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Brexit supporters urged to back MPs' vote on triggering Article 50

'I can argue with Theresa May saying ‘Brexit is Brexit’, which is as useful as her saying ‘Breakfast is breakfast’'

Francisco Garcia
Tuesday 30 August 2016 17:54 BST
A series of protests have taken place since the EU referendum
A series of protests have taken place since the EU referendum (Getty)

Pro-EU campaigners have urged Leave supporters to help fund their legal challenge aimed at preventing Theresa May from triggering Brexit without gaining parliamentary approval.

Around 1,400 people have contributed more than £50,000 to the 'People’s Challenge' campaign, meaning the group has reached its first funding target to prepare a written case to the High Court.

Crowd-funding organiser Grahame Pigney insisted there was a need to fight “suits with suits” and is seeking to raise a further £100,000 over the next 34 days in a bid to boost the campaign’s legal team, adding that he welcomed Brexit backers in joining his cause.

Mr Pigney argued the Prime Minister needed the approval of MPs to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, thereby starting the two-year process of negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Government lawyers advised in July that the royal prerogative can be used to start the process- which does not require a vote in Parliament.

Various reports suggest that Mrs May is leaning towards this approach. The development emerged as Mrs May is set to chair a meeting of senior ministers to discuss how Brexit could be a success in their particular areas.

Mr Pigney, of the Say Yes 2 Europe group, is backed by his 22-year-old son Robert, Gibraltarian national and Brex-In founder Paul Cartwright and others in developing the legal challenge.

Speaking from France, Mr Pigney said: “What we’re doing is on behalf of everybody - not just experts, not just on behalf of a few people interested in this, but 65 million citizens in the UK

“They all have these rights. Whether they use them or cherish them, they all have these rights and Parliament needs to make the decision rather than the Government in some sectional, political interests.

“I don’t see why Leavers can’t get behind this as it’s about parliamentary sovereignty”.

Judges have decided a legal challenge over Brexit can be heard by the High Court in October, with London-based investment manager Gina Miller the lead case in the action.

The People’s Challenge is aiming to be involved as an interested party in what has been described as “the most important constitutional law case in living memory.”

Mr Pigney, who was unable to vote in June’s referendum after moving to France 19 years ago, is vocal in his backing for the EU and frustration at the result.

But he adds that his legal bid is not to do with individual grievance, but about allowing MPs to decide what happens next.

This approach could cause concern for Brexit supporters by adding to their suspicions that either the UK will not trigger Article 50, or a diluted approach will be adopted in light of the fact that the majority of MPs backed Remain.

Mrs May has developed the slogan “Brexit means Brexit” as she seeks to reassure her parties hard-line Brexiteers about her commitment to honouring the referendum result despite opting to back Remain.

Mr Pigney said he could not deny he would like the referendum result “ignored” and for people to be allowed to have a chance to “make a more informed decision”.

But he went on to add: “If Parliament decided we leave the EU, I cannot argue with that. It’s the democratic process. I don’t want that to happen. I would like Parliament to have a long, hard think and come to a more sensible conclusion.

“If Parliament decides it’s going to take us out and set the conditions and timing, I cannot argue with that.

“I can argue with Theresa May saying ‘Brexit is Brexit’, which is as useful as her saying ‘Breakfast is breakfast’.”

Opposition has been voiced to the legal challenges, with Conservative MP Bernard Jenkins reported in the Huffington Post saying: “This is ludicrous, it’s desperate and it’s people who cannot face the truth that Britain’s membership of the European community has lost democratic consent and that’s what counts.”

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