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For the past three years, our meetings at the IBA Annual Conference, the legal profession's largest international event, have regularly been taken up with a discussion around Brexit, with real interest around the case that the firm led for Gina Miller in 2017 concerning the power of the executive – then, whether the Prime Minister could kick-off the Brexit process by serving the Article 50 Notice, or whether that required a vote of the Legislature (the House of Commons). As readers will probably remember, Mrs Miller's argument, that a vote of the Legislature was required, prevailed in the Supreme Court.
This year's Conference took place in Seoul, from 21 to 27 September, and yet again, Brexit was top of the agenda in almost every one of our meetings – still the hows and whys, but this time with the added interest in another case taking place in which Mishcon represented Gina Miller. In this case, the new Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) had 'prorogued' (or suspended) Parliament – he said this was done in the ordinary course of things, but we argued that it was extraordinary -- that it had the purpose and effect of stopping Parliament debating Brexit in advance of 31 October 2019 and was a matter for the courts.
On 24 September, at about 6:30pm (Seoul time), news came through that Gina Miller had again prevailed in the Supreme Court, this time with a unanimous 11 – 0 judgment. It is fair to say that all the lawyers we were meeting were excited to hear this news – wherever they came from in the world – and many of the lawyers present at the Conference came to look for our delegation to shake our hands and congratulate us. (We were perhaps not too modest, and didn’t always remember to mention that none of us attending Seoul had been actively involved in the case….!) Whether they supported or opposed Brexit, what the lawyers welcomed unanimously, was a clear judgment upholding the sovereignty of Parliament and the rule of law. It showed even a Prime Minister cannot use unlawful means to reach a decision, and that the prorogation, based on an unlawful act, meant that it was void ab initio, and of no effect.
As lawyers, we are proud of the role that Mishcon de Reya has played in upholding the best traditions of English law – of the independence of the judiciary, the principles of justice, due process and the rule of law. Those are the things that have made English law so important on the world stage, and which we as a firm, Brexit or not, will continue to defend.
We hope you enjoy reading this bulletin and we look forward to hearing any thoughts you may have on its content.