Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Case of Supreme Importance; Yesterday, the Supreme Court Began Considering the Government's Appeal over a High Court Ruling That the Prime Minister Cannot Trigger Britain's Exit from the European Union without It Being Properly Considered by Parliament. It's a Case That Is Already Arousing Strong Feelings. JONATHAN WALKER, JOHN ASTON and CATHY GORDON Report

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Case of Supreme Importance; Yesterday, the Supreme Court Began Considering the Government's Appeal over a High Court Ruling That the Prime Minister Cannot Trigger Britain's Exit from the European Union without It Being Properly Considered by Parliament. It's a Case That Is Already Arousing Strong Feelings. JONATHAN WALKER, JOHN ASTON and CATHY GORDON Report

Article excerpt

Byline: CATHY GORDON

THE extraordinary year that has been 2016 is continuing to deliver shocks to the system even into its final days.

On Sunday, relief that far-right populist Norbert Hofer had been beaten to the Austrian presidency by Alexander van der Bellen was soon swamped by worries over the situation in Italy, where voters dealt premier Matteo Renzi a resounding rebuke by rejecting his proposed constitutional reforms. That plunged Europe's fourth-largest economy into political and economic uncertainty.

Here in Britain, the voters delivered their own shock verdict almost six months ago.

But the ramifications of the EU referendum vote on June 23 will be felt for many years to come. And yesterday, the argument over how Brexit should proceed reached the UK Supreme Court.

The highest court in the land is being asked to overturn the High Court's ruling that the Prime Minister cannot trigger the process of taking Britain out of the European Union alone. In a decision that infuriated Brexiteers, three high court judges said the Prime Minister could not use the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and start the two-year process of negotiating Brexit.

While they did not spell out what should happen instead, their ruling probably means that the Government would have to win a vote in Parliament before it could trigger Article 50.

In theory, this could give MPs the chance to prevent Brexit happening, or to demand a "soft" Brexit in which the UK accepts some loss of control over immigration policy in return for remaining in the single market. MPs could also simply support he Government's proposals.

The arguments got under way in a calm atmosphere in London, with all 11 justices present.

But the run-up to the case had been anything but calm, with demonstrations outside court and newspapers posing questions marks about the impartiality of the judges.

The pre-emptive criticism of the judges worried Conservative MP for Hexham and Government whip Guy Opperman.

Mr Opperman, a former lawyer, said the High Court judges whose decision opened the way for the Supreme Court to consider the case Turn to Page 24 The Supreme Court in session yesterday, as the Government began its appeal over the Brexit ruling From Page 23 had been unfairly attacked by some newspapers.

Mr Opperman criticised coverage of the decision in the Daily Mail, a newspaper which supported Brexit. He wrote on his blog: "It is not, as the Daily Mail suggests, a decision that was an attack on the people, but in reality a return of power to the people, via their parliament. Sadly the reporting of the high court decision was very inflammatory."

He added: "The High Court is not seeking to thwart the decision of the June 23 referendum, which I for one have made clear I completely accept, as does the court; it is merely saying that we enact this decision through Parliament, not by the executive power of the Prime Minister. The Government is appealing this as it believes that it does not need to go back through Parliament and can get on with exit via a simple decision of the Prime Minister."

Mr Opperman said: "I utterly reject criticisms of the Supreme Court and high court justices, as orchestrated by the papers. But the key point of today's blog is to make the point that it is a slippery slope to attack our rule of law.

"Having been a lawyer for 20 years I am entirely satisfied that the decision is to be tried on its merits. The reality is that those seeking to exit the EU fought long and hard to ensure Parliamentary democracy. And the judges agree."

Brexit Secretary David Davis is leading the Government's historic legal action. His team of lawyers, headed by Attorney General Jeremy Wright, is arguing in the four-day Supreme Court hearing that the three High Court judges erred over Article 50 and its use was legally justified by the June 23 referendum vote in favour of quitting the EU. …

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