Prime minister Theresa May has conceded that MPs will have a vote to extend Article 50 and delay Brexit. They will also have a vote to rule out a No Deal scenario.
Despite this Commons pantomime, it’s notable that these concessions come only days after a largely unreported appeal court hearing. During this, May’s legal counsel admitted “the PM is aware” that the Leave campaigns acted unlawfully.
In December 2018, lawyers representing UK in EU Challenge – which is acting on behalf of British ex-pats living in specified EU countries – argued that Article 50 should be voided, given electoral and other irregularities. However, the court dismissed the case and Justice Ouseley said:
It is difficult to see how the government could proceed if it had to wait for the outcome of an Electoral Commission investigation, keeping everyone – including the EU 27 – on the hook, waiting to see what the UK was going to do, or waiting for the conclusion of other investigations.
In February 2019, an appeal was heard against that ruling. The same claimants argued it was unreasonable for the prime minister to proceed with Article 50, given what was known about the proven illegalities of the referendum. But the court refused to hear their appeal.
However, according to law lecturer and jurist Rob Palmer, first Treasury counsel Sir James Eadie QC, acting for the prime minister, admitted that May was fully aware of the unlawful aspects of the referendum campaign:
Vote Leave broke the law
In September 2018 the High Court ruled that Vote Leave, the official Leave campaign fronted by Conservative MPs Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, had broken the law in its overspend. It did this by paying £625,000 to Darren Grimes for his BeLeave campaign, mostly via AggregateIQ, the Canada-based partner of discredited data miners Cambridge Analytica. According to the Electoral Commission, in total BeLeave spent more than £675,000 with Aggregate IQ under a common plan with Vote Leave.
Earlier, in July 2018, the Electoral Commission also ruled that Vote Leave broke electoral law by colluding with Grimes. Consequently Vote Leave and Grimes were referred to the police. However it appears the police have stalled that investigation.
Leave.EU broke the law
In February 2019 the Leave.EU campaign, fronted by Nigel Farage, and Eldon Insurance, owned by campaign funder Arron Banks, were fined £60,000 each for breaking direct marketing rules. 300,000 political messages were sent out on behalf of Leave.EU to Eldon’s customers. Hundreds of leaked emails showed Eldon staff working on the Leave campaign.
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson commented in September 2018:
There is a suggestion that in the run-up to the referendum the prime minister – in her capacity at the time as home secretary – declined at least one application from the security services to mount a full investigation into Mr Banks and others suspected of Russian influence. We need to know if that is true.
A ‘confirmatory’ vote on May’s deal, but which would include an option to Remain, is now official Labour policy should its alternative proposal for Brexit not go through:
Meanwhile, not content with trying to bribe MPs, May is ignoring legal rulings that ought to have seen the referendum declared null and void. Her collusion in this merely succeeds in exposing the myth that Britain has a working democracy.
Featured image via Guardian News/YouTube
Since you're here ...
We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.