UK's May asked to calm backlash against HC ruling on Brexit

05 Nov 2016


British Prime Minister Theresa May has been urged to calm the backlash against the high court ruling on the process of leaving the European Union.

The prime minister has been asked by some senior MPs to "make clear" that the independence of the judiciary is a part of British democracy.

Conservative MP Dominic Grieve said the criticisms over the high court judges' decision were "horrifying" and reminded him of "Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe".

On Thursday, the court ruled Parliament should vote on triggering Article 50. Three judges found that the government could not start the formal process - the triggering of Article 50 - of leaving the EU by using the royal prerogative alone, and would need the backing of parliament. That would require publishing legislation to be debated by the Commons and the Lords.

Labour said the decision underlined the need for May to spell out her plans for Brexit to Parliament "without delay".

Leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected say in a speech to trade unionists and activists later that there needs to be more "transparency" around the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

The High Court judges behind the decision have been heavily criticised by some Conservative MPs and parts of the media.

The Daily Mail claimed they were "Enemies of the people" and the Daily Express said the ruling had marked "the day democracy died".

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said he was "horrified" at the criticism of the high court ruling.

Grieve told the BBC, "I was horrified at the newspaper coverage, which reminded me of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe this morning.

"The judges did exactly what was asked of them. They highlighted that our constitution does not allow you to overturn statute law by decree, which is so well established in this country."

Daily Mail columnist Stephen Glover defended the newspaper's stance, saying he did not believe the judges would "feel frightened or worried" about the criticism.

He said, "You know, they've made a really decisive intervention in the political process, and they must expect some comeback - and that's what they got."

But Bob Neill, the Conservative chairman of the justice select committee, said the criticisms of the high court ruling by some politicians were "utterly disgraceful".

He told The Times newspaper, "All ministers from the prime minister down must now make clear that the independence of the judiciary is fundamental to our democracy. You have to respect that even if you think they have got a decision wrong.

"Some members of parliament do not appear to understand that this judgement had nothing do with subverting the will of the people."

Chantal Doerries, who chairs the Bar Council, said attacks on the integrity of the judges could lead to the "undermining of the respect of judgements".

She added, "The reason we're able to live in a civilised manner together, despite individual differences, personal differences, business disputes, is because of the justice system that we have and our respect for it."

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the government must intervene to curb the level of criticism.

He added, "The first duty of the Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, is to protect the independence of the judiciary, and to be frank. Her silence on this is embarrassing, and she's letting down the British judiciary and the British legal system.

"Giving judges a roasting isn't part and parcel of any healthy democracy."

Meanwhile, Gina Miller, the investment manager and philanthropist who led the legal campaign, has faced a torrent of online abuse, including racist comments and rape and death threats.

One troll on Facebook said they hoped she would be killed, and others wrote that the Guyana-born woman who lives in London should be deported for being a "traitor to the UK".

On Friday, Conservative MP Stephen Phillips quit his post over "irreconcilable policy differences" with the government.

The pro-Brexit campaigner, who has held the Lincolnshire seat of Sleaford and North Hykeham since 2010, accused ministers of ignoring parliament since the Brexit vote.

He said he was "unable properly to represent the people who elected me".

The government is appealing against Thursday's ruling on triggering Brexit talks to the Supreme Court, with a hearing expected in early-December.

Theresa May has said she is "confident" that the government will win its appeal and she remained committed to triggering Article 50 by March 2017.

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