Britain’s decision to leave the EU is being scrutinised by the highest constitutional court in the land. And in doing so the case has put UK ‘democracy’ under the microscope. Eleven unelected Supreme Court ‘Justices’ will rule on whether the UK Government has the legal right to use autocratic, monarchical ‘Crown Powers’ to override our elected Parliament’s right to ‘interpret’ the wishes of the British people as expressed in a democratic referendum.
It all sounds like an episode of ‘Yes Minister’ or ‘In the Thick of it’.
The Judges insist they are above politics and always reach their decisions based only on matters of law – matters passed into law by Parliament and therefore political by their very nature.
Ostensibly the case in front of the UK Supreme Court turns on whether the Government has the right to sign Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty triggering Britain’s formal departure from the European Union, without going back to Parliament for permission and uses the archaic ‘Crown Powers’ vested in the office of the Prime Minister Theresa May by the Queen instead.
The High Court judgement in October ruled that the power to sign Article 50 fell under the jurisdiction of the European Communities Act 1972 passed by Westminster, as such was a matter ‘domestic UK law’ and therefore required the assent of Parliament. The Government on the other hand claims Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty falls under Britain’s International Treaty obligations and therefore does not require Parliamentary permission as such decisions are routinely dealt with under ‘The Crown Powers in Parliament’. Those who claim the British monarchy is powerless and largely confined to a figurehead role might like to pay close attention here as their view appears to be again exposed by the facts of this case.
Obscured beneath all this legal finery is the naked politics. The High Court injunction was brought by two wealthy ‘Remain’ campaigners, investment fund manager Gina Miller and society hairdresser Dier Dos Santos who admit their objective was to overturn or at least slow the entire Brexit process. Moreover the three Judges involved earlier were outspoken ‘advocates’ of a Remain vote. They are of course ‘horrified’ at the suggestion their verdict was influenced by their political convictions insisting they are both obliged to, and capable of, putting aside their own political opinions in such circumstances and backgrounds. Of course!
Meanwhile the UK Government is privately resigned to losing their Supreme Court Appeal and has tabled a one line Short Bill for Parliament seeking Westminster’s assent to invoke Article 50 formally in March.