UK Supreme Court set for highly-charged Brexit case

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Bri­tain’s Supreme Court will Mon­day be­gin hear­ing the gov­ern­ment’s ap­peal against a rul­ing it must ob­tain par­lia­men­tary ap­proval be­fore trig­ger­ing Brexit, in a con­sti­tu­tional show­down that has fur­ther in­flamed politi­cal ten­sions. The High Court dra­mat­i­cally ruled last month that Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment did not have the power to in­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 of the Euro­pean Union’s Lis­bon Treaty, the for­mal pro­ce­dure for leav­ing the EU. The judg­ment prompted fury amongst Brexit sup­port­ers who fear that law­mak­ers, who are over­whelm­ingly in fa­vor of stay­ing in the EU, may seek to de­lay or soften Bri­tain’s with­drawal. They have warned of a po­ten­tial “con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis” as the judges rule on the lim­its of ex­ec­u­tive power.

Fol­low­ing a heated and divi­sive cam­paign, Bri­tons voted by 52 per­cent to leave the EU in the June 23 ref­er­en­dum. But the act leg­is­lat­ing the vote did not make the re­sult legally-bind­ing, mean­ing ei­ther the gov­ern­ment or par­lia­ment still has to pull the trig­ger. In the shadow of the Houses of Par­lia­ment, all 11 Supreme Court judges will on Mon­day be­gin four days of ap­peal hear­ings, with a de­ci­sion due in Jan­uary. De­spite the com­plex­ity of the is­sues in­volved, they will be un­der pres­sure to make a swift rul­ing, as May has promised EU lead­ers she will in­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 by the end of March.

Re­sound­ing de­feat

May ar­gues that as head of the gov­ern­ment she has con­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity over for­eign af­fairs, in­clud­ing the right to with­draw from treaties, un­der so-called “royal pre­rog­a­tive” pow­ers. But the claimants in the case, led by in­vest­ment fund man­ager Gina Miller, counter that Brexit would nul­lify some do­mes­tic laws and strip cit­i­zens of cer­tain rights-ac­tions that only par­lia­ment can carry out.

The High Court rul­ing against the gov­ern­ment was cheered by op­po­nents of Brexit, who hope that pro-Euro­pean law­mak­ers may be able to use a par­lia­men­tary vote to ease the terms of the divorce, for ex­am­ple by keep­ing Bri­tain in the sin­gle mar­ket. But the de­ci­sion prompted per­sonal at­tacks on the judges from mem­bers of May’s Con­ser­va­tive party and in the eu­roscep­tic me­dia, with one tabloid call­ing them “En­e­mies of the Peo­ple”.

An added com­pli­ca­tion in next week’s hear­ings will be the pres­ence of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the de­volved Scot­tish and Welsh gov­ern­ments, who are ex­pected to ar­gue that Ar­ti­cle 50 also needs to be ap­proved by their de­volved par­lia­ments. Such a rul­ing could de­rail May’s timetable fur­ther and, given that Scot­tish law­mak­ers are op­posed to leav­ing the EU, set up a stand-off be­tween the na­tions.

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