Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The REAL Enemy of Those Who Want to Leave the EU

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The REAL Enemy of Those Who Want to Leave the EU

Article excerpt


ENEMIES of the people" declared the tabloid press. They were not referring to Isis or some terrorist organisation, but our judges. Their crime was to apply the rule of law - and the widespread misunderstanding of what this meant.

The concern for many Brexit campaigners was that giving a Parliament a say meant that the High Court was denying the referendum result. This anxiety that a long cherished goal of seeing the UK leave the EU could be thwarted led to some of the most extraordinary accusations. They didn't make a mountain out of a molehill, but took leave of reality as well as their senses.

The case was about whether the government or Parliament could trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty launching Britain's exit from the European Union.

The government argued that this was about treaties - and whether we are a part of them. The government is able to make such agreements subject to any expressed view of Parliament. The Prime Minister's argument was that triggering Article 50 concerned a treaty and so the government had the right to trigger Britain's Brexit at its pleasure.

This argument was rejected by the High Court because this power - like all freedoms - has strings attached. One crucial issue is that if the government got its way then it would effectively cancel out an Act of Parliament, namely the European Communities Act 1972 which incorporated EU law into UK domestic law. Only Parliament has the power to do that and so MPs must have a vote.

The government was then quick to appeal to the Supreme Court. Their argument was little more than trying to re-run the same line of argument they tried unsuccessfully before. The result was the same with a 8-3 verdict that the government could not trigger Britain's Brexit when it wanted, but must gain Parliament's approval.

Pro-Brexit campaigners should see nothing to fear. There is no concerted will of a majority in Parliament to stop the referendum result. The question was primarily constitutional and it has been answered emphatically.

Our courts are no enemies of the people - they are champions of our liberties. Some argued the people spoke and Brexit should happen immediately. However, we live in a parliamentary democracy where Parliament is sovereign. Those who wanted Parliament to take back control have their wish - and should celebrate the courts putting Parliament first.

We do not live in an elected dictatorship nor a tyranny of the majority. Just because a majority want something doesn't mean it is anything goes. We live under a rule of law that affords protections to all - and the rule of law is one of Britain's most cherished and ancient values.

Leavers have an enemy though - a barrier to achieving their Brexit goal - and that's this government. …

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