The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has turned down a paid advisory role with the law firm that took the government to court over article 50, following criticism of the potential conflict of interest.
Mishcon de Reya said on Monday that it was in talks with Starmer, who was director of public prosecutions before he entered parliament, about an advisory position.
Starmer had previously advised the firm while in parliament, but ended the relationship when he became shadow Brexit secretary in October. Since then, Mishcon de Reya represented Gina Miller when she took on the government over whether parliament had to approve the triggering of article 50.
When the news emerged, the Tory MP James Cleverly wrote to Starmer asking him to explain the role, and whether it could involve any conflicts of interest.
In a statement released by Starmer’s office on Tuesday, the Labour MP said: “I am grateful to Mishcon de Reya for discussing a possible role advising the Mishcon Academy with me, but, given my other commitments, I have decided not to further the discussions.”
According to Starmer’s register of financial interests, he spent four months in 2016 as a legal adviser to the Mishcon Academy, an arm of the firm connected to learning and leadership.
He was paid £4,500 a month for six hours’ work, but gave up the role when he joined Labour’s frontbench.
On Monday, Mishcon de Reya had said it was in discussions with Starmer about reappointing him to the same role.
It said: “His wide experience and previous association with the firm would enable him to play a key and unique role in shaping the work of the academy, which leads new thinking and develops the potential of everyone in the firm.”
After Starmer stepped down, Mishcon de Reya represented Miller, an investment banker who became the most prominent among a group of claimants who successfully argued that MPs and peers had to give consent to the triggering of article 50, which formally began the UK’s exit from the EU.
The government was forced to introduce emergency legislation after its appeal to the supreme court in January upheld the decision favouring Miller and her co-claimants.
Cleverly’s letter to Starmer, released by the Conservative party, said: “Mishcon de Reya have been an active participant in legal cases surrounding the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
“The firm stressed that the result of the referendum was not legally binding and supported anonymous claimants in their legal efforts last year.”
The letter cites a section of the MPs’ code of conduct, which says they should avoid conflict between personal and public interests, and states that Starmer’s role meant he “will be personally involved with drafting and speaking on legislative amendments on the EU withdrawal bill”.
Cleverly said that Starmer should explain his Mishcon de Reya role, how he would avoid any conflicts of interest, and to whom he provided advice.
Starmer was a leading human rights barrister before becoming the MP for Holborn and St Pancras in 2015. Called to the bar in 1987, three years later he was among the founders of Doughty Street Chambers, which specialises in rights issues. He served as director of public prosecutions from 2008 to 2013.
His register of interests shows that before taking the frontbench role, he received payment for one-off advisory work to other firms of lawyers.