UK Government to face legal challenge over withdrawal from single market

Written by Josh May on 28 November 2016 in News

The UK Government faces a legal battle over whether it can take the UK out of the single market after Brexit

UK and Europeans flags - Image credit: Press Assocation

The UK Government faces the prospect of another legal battle over whether it can take the UK out of the single market after Brexit.

Pro-EU thinktank British Influence has said it will launch a judicial review into the UK Government’s stance that membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) ends automatically when the UK leaves the European Union.

A pro-Brexit Tory MP has hit out at the “legal wheeze” to “frustrate the will” of the British people.


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The BBC also quotes senior lawyers saying Article 50, the mechanism for quitting the EU, does not provide for leaving the EEA.

“There is no provision in the EEA Agreement for UK membership to lapse if the UK withdraws from the EU,” said Professor George Yarrow, the chairman of the Regulatory Policy Institute.

“The only exit mechanism specified is Article 127, which would need to be triggered.”

Jolyon Maugham QC added: “My own view is that you do not automatically leave the EEA.

“Given Article 127 provides an express mechanism for withdrawal, it implicitly excludes other implied mechanisms for withdrawal such as ceasing to be a member of the EU.”

If the separate Article 127 needs to be triggered, it raises the prospect of a separate parliamentary vote on staying in the single market – something that could command the support of a majority of MPs and peers.

A government spokesman told the BBC that EEA membership only came about as a result of the UK’s role in the EU and would end after Brexit.

Tory MP and former justice minister Dominic Raab hit out at the latest developments.

“Rather than coming up with new legal wheezes to try and frustrate the will of the people, these lawyers should be working with us to make a success of Brexit,” he said.

"The public have spoken; we should respect the result and get on with it, not try to find new hurdles that undermine the democratic process.”

Meanwhile Tory MP Kwasi Kwarteng said in an article for Brexit Central: "Continued membership of the single market would basically be membership of the EU under another name."

The Government is already fighting in the courts to try to assert its right to trigger Article 50 without consulting MPs and peers.

Early next month the Supreme Court will hear an appeal against the High Court’s ruling that Parliament had to vote before the clause was invoked.

The new row comes ahead of the launch of a report warning the UK Government not to “cherry pick” sectors for enhanced access to the single market after Brexit.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research highlights the importance of the single market to all parts of the economy, and warns that focusing on the interests of certain industries risks “creating 'losers' through reduced access and reduced future mutual benefits”.

Elsewhere, a group of pro-EU MPs will today stress the importance of single market membership to all sectors of the economy.

Tory MP Anna Soubry, Labour MP Chuka Umunna and Liberal Democrat MP Nick Clegg – all members of the pro-EU Open Britain group – will speak at the event.

Soubry said: “There are no inevitable outcomes. There is no mandate for one particular Brexit option.

“The only question on the ballot paper was whether to leave, which we will, but how we execute our extraction must be debated.”

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