On yesterday’s High Court ruling

The right-wing newspapers today have hit a new low in their attempts to mislead and whip up anger. “Enemies of the people” the Daily Mail headlines, saying that the high court judges “defied 17.4 million Brexit voters”.

Let’s be clear what happened. From the first paragraph of the judges’ summary of their ruling: “The court is not concerned with and does not express any view about the merits of leaving the European Union: that is a political issue.”

A member of the public, Gina Miller, asked the court to review whether the UK government could remove her rights without going to Parliament first. Any citizen can ask for a judicial review; this is because we live under the rule of law. This is a Good Thing, but the right-wing press are trying to undermine this.

The ruling goes on to state (paragraph 2) “It is accepted by all sides that this legal question is properly before the court and justiciable; under the UK constitution, it is for the court to decide”. (Note “all sides” accepted the legitimacy of putting the question before the court.)

The judges decided that triggering Article 50 would fundamentally change UK people’s rights – and that the government cannot change or do away with rights under UK law unless Parliament gives it authority to do so.

Whether or not you approve of this ruling (and, for the record: I do) it is dangerous nonsense to say that the judges are “blocking Brexit” or “enemies of the people”. On the contrary, they are champions of the people: they are upholding British law, upholding the British Constitution, protecting Parliamentary democracy and restoring sovereignty to the people’s representatives.

Addendum: Some rushed and barely coherent thoughts on today’s Article 50 judgment by Matthew, a barrister.

4 Responses to “ On yesterday’s High Court ruling ”

Comment by Charlie

Unfortunately, the populist anti-democrats have already been allowed to suggest that simple majorities in selective opinion polls are the the will of the people. They’ve been allowed to do so by the mainstream which has sought to gain the trust of the people through polls and soundbites instead of the more difficult job of talking to people and arguing for the position. Hence we have been given things like the court of public opinion.

Comment by Craig

Robert Peston had an interesting slant yesterday – if the point of leaving the EU was not to be ruled by Brussels’ lawyers, why do the hard-brexit-press suddenly distrust our own rule of law so much. And if the UK high court is run by “enemies of the people” in their eyes, what rule of law were they hoping to abide by by voting out?

To me – this is just a matter of perspective. If the current cabinet were seen as soft on Brexit, the Mail would see this judgement as a celebration, a course correction for the will of the people (ie, to head harder right). But it’s not, and they can’t, so they don’t. Rag.

Comment by Charlie

@craig
I don’t think The Daily Mail is the mouthpiece of the government but that the government is letting itself be driven by the right-wing press which has a fairly clear agenda for leaving the EU: the ability to pare back workers’ and human rights.

The referendum was a gift to them because it did away with the need for detail: “we voted for it, so let’s have it”. For this to succeed it’s important that “it” is never really discussed but this is exactly the point of the judgement: parliament has consulted the electorate and must now decide itself what to do.

Comment by Peter O'Shaughnessy

Well said. I found the headlines very disturbing.

It’s also worth noting that the campaign was not solely brought by Gina Miller. As reported here:

“While attention has focused on the lead claimant in London, 51-year-old Gina Miller, a Guyanese-born and British-educated businesswoman, there are scores of other litigants and interveners.”

In fact, the campaign was partly crowd-funded with support from, amongst other groups, Scientists for EU. So to label the ruling’s victors as “loaded foreign elite” is even more ridiculous. (Not to mention Gina is a British citizen, unlike, for example, Rupert Murdoch!)

A positive action I would recommend we take is to support Stop Funding Hate.

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