Brexit court cases cost taxpayers £1.2m in legal fees, new document reveals

Officials say that after staff costs, it was the most significant area of spend in the Brexit Department

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 19 July 2017 20:34 BST
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Gina Miller launched the legal case, arguing the government could not invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - starting the formal process of the UK leaving the EU - without seeking approval from Parliament
Gina Miller launched the legal case, arguing the government could not invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - starting the formal process of the UK leaving the EU - without seeking approval from Parliament

Court cases relating to Brexit, including the invocation of Article 50, have cost taxpayers £1.2m in legal fees, the Department for Exiting the European Union has revealed.

In documents published on Wednesday – the penultimate day of Parliament before the summer recess – officials said that after staff costs, the most significant area of spend in Brexit Secretary David Davis’s department was on legal fees – totalling £3.7m.

Of this, £0.7 million was spent on the Article 50 and Article 127 cases, while half a million was spent on the legal fees for the winners of the case, including the claimant Gina Miller.

When the Government lost the case, in January, ministers refused to reveal the cost of lawyers to fight the two failed legal challenges. As a result Parliament had to pass legislation, authorising Theresa May to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and kick-start the two-year negotiations. The Prime Minister had intended to bypass Parliament.

Refusing to comply with Freedom of Information requests, submitted by The Independent, the department said in February it would publish the costs in “due course”, adding it would happen “reasonably soon”.

But now the Government stands accused of “slipping out” the substantial costs of failed legal battles at “the eleventh hour” as MPs prepare to vacate the Commons for the summer recess.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer called it "a colossal waste of time and money".

He said: "Parliament needed be brought into the Brexit process, not pushed away.To have spent over £1 million of taxpayers’ money trying to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny says all you need to know about this Prime Minister’s priorities and her closed, divisive approach to Brexit.”

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson, described the cost as a “kick in the teeth for taxpayers”, adding: “The Conservatives fought every step of the way in the courts to try and avoid proper scrutiny over Brexit, now the public is having to pick up the tab.

He continued: “The government repeatedly refused to make this information public, and now have slipped it out at the eleventh hour.

“None of this would have happened if the government had done the right thing and given Parliament a full role from the start. But this bill is nothing compared to the huge cost the country will pay if the Conservatives plough ahead with their extreme version of Brexit.

A spokesperson for the Brexit department added: "The Article 50 court case raised a vital issue relating to the UK's constitutional arrangements. The Government thought it was right to bring the case to the UK's highest court."

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