UK top court to de­cide who can trig­ger Brexit process

Gov­ern­ment seek­ing to have Ar­ti­cle 50 de­ci­sion over­turned as pro­test­ers gather

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By REUTERS in London

The British gov­ern­ment launched a Supreme Court bat­tle on Mon­day over who has the power to trig­ger the for­mal process of leav­ing the Euro­pean Union, seek­ing to over­turn a le­gal rul­ing that could de­rail its Brexit strat­egy.

With pas­sions in­flamed by the June vote to leave the EU, demon­stra­tors gath­ered out­side the court as it be­gan hear­ing the gov­ern­ment’s ap­peal against a rul­ing that min­is­ters needed par­lia­ment’s as­sent be­fore trig­ger­ing the com­plex process.

EU sup­port­ers in judges’ robes and wigs rode a dou­ble decker bus past the court, along with a van em­bla­zoned with the slo­gan “The Brex­i­teers have failed us all”. Ri­val Brexit sup­port­ers waved plac­ards say­ing “This is an es­tab­lish­ment stitch-up”.

The High Court ruled last month that Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May could not trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 of the Lis­bon Treaty and be­gin two years of Brexit talks with the 27 re­main­ing EU mem­bers with­out par­lia­men­tary back­ing.

If the Supreme Court up­holds the ear­lier rul­ing, that could dis­rupt May’s planned timetable for in­vok­ing Ar­ti­cle 50 by the end of March, and give law­mak­ers op­por­tu­ni­ties to wa­ter down the gov­ern­ment’s poli­cies on what the terms of Brexit should be.

Launch­ing the gov­ern­ment’s case, its top lawyer said the ear­lier le­gal rul­ing was wrong, ar­gu­ing that par­lia­ment had ac­cepted be­fore the ref­er­en­dum that min­is­ters would use ex­ec­u­tive “pre­rog­a­tive” pow­ers to im­ple­ment its re­sult.

“The trig­ger­ing of Ar­ti­cle 50, we say, will not be an ex­er­cise of pre­rog­a­tive power on a whim or out of a clear blue sky,” said At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeremy Wright.

“It is a log­i­cal con­clu­sion of a process in which par­lia­ment has been fully and con­sciously in­volved.”

The hear­ing is due to last for four days and for the first time in the Supreme Court’s sev­enyear his­tory, all 11 jus­tices are sit­ting. The ver­dict is ex­pected in Jan­uary.

Some politi­cians and news­pa­pers have por­trayed the le­gal bat­tle as an at­tempt by es­tab­lish­ment judges to thwart the pop­u­lar will.

Vot­ers opted to leave the EU by 52 to 48 per­cent in June’s ref­er­en­dum.

The Daily Mail news­pa­per called the High Court judges “en­e­mies of the peo­ple” af­ter last month’s rul­ing.

“We are aware of the strong feel­ings as­so­ci­ated with the many wider political ques- tions sur­round­ing the United Kingdom’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union,” Supreme Court Pres­i­dent David Neu­berger said in open­ing re­marks. “How­ever ... those wider political ques­tions are not the sub­ject of this ap­peal.

“This ap­peal is con­cerned with le­gal is­sues and, as judges, our duty is to con­sider those is­sues im­par­tially, and to de­cide the case ac­cord­ing to the law. This is what we shall do.”

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/ AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Anti-Brexit demon­stra­tors protest out­side the Supreme Court build­ing in London on the first day of the four-day hear­ing on Mon­day.

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