that our constitutional law permits: namely, through parliamentary legislation, which is where we are today. The argument that the Government may face is that the same reasoning must be applied to the final stage in the process, too. Even if there is some doubt about this, legislation would provide legal certainty. It would minimise the risk of further legal challenges.

All I am seeking to do is to caution the Government against thinking that this Bill on its own will give them all the authority they need, or that obtaining approval for an agreement by resolution is the same thing as being given statutory authority to conclude that agreement. They could have provided for that in this Bill, perhaps using the same formula as in Clause 1, by saying that the Prime Minister may conclude an agreement with the EU if the agreement has been approved by both Houses—but it has not done so. 

I must make it clear that I will not be asking for the Bill to be amended. Others may do so but, so far as I am concerned, it is up to the Government. My point is that they cannot escape from the effect of the Miller decision when we reach the end of the negotiation. It is all about respecting the sovereignty of Parliament. The law will see to that whatever the Government think, as it always does. I do hope that the Government will be sensible about this, and that further recourse to the courts will not be necessary.”

We plan to ensure all MPs and MEPs receive a copy of the Opinion in the next few days. We will also be gearing up for the House of Lords Committee stage on 27th February and 1st March at which amendments to embed Parliamentary sovereignty will be debated. Further amendments are also possible at report stage on 7th March. The Bill will receive its Third Reading Later that day. Given this, we have extended the CrowdJustice campaign to enable out team to brief peers when needed. There will be another update posted after the today's Second Reading debate concludes. 


Update 9

Grahame Pigney

Feb. 17, 2017

Three Knights Opinion sent to peers

On Monday the House of Lords will begin to debate the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2017 which is designed to surrender the Parliamentary sovereignty that was upheld by the Supreme Court just weeks ago. 

Today we are sending peers the Three Knights Opinion. This is a wholly new and unique legal opinion the People’s Challenge has been able to commission thanks to the invaluable support we’ve had from our CrowdJustice supporters.

We believe the Opinion will make an important contribution to the debate over Parliament’s role at this critical time. It is intended to be the most authoritative view available short of an EU Court of Justice judgment on the relationship between the UK’s constitution and the withdrawal stage of the process set out in Article 50. 

The Opinion concludes that, once passed,the 2017 Bill will allow the Prime Minister to notify the UK’s intention to leave the EU and to start the Article 50 process, but that actual withdrawal from the EU will need to be authorised by Parliament in a future Act, once the outcome of the negotiations, and the impact on individual and business rights, is known. 

The Bill is being oversold by the Government: it does not authorise actual withdrawal in its current form. 

The Opinion also draws attention to the real risk of no agreement being reached within the Article 50 negotiating period, and the constitutional requirement in those circumstances for Ministers to seek legislative consent from Parliament for the UK leaving the EU in the absence of a withdrawal agreement.

The Opinion adds that the UK’s “constitutional arrangements” mean that the Article 50 notification is effectively conditional on Parliament subsequently authorising the UK’s exit from the EU and that, under EU law, there are “very strong arguments”  that, if Parliament decided to reject the available terms of withdrawal two years from now, the notification could be unilaterally revoked by the UK (paras 2(vi) and 48). “Article 50 cannot have the effect of ejecting a Member State from the European Union contrary to its own constitutional requirements”, including Parliament’s final decision, say the Opinion’s authors (para 2(vii)).

This is especially important because,during the Second Reading debate, the House of Commons was wrongly told Miller had decided these questions. Sir Oliver Letwin MP said “the Supreme Court has ruled that, in its view, this is an irrevocable act” (HC Deb, 31 Jan 2017,vol. 620, col. 870) and John Redwood MP added “It clearly did rule on the matter. It found against the Government because it deemed article 50 to be irrevocable. It would not have found against the Government if it had thought it revocable” (HC Deb, 7 Feb 2017, vol. 621, col. 281). 

These statements are simply wrong. The Supreme Court did not decide that an Article 50 notice could not be withdrawn and refrained from expressing its own view, in particular because the Government’s position was that it would make no difference to the outcome if that common ground was mistaken: see paragraphs 26 and 169 of its judgment

The Opinion recommends amendment of the Bill by Parliament to provide clarity and legal certainty over the constitutional position. Amendments have been tabled that would help. But the opinion concludes that a further Act of Parliament approving Brexit will be needed even if that does not happen. 

We’re calling this the Three Knights Opinion because of who its authors are - Sir David Edward KCMG PC QC, Sir Francis Jacobs KCMG PC QC and Sir Jeremy Lever KCMG QC (retired). Also involved are the two QCs that acted for the People’s Challenge Group in Miller, Helen Mountfield and Gerry Facenna. 

Sir David was appointed in 1989 as one of the inaugural Judges of the newly created European Court of First Instance, and in 1992 was appointed Judge of the European Court of Justice, a position from which he retired in 2004, becoming a judge in Scotland, then a Professor and a Privy Councillor.

Sir Francis Jacobs served as Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Communities from October 1988 to January 2006. He has also served as an official with the Secretariat of the European Commission of Human Rights, Professor of European Law at the University of London and Director of the Centre of European Law for King's College London School of Law. He is visiting professor at the College of Europe. He too was appointed a Privy Councillor (in December 2005) and continues to practice at the Bar.

Sir Jeremy Lever KCMG QC is one of the most senior and respected figures in EU and competition law, recognised as a pioneer of both the practice and study of European law in the UK. During his more than fifty years at the Bar he acted in many of the leading cases in the fields of European law, competition law, and regulatory public law, including by or on behalf of the UK Government, the European Commission and the European Parliament. 

Here are some further highlights. 

The first part of the Opinion is grounded in the constitutional principles at issue in the Miller case. The Opinion develops the Supreme Court’s principal conclusion that primary legislation is required to authorise the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. It states that the current Notification Bill does not authorise withdrawal as:  

it is a constitutional requirement of the United Kingdom that Parliament must expressly authorise the terms of any withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, or authorise withdrawal from the European Union in the absence of such agreement, in an Act of Parliament. That is because it is only Parliament that can give legal effect to the removal or conferral of individual rights that necessarily follow from that decision” (Para 23).

The Opinion adds that “[m]eaningful Parliamentary decision-making cannot be achieved by Parliament authorising exit from the European Union, two years in advance, on as yet unknown terms” (para2(ii)).

Although the Government has said that the terms of any deal will be the subject of a Parliamentary vote “before it comes into force”, this falls short of the UK’s constitutional requirements for withdrawal from the EU, which includes authorisation by Act of Parliament (para4(ii)). 

The Opinion explains that: 

Parliamentary sovereignty and the principle of legality require Parliament expressly to authorise withdrawal from the European Union on the terms of withdrawal agreed with the European Union, or to authorise withdrawal if no acceptable terms can be agreed. Given the fundamental changes in the law andlegal rights that will result, such authorisation must take the form of primary legislation. Parliamentary resolutions, without legislation, cannot change domestic law, nor amend or abrogate existing rights…” (para2(iii)).  

The Opinion then discusses why the Bill is legally inadequate to authorise withdrawal: 

[t]he Bill does not say anything about rights and obligations currently enjoyed under EU law, for example which of them will be preserved, or which will be removed. It does not remove any rights, nor does it make any changes to domestic law, nor authorise the Government to do so. The Bill only authorises the Prime Minister to notify the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union. It cannot serve as the legislative basis for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union without it being read as an exceptionally wide enabling law, handing to the Executive power to decide which legal rights may be given away or lost through negotiations with the European Union, or by leaving the European Union without an agreement. No such intention is expressed on the face of the Bill and we doubt that the Courts would interpret the Bill in that way” (para21). 

The second part of the Opinion, based on the authors’ unrivalled expertise in EU law, addresses the question of what happens if Parliament decides that the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations is unacceptable. The Opinion makes it clear that Parliament will not be powerless to act even though, on its face, Article 50 suggests that EU membership will automatically end after two years unless the period of negotiations is extended by agreement. 

The Opinion establishes that withdrawing the Article 50 notice remains an option throughout the process. It notes that the Supreme Court did not decide the question of whether a notification given under Article 50 may be qualified or can be withdrawn once it is given and concludes that there are “very strong arguments” in EU law“that a notification under Article 50(2) can be given in qualified or conditional terms and can be unilaterally withdrawn” (paras2(vi) and 48).

The Opinion says, therefore, that:

the United Kingdom is entitled to say to the European Union: ‘We have decided to withdraw and here is our notice under Article 50. However, since withdrawal will involve a fundamental change to our laws and will inevitably amend or abrogate individual rights, the terms of withdrawal, in so far as they have such a consequence, can be given effect under our constitution only by an Act of Parliament, and our decision to withdraw is therefore subject to approval of the terms of withdrawal by our Parliament’”(para 39). 

The Opinion observes that “the fundamentally integrationist rationale of the [EU] Treaties and their emphasis on democracy” and the fact that “Member States changing their mind is a common experience in the history of European Union integration” (para 52).

It concludes that, if Parliament decides not to accept the terms of any deal agreed with the European Union and not to authorise Brexit in the absence of any deal: 

the notification would have to be treated as having lapsed because the constitutional requirements necessary to give effect to the notified intention have not been met”…“it would be incompatible with the European Union Treaties for a Member State to be forced out of the Union against its will, or contrary to its own constitutional requirements” (paras 61 and 55)

Update 8

Grahame Pigney

Feb. 14, 2017

House of Lords action plan

Debates on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill will begin next Monday  20th February in the House of Lords. There will be two main stages. The second reading debate is expected to take place from 3.00 PM that day and to continue until the 21st.The Lords committee stage debates are likely to take place on 27th February and 1st March. The third reading will be on 7th March. The Bill will then be returned to the Commons for any Lords amendments to be considered.  

The Bill is hugely problematic. When the Government notifies the EU of the UK’s intention to withdraw under Article 50(2), it will trigger a two-year negotiation period. The Government’s ambition is to negotiate, within those two years, a withdrawal agreement dealing with the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU, and a new agreement setting out the future trading relationship with the EU.

The Government has said that it will “…put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament”, that it intends that “the vote will cover not only the withdrawal arrangements but also the future relationship with the European Union”, that “the Government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement, to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded” and that it expects and intends that this will happen “before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement”. 

But such statements by Ministers have no legal force. Worse still, the Government’s ‘concession’ does not address what role, if any, there will be for Parliament if (as is possible) the Government does not reach any agreement with the European Union within the two-year negotiation period. Neither does it cover the consequences, and the options available to the UK, if Parliament were to reject the terms of the deal negotiated by the Government.

Ministers have said that, if no deal is agreed, or if Parliament rejects the deal Ministers have negotiated,the United Kingdom will automatically leave the European Union and fall back on WTO trading rules, without the need for any further decision by Parliament.  According to them, the ‘choice’ Parliament will have two years from now is binary, to ‘take it or leave it’ by either accepting the terms negotiated by Ministers or automatically defaulting to a hard Brexit without any negotiated withdrawal terms or transitional arrangements.

What can the House or Lords do about this? 

First, peers can challenge the Government’s stance on Parliament’s future role.  Ministers may believe that repeatedly characterising Parliament’s choice as ‘take it or leave it’ will strengthen their negotiating hand in negotiations with the EU. But this is fundamentally incompatible with parliamentarians’ duty to make informed decisions in the national interest – especially two years from now, when the proposed terms of a future deal with the EU are known, or there is no deal on the table. 

Second, Parliamentary oversight and responsibility for the ultimate decision on withdrawal can and should be embedded in the Bill before it becomes law.  It will then be put beyond doubt that the ultimate decision on withdrawal will remain with Parliament. There needs to be an amendment made like the one we originally proposed or NC99. We want to build on the support many MPs showed for such an amendment as the Bill reaches the Lords. The House of Lords can make such an amendment.

To help peers stand up to the Government, we and the People’s Challenge legal team have a five step plan: 

  • publishing and distributing the ‘Three Knights' Opinion’ - we have commissioned authoritative written legal advice on the UK’s future options from the most senior and well-respected EU and constitutional experts available. The opinion explains why embedding parliamentary sovereignty in the Bill matters, and how that can be done;  

  • providing direct in-person and telephone briefings for key peers; 

  • drafting work on amendments in the Lords; 

  • preparing written debate briefings and print copies of our plain English fundamental rights booklet for active peers; and

  • liaising with other like-minded campaigning organisations so we can maximise the impact of our message on peers. 

The battle for parliamentary sovereignty has been far from easy. The battle for parliamentary sovereignty that makes a real difference to the EU withdrawal process is proving harder still. 

This is why we hope we can count on your continued support for the Second People’s Challenge and ask that you consider donating now to support the further work for our legal team outlined above, and expenses such as postage to peers, and booklet print costs.

The work undertaken immediately after the Supreme Court’s judgment and throughout the House of Commons stages has used up the money raised so far. The members of the People’s Challenge group itself, of course, are not paid for any of their time. Our legal team continues to charge concessionary fees lower than those of the Government’s lawyers.

But we do need your support to press on at this critical time. 

Update 7

Grahame Pigney

Feb. 10, 2017

Over to the Lords

This update takes stock of where we now stand and what can be done in the House of Lords. A further update to be posted shortly will set out the People’s Challenge action plan to support peers who want to fight for parliamentary sovereignty and to protect ordinary UK citizens' rights. 

The Commons debates of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill are finished for now. The Bill will be formally presented to the House of Lords on 20 February and debated there.  If the Lords make amendments, the Bill will then be returned to the Commons for them to be debated.  Details of the amendment process are here.

For us and many People’s Challenge supporters, the debates so far have been an intensely frustrating experience. The Bill passed through the Commons without any amendments being made at the committee stage, although many were put to a vote including NC110 (which was similar to NC99,  the amendment we were encouraging MPs to back). 

Several MPs made points based on the debate briefings we had prepared for them. NC99 was debated and a number of MPs spoke in favour of it, but it was not put to a vote after NC110 was voted down.  Other important amendments, such as NC146 (the call for regularisation of the position of EU nationals resident in the UK) also failed to attract enough political support. 

The ‘consolation prizes’ from the Commons stage were: 

  • First, the White Paper -  this describes the Government’s  high-level negotiating objectives and aspirations. It also states that, once negotiations are concluded “[t]he Government will then put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament” (paragraph 1.12). But that vote will have no legal significance. The White Paper says nothing about what will happen if Parliament votes against what is proposed. Worse still, it is silent on what happens if no ‘deal’ can be agreed with the remaining EU states. It appears that few or no contingency plans have been made for that eventuality, just as none were made before the Referendum vote for a ‘leave’ majority. 

  • Secondly, on 7 February 2017, the Minister for Exiting the EU, Mr David Jones, informed the House that “we intend that the vote will cover not only the withdrawal arrangements but also the future relationship with the European Union. Furthermore, I can confirm that the Government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement, to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded. We expect and intend that this will happen before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement” (see Col. 264 of Hansard).Some have pointed out that ministers’ ‘expectations and intentions’ are not guarantees. Even if they are fulfilled, it would still mean Parliament having no statutory control over what would happen following the resolutions. Parliament would have neither power nor responsibility. That would have been surrendered by the Bill being passed in its current form.  

So neither of these assurances are a meaningful substitute for what we have been fighting for - Parliamentary oversight and ultimate responsibility for decision-making once the proposed Brexit deal is known – or it becomes apparent that no deal can be struck. That is the only way Parliament can make an informed decision on what should happen to the fundamental rights of millions of UK nationals. 

We still believe that oversight and responsibility must be incorporated into in the Bill before it becomes law.  There needs to be an amendment made, like that we originally proposed or NC99. 

Securing that sort of amendment is still possible.  The concerns that were expressed in the Commons debate are grave enough for members of the House of Lords to take notice – and several have already been in touch with our legal team about them. 

We are not willing to give up on Parliament.

A Lords amendment, with strong backing, could still be made to the Bill and maintained in the Commons. Voting on amendments like NC110 shows that many MPs still care and are willing to stand up for Parliamentary Sovereignty. These MPs come from parties right across the political spectrum. NC99 and NC110 were backed by Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, and the Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas. We want to build on this in the Lords. 

Our next Second People’s Challenge update will explain how. 

Update 6

Grahame Pigney

Feb. 7, 2017

Parliament debates its future role in the withdrawal process

Yesterday we made sure every MP received a copy of our latest briefing on NC99 and plain English guide to fundamental EU citizenship rights.

The parliamentary sovereignty issues the raise, in particular what happens if there is no deal or Parliament rejects the deal, are being debated in the House of Commons right now and can be watched here (the debate starts from around 14.40hrs onwards).

The Minister has made this concession in the House this afternoon:

“We intend that the vote will cover not only the withdrawal arrangements but also the future relationship with the European Union. Furthermore I can confirm that the Government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement, to be approved by both Houses of Parliament, before its concluded and we expect and intend that this will happen before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement”

Also, in response to interventions said this:

“If there were no agreement at all…ultimately it will be falling back on WTO arrangements…

In the absence of any agreement whatever, that absence of agreement would be the subject of statements to this House…

The vote will be either to accept the deal that the Government have negotiated… or no deal, and frankly that is the choice that this House will have to take.”

It is now clear that the only choice envisaged by the Government will be ‘take the deal we have negotiated or leave without a deal’. A number of MPs are, unsurprisingly, making the point that this is not satisfactory. Alex Salmond has said that this Government concession should be included in a formal amendment and that the House of Lords should seek to do that. Dominic Grieve has made it clear that there is a real problem about the timing of the agreement, but has questioned whether an amendment can be crafted to meet that.

Whether NC99 will be put to a vote and, if so, who will support it remains to be seen. It cannot be passed without Conservative support in the Commons, but if that does not happen, there will still be an opportunity for the Lords to agree to an amendment embedding similar safeguards.

Update 5

Grahame Pigney

Feb. 6, 2017

Taking urgent action during the EU withdrawal Bill’s committee stage

Parliament is now debating amendments to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill during its committee stage which will last until late on Wednesday. It is all too easy to get lost in the detail and the rhetoric. Now more then ever, it is critical that MPs focus on what’s at stake for millions of UK nationals, why it’s so important and what can be done to protect them. 

As to what’s at stake, the People’s Challenge has produced this plain English booklet highlighting the fundamental citizenship rights that MPs must take action now to protect. 

As to the action that MPs can take right now, our legal team has produced a new briefing on NC99, which is by far the most important proposed amendment to the Bill. As discussed in earlier updates, NC99 is vital to preserving parliamentary sovereignty during Brexit. It is important that MPs seriously consider backing it so that final decisions on the changes to our laws and the rights they give UK nationals remain Parliament’s responsibility. 

Parliamentarians need to stand up for their right to have a final, meaningful say on whether what ends up being agreed between the Government and other EU states is acceptable or, if there is no agreement, what should happen then. Without that final say which NC99 makes possible, the parliamentary sovereignty defended in the Miller case could become meaningless. The new briefing also explains why neither the Brexit White Paper nor the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 deal with the parliamentary sovereignty problem that the Bill creates. 

We and the legal team have been hard at work speaking with and writing to key MPs to stress these points. 

We will also ensure the booklet and briefing reach as many MPs as possible today, but you can take action yourself right now using these tools. 

In particular, you can:

Update 4

Grahame Pigney

Feb. 1, 2017

What’s next in Parliament, for the People’s Challenge and its supporters?

Since the last update,both the People’s Challenge group and members of our legal team have been hard at work briefing MPs on how Parliament can take back meaningful control of the Art 50 process, in particular by amending the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill so that Parliament will see the terms of the withdrawal agreement, if one is reached with the EU, and have a genuine opportunity to decide whether it is accept able and in the national interest. As we have explained before, just putting the agreement to a vote in both Houses is not meaningful Parliamentary control; only an Act will do. This is a simple message MPs should be receptive to - and many are - even if they are inclined to vote in favour of the Bill. If Parliament is not guaranteed a genuine decision on any withdrawal agreement, our own MPs will have less say over its terms than MEP of any other EU country because such agreements must be approved by the European Parliament.

Parliament is now partway through its debate the second House of Commons reading of the Bill. A vote will be taken this evening on at least one ‘reasoned amendment’,followed  almost certainly by a vote on the Bill.  It is overwhelmingly likely that it will not be thrown out at second reading stage  because, for that to happen, there would need to be a significant  rebellion by Conservative and Labour MPs.  The Bill will move forward to three days of ‘committee stage’ debate next week. More about the Parliamentary timetable can be found here and here.

Can positive changes be made to the Bill at committee stage?  

In theory, yes,  but amendments would need to attract cross party support  to stand any chance of being passed  either as a result of the vote or a Government concession. Dozens of amendments have been tabled,  many of which stand no prospect at all of being passed  or making a real difference even if they were.  The very limited Parliamentary time allowed for the Bill means that most will not even be selected for a debate. 

The amendment our legal team prepared  with a view to maximising Parliamentary Sovereignty  throughout the Article 50 process has so far not been tabled by MPs, but there are four other ‘new clause’ amendments intended to preserve the role of Parliament and provide for meaningful scrutiny of the terms of withdrawal from the EU - NC19, 99, 110 and 137. 

The team has urgently reviewed them and had further discussions with MPs. They have concluded that NC99 would help embed the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty within the Article 50 process and MPs should be encouraged to back it. Here is a note explaining why in more detail. 

In short, NC99 takes a different, and stronger, form than the other amendments that have been tabled. Though the wording is different, like the draft People’s Challenge amendment, it requires that there must be another Act of Parliament down the line approving either:  

  • the arrangements for withdrawal and the future relationship between the United Kingdom, as agreedbetween the UK and EU; or

  • the UK’s withdrawal without an agreement being reached between the UK and the EU. 

So NC99: 

  • embeds the future role of Parliament as a UK “constitutional requirement” - the EU would be bound to respect this, under Article 50 (it says “[a]ny Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements” );

  • it is the equivalent of the vote given to the European Parliament at the end of the Article 50 process on the EU side; 

  • requires an Act of Parliament, not a mere ‘resolution’ - the Supreme Court made it clear in Miller that an Act of Parliament is needed to make as fundamental a change in the law as will happen following Brexit; 

  • it expressly deals with the possibility that there is no agreement between the EU and UK within the negotiating period; and

  • clearly asserts the national sovereignty of the UK itself, in the form of the Queen in Parliament, to decide when, and on what terms, the UK will leave the EU. It doesn’t require any cooperation or consent on the part of the European Council, and doesn’t require HMG to go back and beg for more time etc. It genuinely gives Parliament the final say.

NC99 already has the backing of several MPs and rather than press for a competing, similar amendment to be tabled,  we think it would be better  for other MPs to support it at this time.  The team will discuss the legal implications of NC99 with its supporters and send the briefing note they have prepared. 

It will be very difficult to get NC99 or any other amendment passed in the Commons, but it is important to try because there is a chance,  the stakes are so high and  if the issue of Parliamentary sovereignty throughout the process is seriously debated in the Commons, that will increase the prospects of the House of Lords taking interest and proposing amendments itself. 

What can you do now? 

Although NC 99 is not our amendment and we would use different wording, it is worth backing. Please consider urgently contacting your MP by post, e mail or, best of all in person, giving them our team’s note on NC99, and asking then to consider supporting it. You might want to say: 

  • why you supported the People’s Challenge their reasons for supporting the People’s Challenge; 

  • why you believe that Parliament needs to stay in control throughout the Article 50 process,especially given the rights at stake;  an

  • why an Act of Parliament is needed down the line when the proposed withdrawal agreement is known, or it becomes clear there will be no agreement) so Parliament remains in control; and

  • why NC99 helps. 

You can find your MP’s contact details here.

If you want to act, it is really important to do so now so your MP takes account of your views before committee stage next week. 

Meanwhile, we will be pressing on with preparation of the booklet for MPs and peers about what is at stake and with further legal advice on maximising Parliamentary sovereignty. 

Update 3

Grahame Pigney

Jan. 30, 2017

Update – Progressing our work supporting parliamentary sovereignty and a thank you for your support

Over the weekend we reached our initial fundraising target for work to make the parliamentary sovereignty and accountability won back in the Miller case as meaningful as possible. This will enable us to complete work on the guide to the citizenship rights that are at stake at this critical time, publish and disseminate it, to seek legal advice on the safeguards Parliament can impose and support MPs who are interested in taking this forward.

 We have been liaising with MPs, reviewing the amendments others have tabled and the legal team has been drafting an updated version of what we propose which will be available very soon in a further CrowdJustice update.

 Thank you very much for helping us reach our first target and making this important work possible.

 Chris, Fergal, Grahame, Paul, Rob and Tahmid

Update 2

Grahame Pigney

Jan. 27, 2017

Taking action on the People’s Challenge amendment

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was published yesterday by the Government. 

It has a simple, brutal purpose: to hand back to the Prime Minister all of the power she wrongly claimed she had during the Miller case, so she can proceed as before.

Although she promised Parliament a vote on the final negotiated withdrawal “deal” with the EU at last week’s Lancaster House speech, that means almost nothing, because a vote on a motion has no legal effect (as the Supreme Court noted in Miller) and because the notification she intends to give will be unqualified. If Parliament has concerns when it is told about the terms of any deal, it will find it hard to do much about them at that late stage if it is limited to a vote on a motion. And no deal is guaranteed.

The Bill does not need to be this way. An amendment has been urgently drafted by the People’s Challenge legal team (Helen Mountfield QC, Gerry Facenna QC, David Gregory, Jack Williams and John Halford) and is set out here along with its Explanatory Note

This is not a wrecking amendment, nor one that ‘blocks Brexit’. It’s purpose is to enable Parliament to fulfil its constitutional role throughout the Article 50 withdrawal process; the role the Supreme Court confirmed in the Miller case in which the People’s Challenge group, was an interested party.

If it is supported by MPs amendment or peers and passed, the amendment ensure that Parliament authorises the Prime Minister to notify the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU under Article 50(2) in a manner which: 

  • guarantees that it will be Parliament that must decide to approve the terms of any withdrawal agreement negotiated between the UK and the EU, in full knowledge by that time of what the effects of that agreement will be on the rights of UK nationals and businesses, and EU nationals in the UK; and
  • makes provision for the possibility that no withdrawal agreement is concluded within two years of the date of notification (or such time as is extended by agreement with the European Council).

For these vital safeguards to be taken up, MPs and peers have to back the amendment.

We are encouraging People’s Challenge supporters to take action now to make that happen. We suggest that writing to MPs about it, or better still go and see them, and tell them: 

  • their reasons for supporting the People’s Challenge; 
  • why Parliament needs to stay in control, especially given the rights at stake; and
  • why MPs should consider backing the People’s Challenge amendment. 

You can find MP’s details here.

Please also consider supporting the Second People’s Challenge with a further, small donation, so we and the legal team can continue with our action plan at this critical time.

Thank you for your support. 

Update 1

Grahame Pigney

Jan. 25, 2017

There are White Papers and White Papers, but now at least we have a White Paper...

The Prime Minister, by announcing that there will be a White Paper on the article 50, seems to have vindicated the decision to set up the Second People's Challenge.

Whether that White Paper turns out to be sufficient for the purpose is up to our MPs.

The change in the PMs stance on the vote in Parliament has not been brought about by the Supreme Court's decision alone or by the shift in public opinion or even the hostility in Parliament but by the combination of the above that has turned the call for meaningful Parliamentary control into an irresistible force.

As Harriet Beecher Stowe said "Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn."

In order to achieve this we need more shares, more tweets, re-tweets and more people backing our campaign. More importantly we need you to not give up, give in or settle for less than we are entitled to!

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