MPs criticise Article 50 case as a "diversionary tactic" after its first day in court

The case kicked off today (Source: Getty)

Eurosceptic politicians have criticised a lawsuit arguing the legal process for leaving the EU for pulling away from the real issues of the debate just as the case kicked off in court.

The case, which aims to determine whether an Act of Parliament needs to be put in place before government triggers Article 50 or whether government has the prerogative to start the UK’s withdrawal process from the EU by itself, had its first day of hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice today.

Tory MP and Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Bernard Jenkin, told City A.M. he thought the case was "a diversionary tactic by, with very few exceptions, people who never wanted to leave the EU in the first place".

Meanwhile, Kwasi Kwarteng, Conservative MP and Brexit supporter, told City A.M. the debate around the referendum had moved on somewhat since the legal action was first launched.

Read more: Meet the woman who took Article 50 to court

Kwarteng added that even the Remain-backing MPs who would vote on the Article 50 law, should the claimants win, would likely pass through the legislation as "the majority of them have constituents who voted Leave".

Ukip MP Douglas Carswell told City A.M.: "The verdict of the people is clear. The elite are trying to use lawyerly arguments to get a different verdict from the court."

In the hearing, Lord Pannick QC, who is representing lead claimant Gina Miller, told the court triggering Article 50 would be irreversible, making the case's constitutional importance clear.

"There is no possibility of a conditional withdrawal and there is no going back," Pannick said, adding "the notification is pulling the trigger... the bullet hits the target on the date specified".

Read more: There's no return from triggering Article 50, court hears

Lawyers representing the government, who are due to give their arguments on Monday, include Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC.

Wright said in an earlier statement: "The country voted to leave the European Union, in a referendum approved by Act of Parliament. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to re-join it through the back door, and no second referendum. We do not believe this case has legal merit."

The hearing is due to finish next Tuesday, although a decision is not expected until some time after.

At an earlier hearing in July to manage the case, judges assured the concerned parties that the case, along with any subsequent appeals, would be done and dusted before Article 50 was triggered.

Read more: MPs should debate Brexit, not frustrate it

While the majority of the debate around the case has been healthy, at the July hearing, Sir Brian Leveson warned some of the abuse had reached an "aggressive, abusive and threatening" level, and cautioned it could be considered contempt of court.

Also today, president of the European Council Donald Tusk warned the UK should either opt for hard Brexit or no Brexit at all.

"It is useless to speculate about soft Brexit," he said, speaking in Brussels. "These would be purely theoretical speculations. In my opinion, the only real alternative to a hard Brexit is 'no Brexit'."

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