EU Referendum was given to the people by an Act of Parliament, now 3 Judges block the result from being triggered.
Enemies of the people: Fury over ‘out of touch’ judges who have ‘declared war on democracy’ by defying 17.4m Brexit voters and who could trigger constitutional crisis
- Judges ruled Brexit could not be triggered without a Westminster vote
- The Lord Chief Justice and two colleagues were branded ‘out of touch’
- They were accused of putting Britain on course for a ‘constitutional crisis’
MPs last night tore into three ‘out of touch’ judges for ruling that embittered Remainers in Parliament should be allowed to frustrate the verdict of the British public.
The Lord Chief Justice and two senior colleagues were accused of putting Britain on course for a full-blown ‘constitutional crisis’ by saying Brexit could not be triggered without a Westminster vote.
The judgment by Lord Thomas – a founding member of the European Law Institute, a club of lawyers and academics aiming to ‘improve’ EU law – throws into chaos Mrs May’s timetable for invoking Article 50 in March next year.
‘Out of touch’: The judgment by the Lord Chief Justice (pictured) and two senior colleagues throws into chaos Mrs May’s timetable for invoking Article 50 in March next year
Senior MPs – led by an ex-justice minister – said it was an outrage that an ‘unholy alliance’ of judges and embittered Remain backers could thwart the wishes of 17.4million Leave voters.
They warned that Mrs May could be forced to hold an election early next year if the courts did not back down. Leave campaigners said the judges had ‘declared war on democracy’. On an ‘declared war on democracy’.
On an extraordinary day of drama:
- Brexit Secretary David Davis warned judges and MPs not to defy the will of the British public
- Gloating Remainers took to social media to boast about a victory for ‘democracy’;
- MPs predicted the chaos could delay Brexit by up to a year;
- Judges left the door open to the taxpayer being saddled with a hefty legal bill for costs;
- A group of pro-Remain Tory and Labour MPs met to plot how the ruling could be used to force Mrs May to reveal more about her broad negotiating aims;
- Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon threatened to join the legal action in her own bid to frustrate Brexit;
- Brexiteers pointed out that a £9million taxpayer-funded leaflet sent to every home clearly stated that the referendum result would be followed directly by ministers;
- Bookmakers shortened the odds on a 2017 general election to 2/1.
The row exploded yesterday morning when a panel led by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, ruled that Mrs May cannot trigger Article 50 – the formal two-year process for leaving the EU – without a vote by Parliament.
This is despite a clear commitment by the Government during the referendum to enact the public’s verdict without delay. A furious Number Ten vowed to challenge the ‘disappointing’ decision in the Supreme Court next month.
The Prime Minister (pictured last night) was today told she does not have the power to trigger Article 50 to start the two-year Brexit process and must seek Parliamentary approval
JUDGE WHO IS A FOUNDER MEMBER OF EURO LAW CLUB
Lord Chief Justice John Thomas was a founder of the European Law Institut
The judge who has threw a spanner in the works yesterday is, professionally at least, a committed Europhile.
Lord Chief Justice John Thomas was a founder of the European Law Institute, a club of lawyers and academics aiming to ‘improve’ EU law.
He was also president of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary for two years.
But Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the most senior judge in England and Wales, has also been critical of European judges.
In 2014, he spoke out in favour of Parliament’s right to decide which crimes were so serious an offender should never go free – and criticised Strasbourg judges for saying such sentences breached the European Convention on Human Rights.
As a High Court judge, the 69-year-old refused Wikileaks head Julian Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden and radical cleric Abu Hamza’s attempt to avoid extradition to the US.
He was also once accused of trying to silence a High Court judge who had championed the institution of marriage. In 2013, he rebuked Sir Paul Coleridge for ‘bringing the judiciary into disrepute’ after speaking out in favour of traditional marriage and describing the devastating impact of family break-up on children.
Lord Thomas has a record of displaying short-tempered impatience over the tricks of immigration lawyers.
When a Bangladeshi student’s lawyers made two last-minute applications to keep him in the country on the eve of his deportation, the judge described it as ‘an intolerable waste of public money’, an abuse of the courts, and ‘totally without merit’, and threatened lawyers who acted in the same way in the future with ‘vigorous action’.
Educated at Cambridge, he also attended the University of Chicago. He married an American, Elizabeth, and they have a grown-up son and daughter.
In 2011 he and his wife banked £1million when they swapped their £2.6million five-bedroom home for a £1.6million townhouse close to the Thames.
He has spoken up in favour of freedom of the Press – and he beat Lord Justice Leveson to become the Lord Chief Justice.
Supreme court judges were left in no doubt what was at stake. Mr Davis said that – if yesterday’s verdict was upheld – a full Act of Parliament would be required to trigger Brexit.
This would allow MPs or peers to table amendments that would allow them to dictate the terms of Brexit or even halt the process altogether. Mr Davis said heading down this path would be a huge mistake.
The outpouring of rage against the High Court’s shocking ‘judicial activism’ was so strong at Westminster that there were calls for a review of the way senior judges are appointed.
Whitehall sources also revealed that the judges gave the Government barely an hour’s notice of their bombshell verdict. Usually, ministers can expect an overnight warning.
The case was brought by British citizens Gina Miller, a business woman, pictured outside the High Court after the landmark ruling today
Insiders said Mrs May and the ministers in charge of Brexit had all been enraged. They now hope the Supreme Court will see sense. It will hear Mrs May’s appeal from December 7 – with a verdict highly unlikely before Christmas.
Ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve – a leading Remain campaigner – claimed this could delay her pledge to start the two-year process for quitting the EU in March 2017. One minister claimed the delay could take up to a year. The High Court’s verdict hinged on an interpretation of British constitutional law. Government lawyers said that, in the wake of the June 23 referendum result, Mrs May had prerogative powers to trigger Article 50 without a vote by MPs.
But the panel of judges yesterday declared: ‘The Government does not have power under the Crown’s prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50 for the UK to withdraw from the European Union.’
£9MILLION TAXPAYER-FUNDED LEAFLET SAID OUR DECISION WAS FINAL
MPS last night accused judges of failing to read the £9million taxpayer-funded publicity leaflet that stated the referendum result would be followed directly by ministers.
Sent to every household before the referendum, the pamphlet stated clearly: ‘This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.’ Despite this, the High Court ruled the referendum was merely ‘advisory’ and could not be activated without Parliamentary approval. Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith said the leaflet had been ‘clear’, while Tory MP John Redwood said: ‘I cannot believe the judges failed to read the leaflet. Parliament was passing the decision to the people.’
Implying Remainers had changed their tune, Tory MEP Daniel Hannan said: ‘Did any Remainers disassociate themselves at the time from this [leaflet’s] statement?’
They added that triggering Article 50 would fundamentally change UK people’s rights – and that the Government cannot change or do away with rights under UK law unless Parliament gives it authority to do so.
Condemnation of the verdict – which few had expected – was swift and devastating. MPs pointed out that it had been brought by embittered Remainers and a wealthy fund manager, who had formed an ‘unholy alliance’ with the judiciary.
If the Government’s appeal is not successful, an Act of Parliament will be required to trigger Article 50. This would allow MPs or the unelected House of Lords to put down amendments delaying Article 50, insisting Britain must stay in the single market, or block its passage altogether.
Ex-justice minister Dominic Raab said: ‘On 23 June the British people gave a clear mandate for the UK Government to leave the EU. This case is a plain attempt to block Brexit by people who are out of touch with the country and refuse to accept the result.’
He added: ‘An unholy alliance of diehard Remain campaigners, a fund manager, an unelected judiciary and the House of Lords must not be allowed to thwart the wishes of the British public. It would trigger a constitutional crisis if the Supreme Court upheld this vague and undemocratic verdict’.
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Work and Pensions Secretary said the judges had precipitated ‘a constitutional crisis – literally pitting Parliament against the will of the people’.
Ukip’s Nigel Farage said: ‘I now fear that every attempt will be made to block or delay the triggering of Article 50. If this is so, they have no idea of the public anger they will provoke.’
Leading Leave campaigner Douglas Carswell MP said: ‘Shocking judicial activism – these judges are politicians without accountability.’
FORMER FENCING CHAMP
Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton is no stranger to the cut and thrust of politics.
He qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics as part of the British fencing team – but boycotted the games in protest against the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan.
The 65-year-old, who took his role as the second most senior judge last month, made legal history a decade ago as the first openly gay judge to be made a Lord Justice of Appeal.
In 2014, he and his partner, solicitor Andrew Stone, took part in the first Jewish ceremonies at a UK synagogue to convert a civil partnership into marriage.
In legal circles, Sir Terence has been described as the ‘epitome of a modern judge’. He served for two years as chairman of the Law Commission – the Government’s legal reform body – where he was credited with suggesting ‘enlightened’ ways of updating laws.
Last year, he was hailed for striking a blow to ‘tax dodgers’ by ruling against investors including Sir Alex Ferguson who took part in a scheme to shelter money from HMRC.
BLAIR’S PAL BILLED YOU £3M
The panel’s third judge, Lord Justice Sales, came from the same chambers as Tony Blair and once billed taxpayers more than £3million. He defended the Blair government in a 2005 court challenge over the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the Iraq war.
Sir Philip Sales charged taxpayers £3.3million in six years during his tenure as Mr Blair’s First Treasury Counsel – a lawyer who represents the UK government in the civil courts.
His appointment in 1997 had caused consternation in legal circles because he was only 35.
He had been a barrister at 11KBW, the same chambers as Mr Blair and then-lord chancellor Derry Irvine, leading to claims of cronyism.
The 54-year-old studied at both Oxford and Cambridge and was called to the Bar in 1985. In 2009, the same year Sir Philip stopped being First Treasury Counsel, London’s Evening Standard revealed he had charged up to £619,000 a year for fighting the government’s corner.
He was made a QC in 2006, a High Court judge in 2008 and an Appeal Court judge in 2014.
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