The UK is once again looking to make some sense of the Brexit mess. A full 163 days after the British people voted to leave the EU, the Supreme Court in London this week is hearing arguments from the government about why it should be allowed to get on with it.
I thought this had been sorted out already.
Well, yes and no.
Yes, there was a vote in June when the majority of voters said they wanted the UK to leave the EU, and yes there was a court case in November when three High Court judges ruled that the government needed parliament’s approval to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of leaving the EU.
But the government immediately appealed that decision, and this week an 11-judge panel in the Supreme Court is being asked to overturn the High Court ruling.
Well, at least this will be an end to it, right?
No. Should the court decide not to overturn the ruling, then the UK government is likely to appeal the decision to the European Court of Justice, in Luxembourg — though the thought of Europe having any say in how the UK leaves the EU will make many pro-Brexit campaigners nauseous.
Is there anything new being heard this week?
The government is basing its case on the use of the “royal prerogative,” with Attorney General Jeremy Wright on Monday saying this was not some “ancient relic” but essential to “maintain control.” One of the big problems is that the 2015 legislation that authorized the EU referendum didn’t set out what should happen if the country voted to leave.
The High Court ruled that legislation was “legally irrelevant,” but the government says this was incorrect and that the legislation implied the use of the royal prerogative.
What about the opposition?
The opposition to the government is being led by pro-Remain campaigner Gina Miller and the court will hear from her legal team beginning Tuesday. She is joined by fellow campaigner Deir Dos Santos, along with representatives from the Welsh and Scottish governments who argue that they, too, should be consulted on how the UK leaves the EU.
The president of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, told the media on Monday to refrain from publishing the names of some claimants and their families, following “threats of serious violence and unpleasant abuse” made to them online and in emails.
“Threatening and abusing people because they are exercising their fundamental right to go to court undermines the rule of law,” he said.
What about the judges themselves?
Following the High Court decision, the three judges became the center of a major controversy when they were heavily criticized by certain sections of the media in the UK. At the start of the trial this week, Lord Neuberger, pointedly announced that neither side had asked for any of the 11 judges to step down.
The Daily Mail's criticism of this judge makes me want to go for a drink with her. pic.twitter.com/l6EQO3F3Cq
However in the build up to the case this week, the Daily Mail, which was among those to criticize the High Court judges, profiled all 11 Supreme Court judges, giving each a “europhile rating” with four getting a five-star rating and four more getting a one-star rating.
When will we get a decision?
A ruling by the Supreme Court judges is not expected until January.