Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: The Brexit blockers’ ‘betrayal of democracy’

What the papers say: The Brexit blockers' 'betrayal of democracy'
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The High Court’s ruling that Parliament should have the final say on pulling the Article 50 trigger has not gone down well in today’s papers.

‘Enemies of the people’ screams the front page of the Daily Mail alongside a picture of the judges who made yesterday’s decision. If its headline didn’t make its view clear enough, there's little room for interpretation in its editorial: the court’s decision was ‘an outrageous betrayal of democracy’, the paper says. The Mail suggests the ruling isn’t a one-off but forms part of a pattern where the courts have consistently sided with the Europe ‘against the interests of the British people’. But, the paper says, this latest stunt is the most dangerous yet. The paper’s editorial says the motives of those who brought the case were clearly about frustrating the Brexit process. And the Mail warns that ‘this judgment plays with fire, fanning the feeling — not just in Britain and Europe, but also among Donald Trump’s supporters in America — that western public life is becoming a conspiracy of tightly knit, self-serving Establishment elites against the public.

There’s more anger in the Sun, which greets the news by saying that the 17 million people who backed Brexit have ‘every right today to fear they will be cheated’. The paper says the ruling about including Parliament is ‘nonsense’ - because MPs already had their say when they backed a referendum in the first place back in June 2015. While Theresa May will tell Jean-Claude Juncker the Brexit timetable is not shifting, the Sun points out that’s unlikely and says ‘May’s end-of-March deadline' could well slip back. Finally, there’s criticism (again) for David Cameron, who is attacked for his ‘glib’ promises that the government could implement the referendum result - something they point out is shown up to be untrue based on yesterday’s landmark ruling.

The most furious paper of the lot is the Daily Express. Make no mistake, the paper says, this ruling is intended to block Brexit. The paper urges its readers to ‘fight, fight, fight’ and compares the current situation to ‘a crisis as grave as anything since the dark days when Churchill vowed we would fight them on the beaches’. But while the anger is palpable, the Express says if Parliament does decide to block Brexit, there is a solution: an early general election which it has ‘no doubt the Conservatives would win a thumping majority which would guarantee the safe and unimpeded passage of Brexit’.

An early general election as a solution to this imbroglio is also suggested in the Times editorial. The paper reports that a number of senior Tories are urging the PM to go to the polls next year, and the Times agrees doing so could be a way out of a corner for the PM. The paper points out that voters would not only ‘welcome the chance to give a renewed mandate’, but an election could also force an improvement in ‘the quality of the political debate’ - by ensuring Labour sat up and actually listened to its voters over Brexit.

The Guardian meanwhile hails yesterday’s decision. The paper says that instead of the judges’s ruling being an affront to democracy, their verdict on including Parliament was the right move and meant ‘majority rule tempered by the rule of law’ would be upheld. It criticises the ‘roars of predictable outrage from the Brexit camp’ and says the conviction with which the ruling was made shows the government is wasting its time trying to appeal. Instead, the Guardian says, they'd be 'much wiser to do what should have (been) done from the start and ask for parliament’s approval to start negotiations on the basis of a clear explanation of what it hopes to achieve’. Theresa May’s ’Brexit means Brexit’ mantra and her promise not to provide a 'running commentary' on Brexit tactics might no longer be enough is the clear suggestion.

Finally, the FT calls on everyone to calm down. ‘This is how UK democracy works,’ the paper insists, as it points out that ‘the constitutionalists in the Leave camp should have no problem with the primacy of parliament’. So what’s next? The FT acknowledges the temptation for Theresa May to call a snap general election if the government loses its appeal in the courts. But whereas others have said this could be a smart move, the FT is clear: this would be unwise and would muddle up the key issue of Brexit with other more parochial political punch-ups.