British expatriates based in the European Union have launched a legal challenge against the 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom leaving the 28-member bloc, arguing that the British government should declare the vote null and void due to “cheating” on the part of the Leave campaign.
The lead claimant in the UK in EU Challenge group is the chair of the Bremain in Spain forum, Sue Wilson, who has been campaigning constantly in the last two years against “Brexit,” as the process of the UK leaving the EU is known.
Recent findings have called into question as to whether the referendum was conducted in accordance with the UK’s constitutional requirements
Sue Wilson, Bremain in Spain
Writing in a Bremain in Spain newsletter, Wilson states that “recent findings by the Electoral Commission of illegal conduct by the Leave campaign during the 2016 EU Referendum have called into question as to whether the referendum was conducted in accordance with the UK’s constitutional requirements.”
Represented by Croft Solicitors, the UK in EU Challenge group is arguing that “the Electoral Commission found ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that Vote Leave, the official campaign, cheated on its spending limit by almost £700,000 (6%).” They add that “the courts can declare the vote null and void if there has been cheating of exactly this type.”
They also argue that the decision of the British prime minister, Theresa May, to trigger Article 50, was “not in line with the UK’s ‘constitutional requirements,’ as fair elections are at the heart of our Constitution.” They are calling on May “to act on the clear and unambiguous findings that cheating was at the core of the EU Referendum by proposing a second referendum with strictly enforced rules.” They conclude: “This isn’t about ‘leave’ or ‘remain’. It’s about rights, fairness and democracy.”
This isn’t about ‘leave’ or ‘remain’. It’s about rights, fairness and democracy
Uk in EU Challenge group
In a pre-action letter sent to the UK government, the associations called for the quashing of the decision to notify under Article 50, the clause of the Treaty on European Union that begins the process for a member state to leave the EU, and the “quashing of the notice by which such notification was given, on the basis that it was not given in accordance with the UK’s own constitutional requirements.”
The British government’s legal department responded saying that such a claim was “substantially out of time,” and had already been considered and rejected in a previous court case. In response, the associations have now filed this fresh law suit.
“The Brexit referendum has caused considerable damage to the economy, and the reputation and very fabric of British society,” Sue Wilson told EL PAÍS. “The way that EU citizens are being treated by the UK government is shameful; the treatment of its own citizens in the EU is no better. We are invisible, our voices unheard. Well, we think they will be listening now. The legal challenge is being brought by Brits in the EU, but it’s for everyone. The rights and freedoms that are at risk because of Brexit are everyone’s rights. If the referendum had been fair, maybe the result – close as it was – would have been easier to accept, but it was not. It must be challenged.”
“People’s lives are at stake,” added Elinore Grayson, a co-complainant in the case who lives in France. “Never before in modern peacetime history have citizens had such existing rights removed. To do this on the basis of a result achieved through deception goes against not only the law but basic human principles.”
Many of the estimated one to two million British nationals living across the EU have been protesting against Brexit and their treatment by the British government since the 2016 vote, claiming that they are being used as “bargaining chips” in the negotiations to leave, and that their rights are not being taken into account. Many have voiced their fears over the repercussions of a so-called “hard Brexit,” i.e. if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal, leaving them in a potential limbo in terms of their rights to continue to live, work and freely travel throughout the bloc.
There has also been widespread anger over the fact that British electoral law precludes anyone who has lived outside of the UK for more than 15 years from voting in general elections or referendums, meaning that those who stand to be most affected by the eventual outcome of Brexit were not allowed to have their say.