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Ministers in charge of the UK’s exit from the EU have spent more on legal fees than anything else apart from staff, Whitehall figures have revealed.
So far the Department for Exiting the European Union has coughed up more than £1.22 million for lawyers – mostly paying for the government’s failed defence of a judicial review challenge to its method of triggering the article 50 process.
More than £1.14 million was paid to lawyers to defend a challenge that ultimately forced the government to win MPs’ backing to invoke article 50. Theresa May had wanted to circumvent parliamentary approval but the High Court and ultimately the Supreme Court ruled that MPs should have a vote.
The department’s annual report showed that 75 per cent of the article 50 costs were spent in the Supreme Court appeal. But the department also paid lawyers nearly £80,000 to deal with a second challenge involving the obscure article 127 of the European Economic Area Agreement.
On the article 50 challenge, the department spent £317,000 in general legal fees, and another £333,000 on counsel’s fees and disbursements. It also had to pay £493,000 for the other party’s costs.