UK PM urged to quell Brexit rul­ing back­lash

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May was urged yes­ter­day to try to quell the furor sparked by a High Court rul­ing that she needs par­lia­men­tary ap­proval be­fore trig­ger­ing Bri­tain’s exit from the EU. For­mer min­is­ters called on her to ad­dress the an­gry back­lash af­ter three se­nior judges up­held a chal­lenge to her right to start the de­par­ture process with­out MPs hav­ing their say first.

May spent Fri­day try­ing to as­sure Euro­pean lead­ers that Thurs­day’s ver­dict would not af­fect her timetable for trig­ger­ing Ar­ti­cle 50, the for­mal pro­ce­dure for leav­ing the Euro­pean Union. But on the do­mes­tic front, mem­bers of her gov­ern­ing cen­tre-right Con­ser­va­tive Party and proBrexit news­pa­pers were rag­ing about the rul­ing, fear­ing it could de­rail the process. Bob Neill, the chair­man of par­lia­ment’s scru­tiny com­mit­tee on jus­tice af­fairs, said the at­tacks were “threat­en­ing the in­de­pen­dence of our ju­di­ciary”, as he urged May to in­ter­vene.

“Some of the things which have been said about the court’s judg­ment by politi­cians have been ut­terly dis­grace­ful,” the Con­ser­va­tive told The Times news­pa­per. May and her gov­ern­ment “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”, he said.

‘Los­ing the plot’

Ex-min­is­ter Anna Soubry, a prom­i­nent Re­main cam­paigner, told The Guardian news­pa­per that some me­dia cover­age was “in­cit­ing ha­tred”. “What mes­sage are we send­ing out to the rest of the world? Prob­a­bly that this na­tion is in grave dan­ger of los­ing the plot-and I think we might have done.” The Daily Mail, which branded the judges “en­e­mies of the peo­ple”, said Satur­day it was an “anti-demo­cratic rul­ing”, as other news­pa­pers kept up the heat.

Op­po­si­tion Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn was ex­pected to call on May to set out her Brexit ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy in par­lia­ment “with­out de­lay” in the wake of the High Court rul­ing. “There must be trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity to par­lia­ment about the gov­ern­ment’s plans,” he was to say to a think tank in Lon­don on Satur­day, ac­cord­ing to pre­re­leased ex­tracts of the speech. “I sus­pect the gov­ern­ment op­poses demo­cratic scru­tiny of its plans be­cause franklythere aren’t any plans, be­yond the hol­low rhetoric of ‘Brexit means Brexit’.”

On Fri­day, May tele­phoned Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker, Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande. She told them the gov­ern­ment still in­tended to in­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 be­tween the New Year and the end of March, and that she was con­fi­dent of win­ning a Supreme Court ap­peal against Thurs­day’s rul­ing.

Early elec­tion spec­u­la­tion

The High Court de­ci­sion raises the prospect of a pro­tracted par­lia­men­tary de­bate, al­though EU lead­ers have urged a swift de­par­ture. In a sign of the likely par­lia­men­tary storms ahead, pro-Brexit Con­ser­va­tive law­maker Stephen Phillips re­signed as an MP on Fri­day, cit­ing “ir­rec­on­cil­able pol­icy dif­fer­ences with the cur­rent gov­ern­ment”. He said “quit­ter” was a la­bel he could live with, but “Con­ser­va­tive no longer is”.

The res­ig­na­tion leaves May’s gov­ern­ment with a slim work­ing ma­jor­ity of 14 in the 650-mem­ber House of Com­mons. It also fu­elled spec­u­la­tion of an early gen­eral elec­tion, though Down­ing Street main­tains that polls should not be brought for­ward from 2020. The Daily Tele­graph news­pa­per re­ported Satur­day that min­is­ters were openly dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity. It quoted an un­named gov­ern­ment mem­ber as say­ing: “The prob­lem we have got is we have a Brexit ma­jor­ity in the coun­try and a Re­main ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment.

“Given this court judge­ment and the like­li­hood that we won’t win the ap­peal... I am now open-minded to an early elec­tion as many col­leagues are.” The pound-which has tum­bled to multi-year lows since the ref­er­en­dum­soared against the dol­lar and euro, stand­ing at $1.25 dur­ing af­ter­noon trad­ing in Lon­don on Fri­day. Mean­while, the White House urged Bri­tain and the EU to “con­tinue to be flex­i­ble and work this out in a process that is smooth, prag­matic, trans­par­ent and pro­duc­tive” fol­low­ing the court rul­ing. — AFP

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