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UK government to pay £105,000 over Brexit case

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image copyrightEPA
image captionThe politicians and campaigners behind the case hope it will lead to the UK remaining in the EU, potentially through another referendum

The UK government has been ordered to pay £105,000 in legal fees after losing its case over whether the country can unilaterally cancel Brexit.

The order was made by the Court of Session in Edinburgh as it rubber-stamped a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on the case.

The ECJ ruled last week that the UK can effectively change its mind on Brexit and remain in the EU.

The case was brought by a group of pro-Remain politicians and campaigners.

The £105,000 in legal fees they will now receive from the UK government was the maximum amount they could have been awarded by judges at the Court of Session.

The award will be split £60,000 and £45,000 between two groups who were involved in the process.

Another referendum

Andrew Webster QC, representing the UK's Brexit Secretary, highlighted that the petitioners had crowdfunded about £200,000 for their legal fees ahead of the case being heard.

The case was brought by a cross-party group of pro-Remain Scottish politicians, including Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, SNP MP Joanna Cherry and MEP Alyn Smith, and Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, together with lawyer Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project.

They hope it will pave the way to the UK remaining in the EU, potentially through another referendum.

image copyrightECJ
image captionEuropean judges ruled that the UK had the right to change its mind on Brexit and stay in the EU

The UK government argued the case should be dismissed as it was "hypothetical" because there were no plans to revoke Article 50, but the ECJ disagreed.

The Court of Session, which had initially heard the case before passing it to the European court, has now formally approved the ECJ's decision.

Scotland's most senior judge Lord Carloway, the Lord President, said: "This court will grant a declarator which mirrors the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union."

What did the European court rule?

In a statement following its ruling on 10 December, the ECJ said: "The full court has ruled that, when a member state has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that member state is free to revoke unilaterally that notification.

"That possibility exists for as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that member state has not entered into force or, if no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU, and any possible extension, has not expired."

It added: "The revocation must be decided following a democratic process in accordance with national constitutional requirements."

Lawyers representing the Council of the European Union and from the European Commission had argued at a hearing at the ECJ in November that revocation is possible but would require unanimous agreement from all member states.

They also raised concerns that it would set a dangerous precedent by encouraging other countries to announce they were leaving the EU in an attempt to secure better membership terms, before cancelling their withdrawal.

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