Scotland politics

Judge rejects bid for review over Article 50 withdrawal case

Court of Session

A judge has rejected a bid from a cross-party group of Scottish politicians to review whether the UK can withdraw Article 50 on its own.

The politicians wanted to go to the European Court of Justice for a ruling on whether Brexit could be called off.

Lord Doherty ruled against them at the Court of Session, saying their bid had no real prospect of success.

The group may appeal, but will need to raise fresh funds after court expenses were awarded against them.

The legal action was launched by a group of politicians from the SNP, Labour, Scottish Greens and Liberal Democrats after a crowdfunding campaign reached its £50,000 target.

The politicians, who are backed by the Good Law Project campaign group, said it was about "providing clarity to inform the democratic process", and hoped to eventually bring the case forward in the European courts in Luxembourg.

However, their initial application for a judicial review was rejected by Lord Doherty, who said that the group's "prospect of success falls very far short".

'Hypothetical and academic'

The judge said that "given that neither parliament nor the government has any wish to withdraw the notification", the question whether or not it could be done unilaterally "is hypothetical and academic".

He said: "The fact of the matter is that parliament has not proposed, let alone enacted, legislation directed to the United Kingdom's withdrawal of its Article 50 notification.

"The government's policy is not in conflict with the legislative will of parliament. Parliament authorised the government to give the notification. Neither parliament nor the government wishes that the notification be withdrawn."

He added: "In those circumstances it is not a matter which this court, or the Court of Justice of the European Union, require to adjudicate upon".

The group are to launch a fresh crowdfunding campaign for an appeal to the Inner House of the Court of Session.

QC Jo Maugham of the Good Law Project said he would support an appeal against the decision "to the Supreme Court if necessary".

He added: "It's plainly in the national interest that MPs, MEPs and MSPs, who face a choice whether to approve Theresa May's deal, know what options are open to them if they don't."

Letter to the PM

The ruling came as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote to the prime minister to again express her frustration at a lack of engagement from the UK government over Brexit.

Ms Sturgeon said it was vital that the Scottish government and other devolved administrations were able to influence the UK's negotiating objectives.

And she reiterated her support for remaining in both the European single market and the customs union, which she said was in the best interests of Scotland and the UK as a whole.

Downing Street insisted over the weekend that the country will leave the EU customs union after Brexit, amid claims of Tory disunity over the UK-EU future relationship.

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