Theresa May faces the headache of a second legal challenge over Brexit – this time over the barely-known Article 127.
Pro-EU campaigners will argue that Britain will not leave the European Economic Area (EEA) – and therefore the single market – automatically when it leaves the EU itself.
The think tank British Influence is writing to Brexit Secretary David Davis to argue Parliament should decide, in a mirror image over the battle to trigger the Article 50 exit notice.
The Government will argue that EEA membership ends when Britain leaves the EU, which is expected to happen in 2019.
But, if the courts back the legal challenge and give Parliament the final say over EEA membership, MPs could potentially vote to ensure that Britain stays in the single market.
They could argue for membership until a long-term trading relationship with the EU has been agreed, something expected to take far longer than the 2019 exit date.
More MPs would feel able to do this than oppose leaving the EU outright, because the referendum question only asked about membership of the EU – not of the single market.
At the very least, the latest challenge would mean a lengthy legal process – potentially via the European Court of Justice - that could delay the Government's Article 50 negotiations with the EU.
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
Professor George Yarrow, emeritus professor at Hertford College, Oxford, told the BBC: “There is no provision in the EEA Agreement for UK membership to lapse if the UK withdraws from the EU.
“The only exit mechanism specified is Article 127, which would need to be triggered.”
Jonathan Lis, deputy director for British Influence, said: “There is a strong chance that the UK will be acting unlawfully by taking us out of the EEA with Brexit.
“We consider that they have an obligation to seek urgent clarification in the courts. So we are going to be petitioning for a judicial review.”
But Conservative MP and Brexiteer Dominic Raab said: "Rather than coming up with new legal wheezes to try and frustrate the will of the people, these lawyers should be working with us to make a success of Brexit.
“The public have spoken; we should respect the result and get on with it, not try to find new hurdles that undermine the democratic process.”
Pro-Europeans see the single market as crucial to economic success, because it allows the tariff-free movement of goods, services, money and people within the EU.
The EEA was set up in the 1990s to extend those benefits to some non-EU members including Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Non-EU members are outside the Common Agricultural Policy and customs union, but enjoy barrier-free trade in return for paying into some EU budgets and accepting the free movement of workers.
A Government spokesman dismissed the challenge, saying: “As the UK is party to the EEA Agreement only in its capacity as an EU Member State, once we leave the European Union we will automatically cease to be a member of the EEA.
“The referendum result will be respected and we intend to invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March next year.”
The separate fight over the Government’s right to trigger Article 50 reaches the Supreme Court next week, with a verdict early in the New Year.Reuse content