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Article 50 case is an attempt to invalidate Leave decision, Attorney General tells court

Hayley Kirton
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Scenes from outside the Royal Courts of Justice last week
The case has been brought to court by a number of parties (Source: Getty)

The Attorney General has today told a court legal challenges over Brexit brought by businesswoman Gina Miller are nothing more than an attempt to overturn the referendum outcome.

Speaking in the Royal Courts of Justice as one of the government's lawyers today, Jeremy Wright QC MP said: "This is not, we submit, a narrow legal challenge...in reality, it seeks to invalidate the decision already taken."

He added that, by turning to parliament for a new law before triggering Article 50, the decision on whether to stay in the EU itself would also be in parliament's hands, not the hands of the UK public at large.

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

"If we submit parliament is to decide that, then it must be deciding whether to withdraw from the EU at all," he said.

The case, which started in the High Court last Thursday, has been brought to decide whether an Act of Parliament needs to be in place before government triggers Article 50.

The case has been brought by a number of parties but the lead claimant is businesswoman Gina Miller.

Also in today's hearing, Patrick Green QC, speaking on behalf of a group of expats who had lodged an interest in the case, criticised the government for not being more transparent about how it had reached the decision it had prerogative powers to trigger Article 50.

Green added it was plainly wrong for "government to be able to take advantage of the ambiguity of its decision and the reason for it".

However, Wright argued government had vocalised its thinking on several occasions, including former Prime Minister David Cameron calling the vote an In/Out decision when announcing his intention to hold a referendum.

In a statement issued before the start of the case, Wright said: "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."

The hearing is expected to continue into tomorrow, with a final decision not expected for some time.

Should the losing party wish to appeal, a leapfrog process is already in place to allow the case to skip over the Court of Appeal and go directly to the Supreme Court for a December hearing, which would bring this case to an end before Article 50 is expected to be triggered.

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