Mandelson and ANOTHER bid to block Brexit: Pro-Europe lobby group set up the Labour grandee threatens court action to delay the process
A Europhile lobby group was left red-faced last night after it threatened to use court action to delay Brexit – before having to admit getting its key facts wrong.
British Influence – set up by the arch-Europhile Peter Mandelson – yesterday claimed the Government has no mandate for leaving the European Economic Area.
The group said it had now written to the Government threatening a judicial review of the decision to quit the EEA, which gives its members access to the single market.
It even claimed a separate vote would be needed in Parliament to take Britain out of the EEA.
British Influence director Peter Wilding said staying in the EEA amounted to ‘smart Brexit’ which would allow Britain to stay in the single market while having some control of its borders.
Interviewed on the BBC, he gave the example of Switzerland – which he said was a member of the EEA but was about to introduce new rules which permit it to give jobs exclusively to its own citizens in some circumstances.
Shortly after the bullish interview, however, British Influence was forced to issue a ‘clarification’ on Twitter. It admitted that Switzerland was not in fact in the EEA but EFTA, the European Free Trade Association. ‘Swiss plans not about Swiss citizens but residents, so no discrimination,’ the clarification read.
Yesterday, it also emerged that Mr Wilding had written two articles last year which were deeply critical of the EEA, which he said created a ‘democratic deficit’.
On the Conservative Home website Mr Wilding wrote: Joining the European Economic Area (EEA), for example, would leave the UK with no voice in crucial European decisions; Norway, an EEA member, has little impact on policy ultimately decided by the EU.’
Mr Wilding, who worked as an EU law solicitor, also contradicted himself on money. In yesterday’s interview, he said the ‘amazing’ thing about EEA membership is that there is ‘no direct contribution to Brussels.
But, in July said in July 2015, he wrote: ‘If the UK left the EU and joined the EEA, it would still need to make significant contributions to the EU budget assuming it would want access to the EU Single Market.’
Government lawyers are satisfied Britain is a member of the EEA solely through our EU membership – and the legal challenge is likely to fail.
Whitehall officials say that, once we quit the EU, we will also quit the other body.
The threat of a legal challenge comes in addition to the row that is raging in the Supreme Court over the two-year Article 50 process for quitting the EU.
Yesterday, MPs accused the group of an act of desperation.
Ex-minister Dominic Raab, a leading Leave campaigner, told the Mail: ‘These are the increasingly desperate wrecking tactics from the a small group of die-hard Remain campaigners who haven’t made their peace with the referendum, and have no respect for the will of the British people.
‘The public have spoken – we should respect the result and get on with it, not try to find new hurdles that undermine the democratic process.’
John Longworth, Co-Chair of Leave Means Leave, said: ‘This is another attempt by the remain campaign to frustrate the Brexit process with legal challenges.
‘The Government must not have their hands tied when trying to negotiate the best deal for Britain. ‘The remain campaign are yet again defying the will of British voters. Leaving the EU means leaving the EU internal market – the British people voted to take back control.’
A Government spokesman said the UK would automatically stop being a member of the EEA once it leaves the EU.
They added: ‘As the UK is party to the EEA Agreement only in its capacity as an EU member state, once we leave the European Union we will automatically cease to be a member of the EEA.
‘The future relationship between the UK and the EU will be subject to negotiations. It’s not in the UK’s interest to give a running commentary on our thinking that could undermine our negotiating position. The referendum result will be respected and we intend to invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March next year.’
November 29th, 2016: Daily Mail