UK Politics

Calm Brexit ruling backlash, government urged

Paper front pages Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some newspapers reacted with fury to the High Court ruling

Labour has urged the government to come out and defend the three judges behind the controversial High Court ruling on the process of leaving the EU.

The Daily Mail branded them "Enemies of the people", while the Daily Express said the ruling had marked "the day democracy died".

Labour called the silence of Justice Secretary Liz Truss "embarrassing" and said she had "let down" the judiciary.

On Thursday, the court ruled Parliament should vote on triggering Article 50.

The judges found that the government could not start the formal process of leaving the EU - the triggering of Article 50 - by using the royal prerogative alone, and would need the backing of Parliament.

That would require publishing legislation to be debated by the Commons and the Lords.

Conservative MP Dominic Grieve said the criticism in parts of the media over the judges' decision was "horrifying" and reminiscent of "Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe".

The former attorney general told BBC's Newsnight on Friday: "The judges did exactly what was asked of them.

"They highlighted that our constitution does not allow you to overturn statute law by decree, which is so well established in this country."

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon called on the government to intervene to curb the level of criticism.

"The first duty of the Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, is to protect the independence of the judiciary, and to be frank her silence on this is embarrassing, and she's letting down the British judiciary and the British legal system.

"Giving judges a roasting isn't part and parcel of any healthy democracy."

Ms Truss has made no comment yet.

Image caption Labour are urging Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Liz Truss (in black and gold) - to defend the judiciary

Daily Mail columnist Stephen Glover defended his newspaper's stance, saying he did not believe the judges would "feel frightened or worried" by the criticism.

He said they had made a "decisive intervention" in the political process, and "must expect some comeback - and that's what they got."

Some MPs have also attacked the judges, including UKIP MP Douglas Carswell who called them "politicians without accountability".

Bob Neill, Conservative chairman of the justice select committee, said the criticism by some politicians was "utterly disgraceful" and the ruling should be respected, even if it was considered wrong.

He told the Times newspaper: "Some members of Parliament do not appear to understand that this judgement had nothing do with subverting the will of the people."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Gina Miller has been targeted by online trolls since her legal victory on Thursday

Chantal Doerries, who chairs the Bar Council, said attacks on the integrity of the judges could lead to the "undermining of the respect of judgements".

Labour said the ruling underlined the need for Mrs May to spell out her Brexit plans to Parliament "without delay".

In a speech in London, leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "We accept and respect the decision of the referendum to leave the EU, but there must be transparency and accountability to Parliament about the government's plans.

"I suspect the government opposes democratic scrutiny of its plans because frankly there aren't any plans."

Meanwhile, Gina Miller, the investment manager and philanthropist who led the legal campaign, has said she plans to report online trolls to police after receiving rape and death threats.

She told BBC Radio 5 live that other abuse included people telling her "I'm not even human, I'm a primate, I belong in a kitchen - that's the nicest of some of them. It is unbelievable.

"I am really cross at the politicians and the media who are whipping this up because they are the ones inciting racism and violence and acrimony."

Image caption Stephen Phillips resigned after six years as a Conservative MP

On Friday, Conservative MP Stephen Phillips resigned over "irreconcilable policy differences" with the government, saying he was "unable properly to represent the people who elected me".

The pro-Brexit campaigner, who has held the Lincolnshire seat of Sleaford and North Hykeham since 2010, accused ministers of ignoring Parliament since the Brexit vote.

The government is to appeal against Thursday's ruling to the Supreme Court next month.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is "confident" the government will win and is committed to triggering Article 50 by March 2017.

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