EU treaty legal challenge dismissed

Stuart Wheeler sounded a defiant note outside the high court
Stuart Wheeler sounded a defiant note outside the high court

A legal challenge seeking a referendum on the Lisbon treaty has been dismissed by the high court.

Millionaire businessman Stuart Wheeler had wanted the judiciary to overturn the government's position on the institutional-reforming treaty, arguing its similarity to the failed EU constitution on which a referendum had been promised.

But today at the high court a judge rejected his challenge, opening the way for the government to ratify the Lisbon treaty.

It was dismissed on two counts: threatening to impinge on parliamentary privilege and a failure to show that the Lisbon treaty is similar to the rejected constitution.

Mr Wheeler, speaking after the judgment, said he intended to seek permission from the court of appeal to continue his case.

He insisted that 240 of the constitution's 250 basic articles had been transferred to the Lisbon treaty and repeated his confidence that he would win in the court of appeal.

"We won the first round in front of Mr Justice Owen so easily that the court made an unusual order on costs in our favour," he said.

"I was always pessimistic in fact about this second round because we had a very conservative court and it does take a bold court to find against the government in a case of this kind."

The government has announced it plans to recommence its ratification process, despite Mr Wheeler's demand it has a "moral obligation" to wait until the case is completed.

Europe minister Jim Murphy said: "The judges have confirmed the government's position that the Lisbon treaty differs in both form and substance from the defunct constitution.

"The judges have also made a number of important points about the boundaries between parliament, government and the courts.

"With parliament's approval the government is proceeding to ratify the Lisbon treaty, which is in our national interest and is a good treaty for the UK."

When it completes that process 19 of the EU's 27 member states will have ratified the treaty.

Its future nevertheless remains in doubt, however, after the Irish - the only country to have put the treaty to the public vote - resoundingly rejected it last week.


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