There's "no going back" for the UK once it triggers Article 50, a court has been told today.
At a case in the Royal Courts of Justice to debate the legal process of the UK's departure from the EU, Lord Pannick QC highlighted that the wording of Article 50 does not envision any provisional or conditional withdrawal of an EU member state.
"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".
In particular, Pannick pointed to the provision within Article 50 which only allowed the two year notice period to be extended if the other EU member states agreed on it unanimously, noting the very concept of a provisional notification "frustrates" the timetable laid out by the legislation.
The case being heard today has been brought to the court 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.
The case has been brought to court by a number of parties, but the lead claimant is fund boss Gina Miller. She is being represented by solicitors Mishcon de Reya as well as Lord Pannick QC and Tom Hickman of Blackstone Chambers, Rhodri Thompson QC of Matrix Chambers and Anneli Howard of Monckton Chambers.
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The government is represented by Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC, James Eadie QC, Jason Coppel QC, Tom Cross and Christopher Knight.
Pannick continued in today's hearing to note that he was of the opinion that parliament could not reinstate many of the valuable rights granted to his client by the EU. For example, he noted his client could no longer go to the Court of Justice for a decision on her understanding of a piece of law which originally stemmed from the EU once the UK was no longer a member.
After today, the hearing is due to continue on 17 October before concluding on 18 October.
Should whichever party loses wish to appeal the decision, a leapfrog process has already been set up to allow the case to skip over the Court of Appeal and direct to the Supreme Court for a hearing in December.
At an earlier hearing to manage the case, which took place back in July, judges assured the concerned parties that the case, along with any subsequent appeals, would be done and dusted before Article 50 was triggered, while the defence lawyers confirmed it was not government’s intention to start the process before the end of the year.
Prime Minister Theresa May has since said the official process for exiting the EU will be started before the end of March 2017.