The decision of the UK’s High Court to reject a request to declare the result of Britain’s 2016 Brexit referendum null and void is likely to be the subject of an appeal. Campaigners had cited “corrupt and illegal practices” by the Vote Leave campaign amongst their reasons for bringing the case.
Mr Justice Ouseley said last month that he was refusing permission for a full hearing of the claim because of the long delay in bringing it forward and because of “the want of merit.” His view was that the case was “hopeless” and had “such severe problems” that it should never have been brought.
The “UK in Europe Challenge,” as the case is known, aims to demonstrate that illegally-funded advertising “reached tens of millions” of eligible voters, which could easily have swayed the referendum result. It argued that, therefore, it had not been a “free and fair” vote.
Vote Leave carried on spending, despite reaching its expenses limit two days before the vote, and was later found by the Electoral Commission to have broken the law. Campaigners also argued that prime minister Theresa May had ignored growing evidence of illegality, and also pointed to the National Crime Agency’s investigation into suspicions of “multiple” criminal offences committed by Arron Banks and the separate Leave.EU campaign.
The case was brought by British nationals resident in Europe whose said that efforts to crowd-fund their initiative had resulted in delays. They maintain, however, that two-and-a-half years on from the vote, demographics and greater knowledge mean that Remainers are now in the majority.
However, far from being defeated, the anti-Brexit group in Europe continues to challenge Mrs May’s claims that the Leave result was “the will of the people.” They estimate up to five million of those who will be directly affected by Brexit were unable to vote, including all EU nationals living in the UK, irrespective of their length of residence, and all UK nationals who had lived outside Britain for 15 years or more.
Sue Wilson head of Bremain in Spain, said she was disappointed with last month’s ruling. “The government has aggressively countered our claims,” she added, “and has shown a blatant disregard for democratic values.”