A Hackney man who was part of the High Court action that successfully challenged the triggering of Article 50 has described his involvement as “a matter of political conscience”.
Tahmid Chowdhury, 21, is one of six claimants in the People’s Challenge, which was one of two groups which brought the High Cour action last month that resulted in the ruling that Parliament must vote on triggering Brexit. The Government will challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court in December.
Chowdhury said Parliament should take time to carefully consider Brexit. He said that, “There’s no reason that Parliament needs to immediately enact article 50,” if MPs are not certain it would be right for their constituency.
“Much as it’s a matter of law that Parliament should decide in whatever way it wants, it’s also a matter of political conscience that parliamentarians use that vote properly and effectively,” he added.
Chowdhury, who has lived in Dalston his whole life, and ran as a Lib Dem candidate for Islington council aged just 18, emphasised that the purpose of the case was not to stop Brexit.
He said: “The point is that from the referendum, 52% of people voted to leave, but they didn’t vote for anything specific. We don’t actually know what they specifically voted for.
“In their best interests and in the best interests of the 48% of people – a massive number – who voted to remain, it should be a matter for an elected parliament.”
Other claimants in the crowdfunded People’s Challenge are Grahame Pigney, a British expat living in France, and his son Robert; Paul Cartwright, a Gibraltarian national; Christopher Formaggia, who lives in Wales; and Fergal McFerran, president of NUS Ireland. The group, represented in court by Bindmans, is intended to represent a broad-cross section of society. The other figure to legally challenge the government’s power to enact Article 50 without a vote in Parliament was Gina Miller.
This did not come about organically. Chowdhury explains: “After the result, Jolyon Maugham, a barrister, started campaigning about whether parliament needed to be consulted before Article 50 could be triggered, and started a crowdfunding campaign. But he realised he wasn’t the right person to take it forward and started looking for other people.”
Chowdhury joined the group to represent young people and London residents after a chance meeting with Maugham. A recent English and Law graduate of the New College of the Humanities, where he now works, he was concerned that students and young people “are not traditionally listened to by governments” and felt that adding his voice was important.
He credits his multicultural Hackney upbringing with giving him the passion that drove him to campaign for Remain during the referendum and join the landmark case.
Beyond challenging the government on Article 50, Chowdhury hopes to address a narrative of “fear of the other” that he believes is beginning to dominate global politics and the media.
“During the referendum, all these issues about diversity and multiculturalism came to the fore and we saw a really bad side to what the UK can be,” he said.
“I know from my own upbringing that immigration and multiculturalism don’t need to be a bad thing. And you see the benefits of them every day when you walk in London and when you walk in Hackney.”
“I have a belief that those opinions can be addressed and those opinions can change, and part of my broader political mission is trying to do that.”
A verdict in the case is expected by January.