The Suez file: the Attorney’s letter to R. A. Butler, November 1, 1956

December 31 2016

Today’s document from the Attorney General’s 1956 Suez file (reproduced with permission of the image library of the National Archives) is a letter from the Attorney General to R. A. Butler dated November 1 1956 suggesting a non-legal justification for intervention to be used in the Commons (Butler was to wind up a debate on the situation for the government that evening) while making it clear the Attorney sees no possible legal defence of it.

The Attorney, undoubtedly responding to the line about to be taken by Lord Kilmuir in the House of Lords on the same day, doubts there was any threat to the lives of British nationals such as to justify the use of force.

I am not aware that any threat to our nationals came from Egypt …

He goes on

I would thus seek to justify our action not under … international law but on the ground of expediency … and in conformity with the intentions underlying the Charter …

He expresses concern that MPs will demand to know his view on the legal position.

If that demand is made, I shall be in a position of acute difficulty for I cannot really advance any legal justification for our action.

His reference to a legal memo must I think be to the one sent to the Lord Chancellor on October 31.

Butler’s speech later perhaps rather cleverly focused at first on the question of whether there was in law a state of armed conflict, rather than on the question of whether Britain’s use of force was lawful. What he said later also shows the Attorney’s influence: he talks of the spirit and intention of the Charter and defends Britain’s motives in more or less the terms the Attorney suggested.

Butler did, though, go on to claim that Britain’s action accorded with customary international law and with Article 51 of the Charter.

2016-12-31T20:33:44+00:00Tags: , , |

The Suez file: the Attorney’s letter to Selwyn Lloyd, November 1, 1956

December 30 2016

The next document I’m reproducing from the Attorney General’s 1956 Suez file (with permission of the image library of the National Archives) is a letter from the Attorney General to the Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd dated November 1 1956—and copied to Prime Minister Eden—expressing concern about government statements on the legal justification for action in Suez, and making clear the Law Officers’ view that action was unlawful.

The Attorney writes

I am troubled about the legal basis for the action … and I am worried about the consequences for Her Majesty’s Government should it become known that the Law Officers are not able to support the main legal contentions so far advanced.

The previous day in the Commons, Selwyn Lloyd had suggested action in Suez was lawful because British citizens were in imminent danger.

It’s clear from the letter that the Attorney had been “kept out of the loop” as we’d say nowadays, about the ultimatum issued to Egypt two days before. He says

on what is known to me, I am unable to devise any argument which could purport to justify in international law either our demand … [that Egypt withdraw its forces from the canal zone] or the threat to occupy her territory by armed forces should she fail to acceded to that demand.

The Attorney’s frustration is clear:

I feel compelled to write this letter because … it will generally be assumed that we have been approached for advice as to the legality of what has been done. In fact we were not consulted …

The reader in 2016 wonders why he felt so unable to impose his legal view on his ministerial colleagues—and why he remained in his position.

That evening, the Lord Chancellor Lord Kilmuir gave his own legal defence of the military action, in the House of Lords. Interestingly he did not rely on the case he’d set out in writing to the Attorney about the “international character” of the Suez canal, but claimed that action was justified in self-defence because of an imminent threat to British citizens.

2016-12-31T20:36:52+00:00Tags: , , |

The Suez file: the Attorney’s letter and memo of October 31, 1956

December 29 2016

The third batch of documents from the Attorney General’s 1956 Suez file (reproduced with permission of the image library of the National Archives) consists of a letter from the Attorney General to the Lord Chancellor dated October 31 1956, together with a memorandum stating the Law Officers’ final view and in effect closing the legal discussion.

The Attorney General did not resign, in spite of his legal view being ignored; but the resigned tone of his letter is unmistakable.

Although it no longer appears to be of much importance, I think you might like to see the draft memorandum that Harry [the Solicitor General] and I have prepared relating to the use of force …

The memo, the Attorney says

was drafted in a form which would have permitted us to circulate it to our colleagues

something which by this stage was obviously pointless, the Attorney’s view being neither sought by the Prime Minister, nor welcome.

Britain’s ultimatum to Egypt and Israel of the day before had been rejected by the Egyptian side; and the Prime Minister spoke in the Commons that afternoon of

the military action that we shall have to take …

The Law Officers’ legal memorandum suggests that some ineffectual attempt was made to agree the legal analysis as far as possible with Lord Kilmuir: paragraph 4 shows that the Attorney was prepared to accept Kilmuir’s exposition in principle of self-defence in international law, as set out in his 15 October memo.

But there was no meeting of legal minds beyond that.

The Law Officers stand by their view that even an illegal and forcible denial of Britain’s legal rights would only justify a more limited use of force than the invasion being prepared (see para. 4) and that in any case there had been no illegal threat or force. Therefore (para. 6)

It cannot, in our opinion, be said that Egypt has so far committed any act which would justify the use or threat or force by the United Kingdom in self-defence. The failure of the Security Council to take an effective decision will not in itself alter this situation.

2016-12-29T10:26:48+00:00Tags: , , |

The Suez file: Lord Kilmuir’s letter and memo of October 15, 1956

December 28 2016

The second batch of documents from the Attorney General’s 1956 Suez file (reproduced with permission of the image library of the National Archives) consists of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Kilmuir’s reply to the Attorney, dated October 15 1956; and his memorandum setting out his own opinion that the use of force over Suez would be legal.

Kilmuir thanks the Attorney for his memo, but says

I cannot agree with all your conclusions. I have therefore enlarged it to cover my views and send a copy for the consideration of the Solicitor General and yourself.

He seems to mean he’s rewritten the Attorney’s memo to reflect his, opposite, view.

In his memorandum Kilmuir argues first (paragraph 3) that the Kellogg-Briand Pact permits resort to war in self-defence and to enforce international obligations.

The nub of the question

he says (in the erroneously numbered second paragraph “3”)

is what is covered by self-defence to-day.

Kilmuir argues (para. 4) that force may be used in self-defence if a state’s rights are illegally and forcibly denied and no other remedy is available; he also argues for pre-emptive self-defence.

Kilmuir accepts that Egypt had neither used nor threatened force in breach of international law but argues (para. 7) that

It cannot be right, or good international law, that international territory could be annexed by invasion and that the countries affected are powerless to act if the use of the veto has prevented the Security Council directing any method for righting the wrong.

At para. 8, Kilmuir argues that the international character of the Suez canal was admitted by Egypt in the 1888 Convention of Constantinople—but someone at the Attorney General’s chambers points out in a handwritten marginal note that Egypt was not a party to that agreement. Those notes are in fact one of the main points of interest in the document, showing that Kilmuir’s view was met with deep legal scepticism in the Attorney’s team.

Kilmuir’s argument concludes by comparing Nasser’s behaviour to Hitler’s over the Rhineland:

Just as the Rhineland was re-militarised, the Canal was de-internationalised. Egypt … has been guilty of a crime of aggression … If Egypt refuses to restore [the canal’s international] character, then the nations affected can use force to defend it.

2016-12-28T13:47:12+00:00Tags: , , |

The Suez file: the Attorney’s letter and memo of October 12, 1956

December 27 2016

With permission of the image library of the National Archives, here are the first two documents I’m reproducing from the Attorney General’s 1956 Suez file: a letter from the Attorney, Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Kilmuir (better known to many as Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, as he was before he became a peer) dated October 12 1956 and a manuscript draft of a memorandum setting out the Law Officers’ legal view.

First, the letter, sent to the Lord Chancellor at the Conservative conference in Llandudno. At this time, diplomatic efforts were going on. The USSR was about to veto an Anglo-French draft resolution at the UN on the 13th, and the government was preparing invasion plans. The Prime Minister was to say in his conference speech

we have always said that with us force is the last resort, but it cannot be excluded. Therefore, we have refused to say that in no circumstances would we ever use force.  No responsible Government could ever give such a pledge.

The Attorney explains that the memorandum represents his view and that of the Solicitor General (“Harry”—Sir Harry Hylton-Foster). The Attorney says somewhat beseechingly

I do hope you will agree with it for I feel under some obligation to inform the Prime Minister of the views of the Law Officers pretty soon.

But he refers to discussions with the Lord Chancellor in earlier meetings, so must have known Kilmuir’s agreement would be unlikely.

We do not think

the Attorney writes, that the seizure of the Suez Canal Company’s property in Egypt

would now justify the use of force by us. It would now be most difficult, if not impossible, to establish that such use of force by us came within the doctrine of self-defence. Even if a case could be made for regarding Nasser as an aggressor we should not in consequence be justified in using or threatening force …

The letter outlines the “most attractive” way the Attorney thinks force could be justified but makes clear that

We do not think this argument is sound.

To see the document in full screen view click on the “four arrows” box at the bottom left hand of the viewer; you’ll also find there a link to the original pdf version of the letter.

I couldn’t find on file at Kew a typed version of the memorandum referred to in the letter. But I did find an undated manuscript draft which must represent the substance of what was sent to Lord Kilmuir. If you’re unable to read the handwriting, click on the “text” box, where you’ll see my transcript.

Resort to war, the Law Officers argue in the draft memo, is ruled out by the Kellogg-Briand pact, which outlawed war as an instrument of national policy. They’re unpersuaded that fighting to restore the Suez canal to multilateral control was a matter of international rather than national policy. Any threat of force, even short of war, cannot be justified under the UN Charter, they write, since there has been no armed attack by Egypt, nor even any illegal forcible denial of the UK’s rights.

At present

they conclude,

President Nasser does not appear to us to have used or threatened force which would justify the threat or use of force in self defence.

2016-12-28T14:49:38+00:00Tags: , , |

1956: The Attorney General’s Suez file

December 27 2016

The year about to end, 2016, is the 60th anniversary of the Suez crisis—something I’m surprised hasn’t had more coverage and comment. The Suez crisis is of legal interest because of the way the Attorney General Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller’s view (that Britain’s military intervention could not be justified in international law) was ignored by the Prime Minister in favour of the more convenient legal advice of the Lord Chancellor Lord Kilmuir—Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, as he’s better known to many of us.

So over the coming days, I’ll be reproducing (with the permission of the image library of the National Archives) documents I’ve found in the Attorney General’s 1956 Suez file at the National Archives in Kew relating to that famous legal dispute.

These documents are not new: they’ve been in the public domain at the National Archives for some time, and were reported on some years ago. But I want to make freely available in full, perhaps for the first time, some of the key documents setting out the legal dispute over Suez and the Attorney General’s discomfort at being, in effect, ignored.

I’ll begin today with a letter and memo from the Attorney General to the Lord Chancellor from October 1956. Then, over the next few days I’ll be posting further correspondence between the government’s two top lawyers plus letters to the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, among other legal and ministerial correspondence.

If you’re as interested in political and legal history as I am, I hope you’ll enjoy reading the legal arguments and concerns of 1956 in ministers’ own words.

2016-12-27T15:16:42+00:00Tags: , , |

Why the High Court got the law wrong about Brexit

November 4 2016

Some reactions to the High Court’s judgment in the article 50 case, R (Miller) v Brexit Secretary, have been ugly, excessive and ridiculous. It’s excessive too to see the judgment as blocking Brexit, or as creating a constitutional crisis. It does neither thing. I’ve no doubt that if the judgment is upheld on appeal to the Supreme Court, the government will obtain the one-clause bill it’d need authorising it to give notice of Brexit under the famous article 50.

But the judgment is surprising (I expected it’d agree with my view), it’s problematic, and I think it’s wrongly decided. Here’s why. I’m afraid my explanation is long: but I think it needs to be.

The basic flaw

In broad terms, what’s happened is that two recently discovered or “upcycled” legal doctrines—the theory that there is a higher class of “constitutional” statutes and what’s called the “principle of legality”—have combined with, I think, confusion about the effect of the European Communities Act 1972, and created a heady and intoxicating legal brew. Deeps draughts of that stuff have impaired the bench’s judgement so much that they’ve thought constitutional principle required them to take and upside-down approach to statutory interpretation, and read the 1972 Act in a way Parliament can surely never have intended either in 1972 or since.

The underlying principle

First, it’s important to be clear what legal principle the judges have tried to give effect to. It’s not that there’s anything really unusual about article 50 that means ministers can’t “trigger” it using prerogative powers, or even that doing so would deny people their rights. It’s a much broader constitutional principle that the court derives from the 1610 Case of Proclamations (paragraph 27 of yesterday’s judgment) that the executive by prerogative

cannot change any part of the common law, or statute law …

and from the Zamora case in 1916 (para. 29 of the judgment):

The idea that … the Executive, has power to prescribe or alter the law to be administered by Courts of law in this country is out of harmony with the principles of our Constitution.

That’s worth remembering: the High Court thinks triggering article 50 would change the law in this country, and that no change to the law of any kind can be made by doing so. The principle is much wider than, for instance, one that only protects fundamental constitutional or human rights. But almost immediately after explaining it, the court undermines it by accepting (para. 33) that

treaties can have certain indirect interpretive effects in relation to domestic law …

Which they certainly do. The courts presume Parliament to legislate in accordance with the UK’s international obligations which means, if you think about it, that merely entering into a treaty alters our law here to some extent. But, the court says (§33)

this does not affect the basic position that the Crown cannot through the use of its prerogative powers increase or diminish or dispense with the rights of individuals or companies conferred by common law or statute or change domestic law in any way without the intervention of Parliament.

But the exception surely does blow a hole through “the basic position” as outlined by the High Court. Judges themselves have said international obligations alter to some extent the law in this country.

EU law rights

Next, let me turn to what I think are the court’s misunderstandings about the EU rights, and the effect the 1972 Act had in bringing them in to our legal system. First, the court at §34 says

a direct link exists between, on the one hand, rights and obligations arising through action taken on the international plane – by entry into and continued membership of the … [EU] … and creation of EU law in the relevant Treaties and by law-making institutions of the European Union – and, on the other, the content of domestic law. This is the result of a combination of principles of EU law, including principles of direct effect of EU law in the national legal systems of Member States, and the terms of the ECA 1972 …

On its face this is unobjectionable; but I wonder whether underlying the judgment is an unspoken assumption that the EU law concept of direct effect makes these treaties and this legislation unique by giving EU law some independent status in our own law. That’s certainly not right: it’s only by artificial statutory domestication of the concept of direct effect through the ECA 1972 that EU law has effect here. The passage I’ve just quoted leaves some room for doubt about how clearly the High Court saw this, and my slight doubt are increased by §42 of the judgment where I think the court may not be quite right to imply EU law requires the concept of direct effect to be explicitly transposed into national legislation.

The judges go on to set out (§§57-66) three categories of “rights” they say are relevant. The first, “category (i)” are rights like equal pay or working time restrictions that can be replicated nationally. This is unproblematic. The second, “category (ii)”, are rights British citizens enjoy in other countries because of EU law, such as the right to take a job in France and not be discriminated against. It’s far less obvious why the court thought these rights—which cannot possibly exist in our domestic UK law—are relevant. The third “category (iii)” is what you might call pure institutional EU rights such as the right vote for MEPs or to ask a court to refer a point of interpretation to the European Court of Justice.

The High Court says article 50 notification would remove category (i) rights, but of course it would not: there might be a “soft Brexit” in which many of those rights are actually retained. It’s interesting that (§64) that the court needs to bolster its reasoning by referring to the ancillary loss of the category (i) right to ask for a reference to the ECJ.

But the reasoning of the court concerning category (ii) rights is very odd. These are plainly nothing to do with UK law or with Parliament: your or my free movement rights in France derive entirely from whatever effect the EU treaties have or are given in French law by French legislators and courts. And the High Court admits (§66) that

In a highly formalistic sense, this may be accurate

which is now my favourite euphemism for “it’s right but I reject it”. The High Court is quite correct (§66) to say

withdrawal from the European Union pursuant to Article 50 would undo the category (ii) rights

but what’s wrong, bearing in mind the constitutional principle underlying the judgment, is to think undoing category (ii) rights would change UK law in any way. It wouldn’t.

Only category (iii) rights actually fit unproblematically into the court’s analysis. They would undoubtedly and necessarily end at the moment (not of article 50 notification, but) of Brexit. So the court’s reasoning is actually based on the extinction of fewer rights, and the alteration of less UK law, than it seems. And it really only comes down to EU citizenship and the right to vote for MEPs or stand as one. The supposed right to ask for a reference to the ECJ is actually a power for courts to decide to make a reference. It’s not a substantive right at all, but just a procedural right to make an argument in a UK court.

An intriguing point, in passing

It’s interesting at this point to look at §70, which mentions without judicial comment that the European Parliament became directly elected in 1979. One wonders, if the High Court is right, what legal power the government had in the 1970s to agree to the change before MPs passed the legislation. Remember, it’s not just prerogative action that (in the judges’ view) removes rights that they say’s unlawful; the idea is that it’s unlawful by prerogative to alter the law in any way.

The real meat of this judgment, though, and where it really goes astray, is in the discussion on statutory interpretation from §77 and especially from §82.

Interpretation, and the two questionable principles

At para. 44 the court had mentioned the principle put forward by Lord Justice Laws in Thoburn that the ECA 1972 is a “constitutional statute”, with the technical legal consequence that it can only be amended or repealed explicitly. That’s always been an unconvincing theory, not much backed up by subsequent cases from higher courts. Frankly, it’s wrong. The way the ECA 1972 interacts with later statutes is (as seems to me obvious) because of its wording and what Parliament must have meant by it, rather than its status. But even if it’s right, Laws’s “constitutional statute” theory is limited to shielding the 1972 Act from accidental repeal.

In yesterday’s judgment, though, the thought seems to have grown into a wider proposition (that I detect underlying §§81-88 of the judgment) that a cross-cutting constitutional principle must implied into a “constitutional statute” that neither Parliament except by express words nor government can do anything that would on any view affect it in any way at all. It finds eventual expression in §88:

Since in enacting the ECA 1972 as a statute of major constitutional importance Parliament has indicated that it should be exempt from casual implied repeal by Parliament itself, still less can it be thought to be likely that Parliament nonetheless intended that its legal effects could be removed by the Crown through the use of its prerogative powers.

This is I think a vague and unjustified expansion of “constitutional statute” theory. Even if Laws LJ in Thoburn was right, his principle was about the way later legislation affects the 1972 Act. It has nothing to do with the prerogative.

This expansion of “constitutional statute” thinking has happened because the court has mixed it with the “principle of legality” that’s especially fashionable at the moment (in Evans in the Supreme Court, notably). According to that principle, which Lord Browne-Wilkinson traced in Pierson to academic writings and to a series of cases in the 1980s and 1990s, Parliament is presumed not to have intended to change the common law unless it has clearly indicated such intention.

Extraordinarily, the High Court has now reversed the principle in such as way as to presume that Parliament in 1972 did change the common law (by curtailing prerogative powers) although there are no clear words in the 1972 Act doing so.

It’s clear, then, that the heart of the problem in the judgment is the “flip” the court makes in §84 onwards, when it rejects the argument that

language would need to be found in the ECA 1972 before it could be inferred that Parliament intended to remove the Crown’s prerogative power

and concludes the opposite, that clear language would need to be found preserving the prerogative. This is, in my view, the fundamental flaw in the High Court’s reasoning.

The Rees-Mogg case

At §§90-91 the High Court distinguishes the Rees-Mogg case that I think raises the same essential issue as article 50. It does so by saying Rees-Mogg was not a general ruling that prerogative powers had survived the 1972 Act, but held merely that ministers could ratify the Maastricht treaty by prerogative because the social protocol did not change UK law.

Frankly, this is an implausible and untenable reading of the Rees-Mogg case. It’s plain if you read the judgment that what the High Court calls the “nub” of the reasoning in Rees-Mogg was actually a back-up argument bolstering its primary legal conclusion, that

When Parliament wishes to fetter the Crown’s treaty-making power in relation to Community law, it does so in express terms … There is in any event insufficient ground to hold that Parliament has by implication curtailed or fettered the Crown’s prerogative to alter or add to the E.E.C. Treaty.

Finally, paragraph 93 of yesterday’s judgment is odd. In it, the court identifies what it sees as textual support for its interpretative approach—but the points it makes are unpersuasive. Its point (3) in particular is very opaque. And what need, anyway, for textual support to bolster a reading that (according to the judges’ reasoning) follows implicitly from constitutional principle? Paragraph 93 reads, to me, like a suspiciously overdetermined and thin belt adding little to the courts’ already dodgy braces.

I wish I thought the Supreme Court would reverse it

If this judgment is correct, its consequences are, I think, radical and surprising. If in 1972 Parliament really did end the government’s power by prerogative to (as the court thinks) change UK law by doing anything that alters EU law, then surely every change to EU treaties agreed by Prime Ministers has been unlawful. Why, if this judgment stands, was it lawful for Mrs Thatcher to agree to the Single European Act? Why was it lawful for Mr Blair to sign up at Amsterdam to the Social Chapter? The High Court implies in its treatment of Rees-Mogg that he had no prerogative power to do so.

The list of worrying consequences goes on. What power have ministers ever had to agree in Brussels to EU measures such as Directives that (as the High Court sees it) change the law in this country when adopted? It seems to me at least arguable that, according to the High Court, all of this was unlawful—and that, to act lawfully now, we must all behave as if Britain were still in the European Community as it existed on 1 January 1973, before ministers by prerogative “unlawfully” made any changes. The solution to this conundrum can’t be that Parliament later “cured” ministerial unlawfulness by confirming the changes they’d agreed; if that were the answer, then the government’s planned “great repeal bill” could cure the supposed unlawfulness of article 50 notification.

I wish I thought the Supreme Court would reverse this—a judgment that’s tempered the twin edges of constitutional statute theory and the “principle of legality” and made of them a weapon that can be aimed at Parliament as it was, yesterday, at government. But the Supreme Court likes the principle of legality too much. We can hope for some dissent there, but I expect it to uphold this wrong turning in constitutional law.

R (Miller and others) v Brexit Secretary: the claimants’ argument

October 13 2016

Today the “article 50” challenge begins in the High Court. The claimants in the judicial review case want the court to order that government cannot lawfully decide to give notice of Brexit under article 50 of the Treaty on European Union unless Parliament first authorises it to do so by statute. As counsel for the claimants get on their feet to make their case this morning, here’s my brief analysis of what we know of their case from the “skeleton argument” of one set of interested parties to the case: you can read it and my detailed comments on it in the reader below, or by clicking at the bottom left corner on to “full screen” mode.

Essentially the claimants make three arguments (see para. 6 of the skeleton):

  • the government’s common law prerogative power to withdraw from the EU treaties has been impliedly put in abeyance, or suspended, by legislation—in particular the European Communities Act 1972, but also the European Union Act 2011 and devolution legislation such as the Scotland Act 1998; this is ground 1;
  • even if the prerogative power remains, it may not be used to modify fundamental rights such as EU citizenship; this is ground 2;
  • even if prerogative power can be used to remove EU citizenship, it’s an abuse of power for it to be used to “trigger” article 50; this is ground 3.

Ground 1 is the argument originally put forward by Barber, Hickman and King, and which I wrote about here. (There seems to be a problem with the link: I’m sorry. Until I can solve that, please scroll down to June 27 where you’ll find my post).

I agree with those like Mark Elliot who see this as a flawed and ultimately unsustainable argument. In my view it confuses two separate legal systems, merging the international law plane (on which the government will give notice under article 50) with the domestic law plane (on which Parliament will or will not make changes to our internal, national law to give domestic effect to Brexit). It is this confusion or merger that allows it to be said, in my view wrongly, that triggering article 50 would have automatic legal effects in the UK. It wouldn’t.

Here, the argument is boosted by reference to devolution legislation and the Acts of Union between England and Scotland—but I don’t think the devolution angle really adds significant weight to it—as well as to the Bill of Rights 1689. But giving article 50 notice would not suspend any internal laws in the UK, so the Bill of Rights point is not in my view a good one.

The “citizenship rights” argument—ground 2—is interesting, but ultimately suffers from the same defect of assuming article 50 has automatic legal effects. Article 50 notification will not remove anyone’s EU citizenship: if that happens, it’ll be done by a subsequent UK-EU withdrawal treaty and by an Act of Parliament giving effect to it.

I don’t think ground 3 really adds anything. In essence it is that triggering article 50 under the prerogative would thwart Parliament’s purpose in statute, strip its legislation of meaning and reduce its role to a formality. But this is, I think, really just another way of stating ground 1. Again, it’s the mere existence of the ECA 1972 and other legislation that, according to the argument, makes this use of the prerogative necessarily abusive. This is to all intents and purposes the same as ground 1, which says their existence suspends the prerogative as regards article 50.

I find it hard to see how these arguments can succeed in the High Court. Let’s see if the claimants’ legal teams can prove me wrong.


Legal Cheek interview: Julian Assange, and Labour in the Court of Appeal

August 11 2016

I spoke to Legal Cheek’s Katie King this afternoon about today’s Julian Assange news and the Labour party’s appeal, heard today, against the High Court’s ruling that it must allow members signed up in the last six months a vote in the current leadership contest. We talked for about a quarter of an hour.

I can exclusively reveal that Legal Cheek insists on Earl Grey tea. A land law tome (not Katie’s own, I must make clear) was suspiciously pristine; but I’m pleased someone has at least put loads of colourful tabs in a thick work on company law.


Last night’s UCL event—Brexit: Legal & Constitutional Requirements

Last night University College London hosted a discussion on Brexit and the law, featuring Dr Tom Hickman and Professor Jeff King (co-authors with Nick Barber of the famous article 50 blogpost) together with Professor Piet Eeckhout, Dr Virginia Mantouvalou, Professor George Letsas and Dr Ronan McCrea.

I was far from convinced by some of the constitutional theorising last night about the illegitimacy of the EU referendum and the human rights arguments made against Brexit. Nor am I persuaded by Hickman and King’s argument on article 50. But it was fascinating to hear them defend their position, including against a provocative and maybe slightly bonkers point from me (at about 1 hour 21 minutes).

Joshua Rozenberg was in the chair. I must congratulate UCL not only on the event itself but on having so impressively livestreamed it on the web and published this video so quickly.

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