Supreme court

The Spectator’s Notes | 26 January 2017

The English tradition of dissenting judgments in important civil cases is a good one. They are often better than the majority view, because they tend to be advanced by judges who resist the self-aggrandisement of their profession. In the Miller case on triggering Article 50, before the Supreme Court, Lords Reed, Carnwath and Hughes dissented from the other eight. This is what Lord Reed says: ‘…the argument that withdrawal from the EU would alter domestic law and destroy statutory rights, and therefore cannot be undertaken without a further Act of Parliament, has to be rejected even if one accepts that the 1972 Act creates statutory rights and that withdrawal will alter

What the Supreme Court got right and wrong in today’s judgment

The Supreme Court has today rejected the Government’s appeal from the High Court judgment by a majority of eight justices to three.  The decision means that a new Act of Parliament will now be required before the Government may lawfully trigger Article 50.  However, the Court has also unanimously dismissed the devolution challenges, which argued that the consent of the devolved legislatures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was a constitutional precondition to Brexit. The judgment is obviously important, but perhaps less important than once assumed.  The litigation was launched immediately after the referendum.  While it was framed as an attempt to vindicate parliamentary sovereignty, the point of the litigation


The Daily Mail’s new favourite Europhiles

Ahead of the government’s supreme court appeal against the high court ruling that Article 50 cannot be triggered without a Westminster vote, the Daily Mail ran an article suggesting the judges who ruled against the government were ‘enemies of the people’. What’s more, the paper then ran a handy guide which ranked the 11 Justices of the Supreme Court by giving each a ‘Europhile rating‘. However, after today’s ruling, Mr S wonders if the paper will have to rethink its approach to some arch-Europhiles. Although the government lost its appeal (and will now need to trigger Article 50 with a vote in Parliament), three Justices of the Supreme Court found in favour of

Isabel Hardman

How ‘straightforward’ can the Government’s Brexit bill actually be?

The Government may be accepting its defeat in the Supreme Court graciously overall, but David Davis was in a rather dismissive mood when he responded to Labour’s questions about the ruling in the House of Commons this afternoon. The Brexit Secretary gave a statement to the House explaining that ministers would publish ‘within days’ a bill that would give the Government the legal power to trigger Article 50. Both in the statement and in his responses to questions about it, he repeatedly told the Chamber that it would be a ‘straightforward’ bill. Meanwhile the Government had already offered MPs plenty of scrutiny of the Brexit negotiations, and the Prime Minister had

Fraser Nelson

Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit charade continues

With the predictability of an atomic clock, Nicola Sturgeon has come out today condemning the Supreme Court which has reminded her that foreign affairs are not devolved, so Brexit is handled by the UK government on behalf of everyone in the UK. She concludes that ‘Scotland’s voice is not being heard and not being listened to within the UK’. She started wanting to find a compromise about Brexit, she said, trying to be reasonable. But she – or, rather Scotland because they are of course the same thing – faces ‘hard-right Brexit opinion’. Nicola Sturgeon on the UK Government not having to consult the Scottish Government before triggering Article 50. —

Spectator live blog: The Supreme Court’s Brexit hearing, day four

The Supreme Court’s landmark case on triggering Article 50 has now finished. We’ll have to wait until January to hear the verdict of the 11 judges involved. But for now you can follow all the main events as they unfolded on our Spectator live blog: 4.20pm: It’s all over at the Supreme Court. Lord Neuberger rounds off proceedings by making it clear that the judges are ‘not being asked to overturn the referendum’. Before his comments, Eadie attempted to knock down Pannick’s view that the 2015 referendum act had political, rather than legal, significance. Not so, said Eadie, who insisted that the Government thought the act ‘speaks volumes about the

Commons votes in favour of invoking Article 50 by the end of March

461 MPs have just voted for Theresa May to invoke Article 50 by the end of March. The Tory amendment to Labour’s opposition day motion passed comfortably with only 89 MPs opposing it—and Ken Clarke the only Tory amongst them with 20-odd Labour Mps joining the SNP and the Lib Dems in voting against. Now, this vote is not binding and if the government loses its appeal to the Supreme Court will not be sufficient to satisfy the courts. But it does indicate that the government will be able to get an Article 50 bill through the Commons without too much trouble. It does make you wonder why Theresa May

Tom Goodenough

Spectator live blog: The Supreme Court’s Brexit hearing, day three

It’s day three of the Supreme Court’s landmark case on the triggering of Article 50. Here’s how the day unfolded:  4.15pm: The Supreme Court hearing has now finished for the day. The Lord Advocate, Lord Wolffe has been putting forward the Scottish Government’s case. So far, he has told the court that using prerogative powers to trigger Article 50 would be an ‘unconstitutional’ step. But he makes it clear that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to veto Brexit. You can read the Scottish Government’s full submission to the Supreme Court here. 3.30pm: Ronan Lavery now takes up the argument on behalf of Northern Ireland. Lavery warns that Brexit

Spectator live blog: The Supreme Court’s Brexit hearing, day two

The second day of the Supreme Court hearing has seen the Government continue to put forward its case for why it should be allowed to pull the Article 50 trigger without the say so of Parliament. And Lord Pannick has been arguing why Parliament must give approval for the start of the process of Brexit. Here’s how the day unfolded on our Spectator live blog: 4.30pm: Pannick’s main pitch is about the power of Parliament. He tells the Supreme Court that ‘Parliament is sovereign and only Parliament can remove that which it has incorporated into domestic law’ – meaning that Brexit cannot be started by the Government without the agreement of Parliament. He

What the papers say: The Supreme Court’s Brexit case

Today’s Supreme Court hearing on Brexit is undoubtedly the most controversial in the court’s seven year history, says the Times. The case will examine the Government’s appeal against the earlier High Court ruling that Article 50 cannot be triggered without the say-so of Parliament. But what’s most remarkable about today’s hearing is the fact Theresa May allowed it to get to this position in the first place, the paper says. The Times suggests that ‘at any point since Theresa May entered Downing Street in July she could have called and easily won a parliamentary vote mandating her to deliver Brexit’ – but in choosing not to it shows ‘an early

Tom Goodenough

Spectator live blog: The Supreme Court’s Brexit hearing, day one

Today’s Supreme Court hearing did, for once, live up to its billing as being a ‘landmark case’. The court’s 11 judges – sitting together for the first time – will hear four days of evidence before ruling next month on the government’s appeal against the decision that Parliament must be given a say on triggering Article 50. Here’s the full coverage from today’s Supreme Court case: 4.30pm: Eadie finishes off his argument with a simple point. He urges the Supreme Court judges to measure their decision based on a test of asking the ‘man in the street’. Would the average person think that the referendum outcome gave the Government the right to kick start

How Britain’s legal system went global

It was Henry Fairlie in his famous article in The Spectator in 1955 that made the critical point about the way ‘Establishment’ power (political, legal, media, foreign office, civil service and so on) is exercised in Britain: namely such a ‘matrix’ of influence was exercised ‘socially’, behind closed doors; or maybe ‘closed chambers’ would be more apt as the Supreme Court faces the biggest legal showdown in its short history on Monday 5 December. Charles Moore has come close to saying something similar to Fairlie, while reflecting in the Telegraph on the liberal credentials of certain members of the eleven Supreme Court judges who will be deciding whether to overturn the High Court ruling (brought by Gina Miller)

Charles Moore

Supreme Court judges want it both ways

The Article 50 case has at last woken people up to the power of the Supreme Court. On Monday, at Policy Exchange, I appeared on a panel which included the former Supreme Court judge Lord Hope. He seems a dear and distinguished man, so I felt for him when he complained that current ‘vicious’ press attacks on the judges had gone ‘far too far’. When judges gave lectures these days, their words were ‘picked over’, their sentences ‘taken out of context’. Although he is right that judges should be treated courteously, I was stunned by Lord Hope’s failure to realise that the rudeness they have recently encountered is the inevitable

The High Court’s Brexit ruling is a product of our ‘post-truth’ age

In November the High Court decided that the Government had no power to give notice to leave the EU under Article 50. Leaving the EU would entail changes in the law that embodied the rights of citizens and such changes could not be brought about by the prerogative power but only by primary legislation in Parliament. The court considered the referendum only advisory, even though in the Parliamentary debate it was made clear that the decision would be implemented by the Government. Moreover, the Government had circulated a leaflet to all households giving a solemn undertaking to honour the decision. On 5 December the Supreme Court will hear an appeal

Brexit in the balance

For once, a cliché is justified: the government’s appeal to the Supreme Court next week really will be a landmark case. The underlying issue could not be greater: the political future of the United Kingdom and its relationship with the European Union. The number of judges could not be greater either: 11 is the largest panel to have heard a single appeal, not just since the court was created seven years ago but since its predecessor was established in 1876. But perhaps the greatest issue at stake is the reputation of the judiciary, at a time when judges are under attack as never before. Nigel Farage had threatened a 100,000-strong

Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 1 December 2016

It seems perplexing that François Fillon, now the Republican candidate for the French presidency, should be a declared admirer of Margaret Thatcher. Although she certainly has her fans in France, it is an absolutely standard political line — even on the right — that her ‘Anglo-Saxon’ economic liberalism is un-French. Yet M. Fillon, dismissed by Nicholas Sarkozy, whose prime minister he was, as no more than ‘my collaborator’, has invoked her and won through, while Sarko is gone. In this time of populism, M. Fillon has moved the opposite way to other politicians. He says his failures under Sarkozy taught him that France needs the Iron Lady economic reforms which it

The Spectator’s Notes | 24 November 2016

It is not self-evidently ridiculous that Nigel Farage should be the next British ambassador to the United States. The wishes of the president-elect should not automatically be discounted. John F. Kennedy’s wish that his friend David Ormsby-Gore (Lord Harlech) should be ambassador was granted. It is also not true that the post must be filled by a professional, or that the Prime Minister should not appoint a political rival to the post. Churchill gave the job to his main rival, Lord Halifax, from 1940. Certainly Mr Farage is not the conventional idea of a diplomat, but then Mr Trump is not the conventional idea of a president. Although its own

What the papers say: The Brexit backlash continues

The row over last week’s High Court ruling on Article 50 rumbles on this morning. Theresa May has given her backing to the judiciary, with the PM saying she ‘values the independence of our judiciary’. Yet some of this morning’s newspaper editorials are in much less forgiving mood. The Daily Telegraph points out the distinction between the rule of law and the rule of judges and says that Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Terence Etherton, the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Sales quite simply got it wrong last week. The paper says the government is right to appeal the decision, pointing out that it’s not uncommon for

A Supreme Court justice and the scary plan to outlaw climate change

How do you make an imaginary problem so painfully real that everyone suffers? It’s an odd question to ask, you might think, but it’s one that has been exercising some of the brightest minds in the legal firmament, led by no less a figure than Lord Justice Carnwath of the Supreme Court. Last month, at an event whose sinister significance might have passed unnoticed had it not been for the digging of Canadian investigative blogger Donna Laframboise, Carnwath contrived to nudge the world a step closer towards enacting potentially the most intrusive, economically damaging and vexatious legislation in history: an effective global ban on so-called ‘climate change’. The setting was