Brits in Spain, Italy and France launch Brexit legal challenge

Sue WilsonA group of British citizens living in EU countries has launched a court challenge to stop Brexit. The group took legal action after the UK Electoral Commission found “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Vote Leave, one of the groups supporting the British exit from the European Union, broke the law during the referendum campaign by exceeding spending limits. The claimants argue that the conduct of Leave organisations should nullify the result of the vote and, therefore, the notification of the UK withdrawal from the EU.

The case is brought by Elinore Grayson and John Shaw, who are based in France, Carole-Anne Richards from Italy and Sue Wilson from Spain. They have formed the group “UK in EU Challenge” and are now fundraising to cover the legal fees. Sue Wilson (photo) is the lead claimant and chair of Bremain in Spain, a group campaigning to protect the rights of British citizens in EU countries. Unlike other groups, Bremain in Spain do not take a neutral standing on the EU referendum. They believe that the best way to protect people’s rights is to stop Brexit and stay in the EU. They also support the campaign calling for a vote on the final Brexit deal, a position that has recently been endorsed by the coalition of British in Europe.

Based in Valencia since 2007, Wilson says that she was “not politically motivated” until the referendum. It then took her three weeks “to come to terms with the result of the vote” and decide she “had to do something”.

How did Bremain in Spain start?

Bremain in Spain was launched the day after the vote by two women in Barcelona. I joined and became one of the most active members. The group quickly became bigger than anticipated and since the two people who created it had other commitments, I took it over. Now we have 5,000 members on the Facebook group, there is a council of nine people and several volunteers that work in specific teams, from the lobby team that writes to MPs and MEPs, to the media and social media teams. We are members of the British in Europe coalition and partners of the European Movement in UK. Our main goal is to stop Brexit and, as a secondary aim, we work to protect the rights of people impacted by Brexit.

What do you hope to achieve with the legal challenge?

The premise of our legal case is that we know from the Electoral Commission that the Leave campaign broke the law. Because of that, the result of the referendum is flawed and could be fraudulent. We argue that, even though the Prime Minister did it in good faith, it was wrong to trigger article 50 of the EU Treaty and start the Brexit process based on the belief that the vote represented the will of the people. The referendum result should be declared null and void and Brexit be stopped and, if necessary, there should be a further referendum held on a fair and legal basis’.

What are the next steps of the case?

The High Court has given the government until 31 August to respond. Then, in September, it will decide how to proceed. We expect a court hearing in October. The case may be escalated to the Supreme Court, as time is of the essence now. The government says we are too late, but our argument is that we only just found out beyond reasonable doubt that the law has been broken.

What do you respond to those saying that Brexit is the will of the people?

First, we would argue that whatever the will of people was in 2016, it cannot be guaranteed it is the same now, especially since the impacts of a no deal scenario are becoming clear. Secondly, from a legal standpoint, the result of the vote may be fraudulent, so how do we know this was the will of the people?

Do you think after two years of discussion there is more understanding of the European Union and what are the impacts of Brexit for people’s lives?

Overall there is a lot of apathy and misunderstanding. We get so many comments that it was our decision to go to live in Europe, so it is fair many of us did not get to vote. But we are still British taxpayers, we have worked 40 years to get our pensions and we have families in the UK. As regards the EU, there is still a scary lack of knowledge. Of course there are notable exceptions of very well informed people. But when I go to Brussels there is a different level of understanding. It is a breath of fresh air, and hearing that deluge of European languages is fantastic. In comparison British seem so isolated, and it is the governments’ fault that for years no one has mentioned the benefits the EU membership has brought.

In this context of apathy and misunderstanding does it make sense to vote again?

We have to be very aware of this context. But the approach for a referendum campaign will be different. It will have to be “Project Hope”, as “Project Fear” was an absolute failure. Also, the referendum will not be a binary question on whether to stay or go, it will be about the negotiated deal.

What would you tell the EU?

Please keep the door open. Many people in the UK do not want to leave, but we need more time. Also, please do not bend your rules and stand by the four freedoms [free movement of goods, services, capital and persons]. We do not want the EU to compromise, because that is the best deal we can have.

And what would you say to people who voted to leave?

What we do is for everybody, regardless of how they voted, as the decision must be made based on facts, and on a fair and legal basis.


Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.
Photo via Pixabay (top) and courtesy of Sue Wilson.

Newsletter popup

Sign up to our newsletter!

Practical information on EU residence and citizenship, with stories from across Europe selected and curated for you (max one email per week).

Click here