British expatriates launch a legal challenge against the 2016 Brexit referendum result.

The Electoral Commission’s ruling on leave campaign spending has triggered British expatriates to launch a fresh legal challenge against the 2016 referendum, arguing that the result has been invalidated by the Electoral Commission’s recent ruling.

The judicial review has been submitted to the high court in London by the ‘EU Challenge’ group - representing Britons living in France, Italy and Spain.

It argues that the recent Electoral Commission findings on ‘BeLeave’ and ‘Vote Leave’ – which resulted in two officials being reported to the police and punitive fines being imposed – means that the referendum to leave the EU was not a lawful, fair or free vote. 

The government is resisting the action on the grounds that it is out of time, and that a similar challenge has already been dismissed.

Nearly 80% of the nearly 2 million Britons living overseas in EU countries are of working age or younger.  Many fear Brexit will threaten their livelihoods and make it far harder to travel across the continent.  If any the 27 EU States reciprocate the UK’s Home Office proposals for EU citizens resident in the UK at Brexit, they are right to be concerned [ see Brexit Partners Insight 23 July 2018 ]

The expatriate claimants are represented by Croft Solicitors, Patrick Green QC and Jessica Simor QC - who acted for successful parties in the article 50 legal case at the supreme court.  They maintain that the legal claim is not out of time because the Electoral Commission only recently [July 2018] found that BeLeave spent £675,000 - which should have been declared. 

Rupert Croft, Managing Director at Croft Solicitors, said: “Our clients contend that the prime minister’s decision to trigger article 50 and start the Brexit process was based on a factual error, namely that the referendum truly represented the will of the people following a lawful, free and fair vote.

“They argue that the decision to trigger article 50 to withdraw from the EU was therefore not in accordance with the UK’s constitutional requirements. We look forward to having this important constitutional case considered by the court.”

Elinore Grayson, one of the four named claimants in the action, lives in France. She said: “It is fundamental that illegal intervention in British elections does not go unchecked.  The principle of a decision made on incorrect or misleading facts is a longstanding one - and we wish to ensure that continues to apply at this crucial time [nullity]. 

“Many people across the EU, myself included, are reliant on bestowed rights to live their daily lives; there must be zero tolerance when it comes to cheating, misrepresentation and non-disclosure of information.”

Sue Wilson - chair of Bremain in Spain - and another of the four claimants, said: “We hope to demonstrate that you cannot win by cheating.  If there is another referendum, there must not be a repeat of the illegal activity witnessed last time around.”

She argues that the UK has not: “taken back control”, rather that: “we have been put in the hands of those that care more about their careers and political party than their country.  The UK deserves better, we deserve better, and we will not stop fighting until we succeed.”

European Commission position

The College of European Commissioners had previously decided not to register this initiative.

The group of non-British EU citizens: "British friends – stay with us in the EU", has a stated objective is "to create a platform which would enable all European citizens to take part in this initiative and to reach a majority of British Citizens... thereby giving to all British citizens an opportunity to voice their opinion."

The Council’s reasoning seems to have that they have been unable to identify any legislative tool that could potentially support this initiative – effectively enabling EU citizens outside the UK to overturn the sovereign Brexit decision by the British people - or compelling them to change their minds.

The conditions for admissibility of a European Citizens' Initiative are that the proposed action does not manifestly fall outside the framework of the Commission's powers to submit a proposal for a legal act; that it is not manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious; and that it is not manifestly contrary to the values of the Union.

The EC recorded in the College meeting notes: “While the Commission regrets the decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union, there is no legal basis in the Treaties which would allow for the adoption of an EU legal act challenging or overturning the UK's decision to withdraw from the Union.  As such, the College has no legal basis to register this proposed Initiative.”

John ShuttleworthComment