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Lord Chancellor upholds role of judges in Brexit case

24 January 2017

Lord Chancellor Liz Truss has defended the role of the judiciary, as reaction emerges to today's decision by the UK Supreme Court that Parliament must agree before the UK Government gives notice of the UJK's withdrawal from the European Union.

Criticised for her silence after November's High Court ruling, upheld today, when fierce newspaper headlines labelled the judges "Enemies of the People" and similar terms, for allegedly going against the referendum vote to leave the EU, the Lord Chancellor today quickly issued a statement that "Our independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the rule of law and is vital to our constitution and our freedoms. The reputation of our judiciary is unrivalled the world over, and our Supreme Court justices are people of integrity and impartiality."

She added: "While we may not always agree with judgments, it is a fundamental part of any thriving democracy that legal process is followed. The Government has been clear that it will respect the decision of the court."

An online Daily Express article has already been headlined "Eight judges overturn will of 17 MILLION Britons and DERAIL Theresa May's Brexit plans".

In its judgment the court observed: "It is worth emphasising that nobody has suggested that this is an inappropriate issue for the courts to determine. It is also worth emphasising that this case has nothing to do with issues such as the wisdom of the decision to withdraw from the European Union, the terms of withdrawal, the timetable or arrangements for withdrawal, or the details of any future relationship with the European Union. Those are all political issues which are matters for ministers and Parliament to resolve. They are not issues which are appropriate for resolution by judges, whose duty is to decide issues of law which are brought before them by individuals and entities exercising their rights of access to the courts in a democratic society.

The Law Societies also moved to emphasise the scope of the decision. Eilidh Wiseman, President of the Law Society of Scotland, commented: “Our judiciary play a vital role in our country, upholding the rule of law and protecting the interests of justice. They ensure the law created by our democratically elected parliaments is applied correctly and that people can enforce their rights through the courts without fear or favour. They must also perform that role fairly and impartially, without regard to any public, media or political pressures which may exist.

“Today’s verdict from the UK Supreme Court is certainly the most important decision the court has issued on constitutional law since it was created. It has shown that our judicial decision-making processes work. We have received a judgment which clarifies the route which must now be taken by Government and Parliament in Westminster in order to invoke article 50 lawfully and pursue the UK’s exit from the European Union.”

Robert Bourns, President of the Law Society of England & Wales, stated: "This is a legal question and it is right that it was decided by an independent judiciary.

"Whatever the court decides we urge everyone – regardless of where they stand on the issue of Brexit - to respect the decision.

"No one is above the law and having the right to challenge government through the courts is something we should be proud of – it is fundamental to our democracy."

He added that the decision was "a textbook example of how our independent judiciary deals with even the biggest of disputes – fairly, impartially, and in accordance with the rule of law".

Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the Government would "comply with the judgment of the court and do all that is necessary to implement it".

Brexit Secretary David Davis will make a statement today setting out details of the Government's legislative response.

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