Government spent more than £1m on Brexit legal costs

20 Jul 17

Opposition MPs have criticised the government for spending £1.2m on legal fees in its battle to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without a vote in Parliament, official documents have revealed.

Yesterday, the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) published its accounts for 2016/17, which showed that it had spent £700,000 on the Article 50 and Article 127 court cases (which sought to keep the UK in the Single Market unless there was a vote in Parliament), while £500,000 was spent on court-ordered third party litigation costs for Gina Miller, who brought the Article 50 case to the High Court. The government subsequently appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

In January, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s judgement and ruled that Parliament had to legislate before the government could invoke Article 50, a position the prime minister had wanted to avoid.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said the expenditure was a “colossal waste of money”, stating “Parliament needed be brought into the Brexit process, not pushed away.

“To have spent over £1m of taxpayers’ money trying to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny says all you need to know about this prime minister’s priorities and her closed, divisive approach to Brexit.”

The Liberal Democrats described the bill as a “kick in the teeth for taxpayers”.

LibDem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “The Conservatives fought every step of the way in the courts to try and avoid proper scrutiny over Brexit, now the public is having to pick up the tab.
"The government repeatedly refused to make this information public, and now have slipped it out at the eleventh hour.”

He argued that the costs could have been avoided had the government done the “right thing” and allowed proper debate in Parliament on Article 50 from the get go.

A DExEU spokesman said: “The Article 50 court case raised a vital issue relating to the UK's constitutional arrangements. The government thought it was right to bring the case to the UK's highest court.”

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