Indo-British lawyer to argue high-profile political case for Tories

April 22nd, 2008 - 11:58 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, April 22 (IANS) Prominent Indo-British lawyer Rabinder Singh has been handpicked by one of Britain’s richest men to lead a high-profile legal bid beginning Tuesday aimed at forcing the Labour government to order a referendum over Europe. Singh, an award-winning lawyer who works for the law firm founded by former prime minister Tony Blair’s wife Cherie, will fight the High Court case on behalf of Stuart Wheeler, a multimillionaire who supports and funds the opposition Tory Party.

Wheeler, who made his fortune of 30 million pounds from the City spread-betting firm IG Index, is said to be spending some 750,000 pounds on the legal challenge to the European Union (EU) Reform Treaty - also known as the Lisbon Treaty after the Portuguese capital where it was signed by European leaders, including British Premier Gordon Brown, in October 2007.

The landmark treaty, which establishes the post of a EU president from January 2009 as well as a European diplomatic service, is opposed by the Tory Party, which wants a referendum on it - a task that Wheeler hopes Singh and his team will accomplish.

Singh, a highly regarded lawyer who specialises in human rights and public law issues, is well known to the Indian community here, being currently involved in an immigration case for the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (Bapio).

“He has represented the Bapio three time so far, and from our very first meeting with him it was obvious to us that he is quite brilliant,” said Bapio President Rashmi Mehta, who is leading a campaign for thousands of Indian-origin doctors to be allowed to live and work in Britain on the basis of their Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) visas.

People who have seen Singh in action also praise his presentation.

Arguing for the Bapio in the House of Lords - Britain’s apex court - last month, he was quietly self-assured and softly spoken but devastating in his presentation.

“His understanding of the law is absolutely superb,” said Mehta, who is among many Indian doctors who admire Singh.

A member of the Cherie Blair-founded Matrix Chambers, Singh received the prestigious Liberty/JUSTICE Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Award for 2006.

The award ceremony is held annually in commemoration of the UN International Human Rights Day to honour commitment and dedication shown by the human rights community.

Wheeler said he picked Singh and his colleague Jessica Simor because of their experience in fighting judicial reviews, not because of their links to Tony Blair’s wife - an association that analysts said was set to add to the drama.

Wheeler, who donated five million pounds to the Tory Party in 2000, is seeking a judicial review of the government’s decision not to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

“Because the treaty can’t go through unless all 27 members (of the EU) ratify it, if we stop it being ratified in this country we change the history of Europe,” Wheeler said.

He is likely to challenge the Labour government saying it reneged on a 2005 manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on the now-defunct EU Constitution - then opposed by the Tories because, they said, it sought to centralise power in Brussels at the cost of that wielded by national governments.

Wheeler believes the Lisbon Treaty is almost the same as the old constitution and that the government should therefore hold a referendum on it.

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