Tag Archive | "Jeremy Wright"

The Supreme Court has ruled


Parliament must vote on whether the government can start the Brexit process, the Supreme Court has ruled. The judgement means Theresa May cannot begin talks with the EU until MPs and peers give their backing, although this is expected to happen in time for the government’s 31 March deadline.

Reading out the judgement, Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger said: “By a majority of eight to three, the Supreme Court today rules that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so.

“Withdrawal effects a fundamental change by cutting off the source of EU law, as well as changing legal rights. The UK’s constitutional arrangements require such changes to be clearly authorised by Parliament.”

Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the government was “disappointed” but would “comply” and do “all that is necessary” to implement the court’s judgement. The government had argued that, under the Royal Prerogative (powers handed to the government by the Crown), it could make this move without the need to consult Parliament.

The court also rejected, unanimously, arguments that the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly should get to vote on Article 50 before it is triggered.

Key points of the judgement include the fact that the 1972 Act that took the UK into the then EEC creates a process by which EU law becomes a source of UK law, and so long as that act remains in force, it means that EU law is an “independent and overriding source” of the UK’s legal system. Withdrawal from the EU makes a fundamental change to the UK’s constitutional arrangements because it will cut off the source of EU law. The UK constitution requires such changes can only be made by Parliament.

Dominic Casciani, BBC home affairs correspondent, writes: “”This momentous judgement is about one thing alone: the rule of law and how the UK, as a champion of that steady, calm form of government, gets on with the business of leaving the EU.

He added: “But what it also makes clear is that membership of the EU is messy in constitutional terms – so only Parliament has the right to pull us out. It can’t be done by the stroke of a minister’s pen.”

BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg detected “sighs of relief” in Whitehall for two reasons. The verdict from the justices doesn’t take away from the reality that having to go to Parliament before triggering Article 50 is a political inconvenience that Theresa May very much wanted to avoid. But “the justices held back from insisting that the devolved administrations would have a vote or a say on the process. That was, as described by a member of Team May, the ‘nightmare scenario’.”

She said: “Second, the Supreme Court also held back from telling the government explicitly what it has to do next. The judgement is clear that it was not for the courts but for politicians to decide how to proceed next.” Explicit instructions from the court about the kind of legislation they had to introduce would have made ministers’ lives very difficult.

David Davis stated that the government supported the right of the judges to come to their conclusion, after the ‘Daily Mail’ argued: “Yet again, the elite show their contempt for Brexit voters.” There followed a statement from the justice secretary, Liz Truss, who faced criticism for not defending the appeal court justices denounced by sections of the media as “enemies of the people” after they ruled against the government.

Truss said: “Our independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the rule of law and is vital to our constitution and our freedoms. The reputation of our judiciary is unrivalled the world over, and our supreme court justices are people of integrity and impartiality.”

The shadow attorney general, Shami Chakrabarti, argued that it was not enough, and that the prime minister should also speak out.

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Enemies of the people


As the ‘Observer’ rightly said, “Our judges do not do politics. They do law. They are selected to be judges on their legal ability.”

The high court’s ruling on article 50 sent the clear message that the government does not have free rein to sweep away any legislation it finds disagreeable.

But the quality and impartiality of this judgment finds no favour with the Brexit media, led by the ‘Daily Mail’, which, under the infamous headline “Enemies of the people”, mounted a vicious assault on the three high court judges who ruled in the case. The government appeared to be fuelling this attack. Sajid Javid, the local government secretary, described the judges as seeking to “thwart the will of the people”. Read the full story

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Brexit in the High Court


Last Tuesday the High Court concluded its hearing of the legal challenge over Brexit. Opponents are fighting to stop Theresa May triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to leave the European Union without a vote from MPs in Westminster. Government lawyers argued before three judges that the Prime Minister is legally entitled to use the royal prerogative to commence Britain’s exit from the EU.

A number of campaigners have mounted legal challenges against the Prime Minister’s strategy for Brexit in what has been described as one of the most important constitutional cases in generations.

At stake is the question of whether the government is within its rights to begin the process of leaving the EU by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without the consent and authorisation of Parliament. It was established on both sides that the issue was justiciable, falling within the auspices of the courts to decide upon.

Lord Pannick QC represented the lead challenger, Gina Miller, in the claim. He argued that the inevitable consequence of triggering Article 50 is that statutory rights enjoyed by some UK and EU citizens will be taken away. That can only be done by Parliament, and not by the executive using the crown prerogative.

He contended that there was a direct causal link between the irrevocable triggering of Article 50 and the ultimate stripping away of statutory rights, such as that of UK citizens to stand and vote in European elections, to petition the European Court of Justice and to seek the European Commission’s intervention to uphold competition law.

The Government case, led by attorney general Jeremy Wright, argued that the mandate to trigger Article 50 is clear from the referendum. As Parliament did not take the opportunity to prevent a restriction on the use of royal prerogative for the triggering of Article 50, the executive has the power to trigger as it pleases. He said the “notification – once given – will not be withdrawn. It is our case that Parliament’s consent is not required.”

He told the court that the power to activate Article 50 was a “classic example of the proper and well established use of royal prerogative” with regard to treaty making and breaking.

Sky’s Faisal Islam wrote that “The concerning news for the Government is that the three High Court judges appeared far more sceptical about its case than many had expected. The Lord Chief Justice said twice that their argument ‘baffled’ him. It is entirely plausible that the Government will lose this case, which might come as a shock to Westminster.”

It depends on the three judges. The 582-page transcript of the High Court hearing is a formidable hurdle to a quick ruling. “We shall take time to consider the matter and will give our judgements as quickly as possible,” said Lord Chief Justice John Thomas, Britain’s most senior judge, who has been hearing the case with two other leading justices.

Whichever side loses will almost certainly appeal to the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest judicial body, which will give a final verdict in December.

It is not impossible that the Supreme Court could refer the case to the European Court of Justice. Now that would be ironic.

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