How we'll legally leave the EU: Article 50 case to be heard in October

Hayley Kirton
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Today's proposed timetable means the case should be done and dusted before Article 50 is triggered (Source: Getty)

A case brought to challenge how Article 50 will be triggered is due to be heard by the courts in mid-October.

No precise date was set in a hearing at the High Court today, but the judges said it was probably to be before 15 October.

Sir Brian Leveson, who was one of the judges overseeing the case, also assured those present that the case, and any subsequent appeals, would be heard before the UK starts the withdrawal process from the EU.

A legal leapfrog measure is also thought to be applicable, which would allow any appeal that may be brought to skip over the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.

The proposed timetable should allow the case to reach the highest court in England and Wales before January 2017.

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Prime Minister Theresa May indicated while she was still a Conservative leader candidate that she did not intend to trigger Article 50 before the end of 2016. Lawyers for the government, lead by Jason Coppel QC, confirmed today that this was still the position.

The initial hearing is expected to be heard before the lord chief justice and to last two days, with a third day likely to be set aside should proceedings spill over.

The claimants, who include a range of UK nationals and expats, have been told to band together to bring their claims as one, despite a wide range of legal issues being on the table.

It is intended that Lord Pannick QC, who was retained by Mishcon de Reya on behalf of their clients, should lead the argument.

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The legal issues surrounding Article 50 have sparked a great deal of interest, so much so that today's hearing about its timetable had to be moved from its original room to a larger one.

Unfortunately, law firm Mishcon de Reya has also received letters of abuse triggered by the action it is bringing. However, businesswoman Gina Miller has been named as the lead claimant in the actions.

Leveson described the abuse, some of which has been racist and antisemitic, received by Mishcon as "aggressive, abusive and threatening", adding that such behaviour could potentially be contempt of court.

Michael Madden, partner at Winston & Strawn London, told City A.M. the proposed timetable for the case was "very, very quick", adding "normally these things will take months, if not years".

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Madden also explained that cases founded in constitutional law themselves are something of a rarity on UK soil, thanks partly to the country's lack of a written constitution.

"This whole understanding of what things can be dealt with by the executive, what things have to be approved by parliament, you're going to be looking back at protocols, you're going to be looking at accepted practices because nowhere is it written down," he added.

Commenting on the confirmation that Article 50 would not be triggered in 2016, Ros Kellaway, head of Eversheds' EU competition and regulatory group noted it should be "welcome" news for businesses, added:

Businesses could be forgiven for being fearful of protracted Article 50 negotiations, but the reality is, a longer wait to get things right will be very much in their best interests, especially so given the staggeringly complex and multi-faceted nature of Brexit.

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