Joseph Barrett succeeds in Art. 50 Notification/EU Referendum legal challenge


R (Wilson & Ors) v Prime Minister CO/3214/2018 

Following a day long oral hearing the High Court has dismissed a wide-ranging crowd-funded claim for judicial review which sought to challenge the outcome of the EU Referendum, the giving of Article 50 notification to leave the EU and the alleged subsequent inaction of the Prime Minister in the face of the Electoral Commission’s findings of breaches of campaign finance and other requirements by Vote Leave and other leave campaigners during the 2016 EU Referendum campaign.

Rejecting the grounds of challenge in their entirety, Ouseley J held that the claims, which were issued in August 2018, were brought very substantially out of time and that having regard to the extensive information available in the public domain in 2017 and early 2018 regarding the facts and matters said to underpin the complaints no good reason had been established that could justify extending time in the Claimants’ favour. The Court accepted the submission on behalf of the Prime Minister that on proper analysis the Claimants’ challenge to the validity of the EU Referendum outcome was a necessary element of their other proposed grounds of challenge, with the result that the Claimants’ delay required the refusal of permission in respect of all of the proposed grounds of claim.

The Court also held that the claims were substantively unarguable, principally on the basis that while it was arguable that the common law may have some application in respect of the breaches of the electoral law found by the Electoral Commission to have occurred during the EU Referendum it would be necessary, as a minimum, for the Claimants to establish that there was evidence that any such breaches may have affected the result. The Claimants had failed to advance or establish any such case. The expert evidence (a report by Philip Howard of the Oxford Internet Institute) sought to be introduced by the Claimants shortly before the oral renewal hearing which purported to address the causation issues was fundamentally flawed, should not be admitted into the proceedings and contained obvious and patent errors which rendered it incapable of providing satisfactory evidence that could support the claim.

A full written judgment will be available in due course.

Joseph Barrett of 11KBW acted successfully for the Prime Minister.