DUBLIN (Reuters) - Campaigners seeking a ruling on whether Britain's departure from the European Union can be reversed have dropped the case they brought before the Irish High Court, one of the plaintiffs said on Monday.
The campaigners, who raised 70,000 pounds ($90,000) in the space of 48 hours last December to fund their challenge, brought the case in Ireland in the hope that it would be referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a definitive ruling.
They cited the Irish state's opposition, the length of time the case would have taken and the potential scale of costs involved as the reasons for pressing on with their challenge.
"With regret, we have agreed between us and with Ireland that the litigation should be discontinued," British tax specialist Jolyon Maugham, the lawyer behind the challenge, said in a statement on his website.
Maugham said last month that he expected the case could be referred to Luxembourg by June or July but on Monday said it was unlikely to be heard in front of the Irish High Court until the autumn, and even then would require a further hearing in the Supreme Court before a referral could be achieved.
A further likely four to eight month wait for the ECJ to hear the challenge meant a decision may not be made much in advance of October 2018 when both the EU and Britain say they hope to have concluded exit negotiations, Maugham said.
He said the costs would not be insignificant and that of the money raised through a a crowdfunding website, a significant portion had already gone towards legal fees. Any remaining funds will be given to other Brexit-related litigation or to charity.
"Each of the European Council, Commission and Parliament has said the United Kingdom could withdraw the Article 50 notice (of the EU's Lisbon Treaty) with agreement. There is no doubt this is so," Maugham said.
"Discontinuing leaves open the possibility that the United Kingdom could withdraw the Article 50 notice unilaterally. This may be possible - legal opinions on the question differ - but discontinuing means we cannot know by this route whether it can."
Editing by Louise Ireland