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What have judges had to say on Brexit?

UK News | Published:

Complex Brexit-related cases have come before courts across the United Kingdom in recent days.

Courts across the United Kingdom have had complex Brexit-related cases cross their paths in recent days, with each decision being pored over forensically by those on either side of the debate.

Here is a recap of the latest decisions:

– Belfast High Court 

Victims' campaigner Raymond McCord outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast, following the dismissal of his case that argued the Government’s Brexit strategy will damage the Northern Ireland peace process
Raymond McCord in Belfast following the dismissal of his case that argued the Government’s Brexit strategy will damage the Northern Ireland peace process (Brian Lawless/PA)

Lord Justice Bernard McCloskey said the issues raised by three joined cases touched on political matters that the courts should not intervene on.

“I consider the characterisation of the subject matter of these proceedings as inherently and unmistakably political to be beyond plausible dispute,” he said.

“Virtually all of the assembled evidence belongs to the world of politics, both national and supra-national.

“Within the world of politics, the well-recognised phenomena of claim and counter-claim, assertion and counter-assertion, allegation and denial, blow and counter-blow, alteration and modification of government policy, public statements, unpublished deliberations, posturing, strategy and tactics are the very essence of what is both countenanced and permitted in a democratic society.”

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– Edinburgh Court of Session 

SNP MP Joanna Cherry, right, alongside Jo Maugham QC, with campaigners outside the Court of Session in Edinburgh
SNP MP Joanna Cherry, right, alongside Jo Maugham QC, with campaigners outside the Court of Session in Edinburgh (Lucinda Cameron/PA)

The Court of Session case, brought by a group of around 70 parliamentarians, appealed against an earlier ruling by Judge Lord Doherty, who dismissed the challenge, saying it was for politicians and not the courts to decide.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Lord Carloway told the court: “We are of the opinion that the advice given by the Government to Her Majesty the Queen to prorogue Parliament was unlawful and that the prorogation itself was unlawful.”

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He referred the matter to the UK Supreme Court for resolution.

The Government said it was “disappointed” by the decision and would be appealing to the UK’s Supreme Court.

Mr Johnson was subsequently forced to deny that he lied to the Queen in order to secure the suspension of Parliament.

– High Court in London

Gina Miller speaks to the media at the High Court in London
Gina Miller speaks to the media at the High Court (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Judges said the decision to suspend Parliament was “purely political” and therefore not capable of challenge in the courts.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton and President of the Queen’s Bench Division Dame Victoria Sharp delivered their ruling at a brief hearing in London on Wednesday.

In their judgment, they stated: “We concluded that the decision of the Prime Minister was not justiciable (capable of challenge). It is not a matter for the courts.”

They added: “The Prime Minister’s decision that Parliament should be prorogued at the time and for the duration chosen and the advice given to Her Majesty to do so in the present case were political.

“They were inherently political in nature and there are no legal standards against which to judge their legitimacy.”

– Supreme Court, London

The Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament (Anthony Devlin/PA)

If it rules prorogation was unlawful, the Government would almost certainly have to advise the Queen to recall Parliament immediately.

But the Supreme Court could rule that Parliament was never prorogued and is still in session, meaning that there is no need to recall Parliament.

Either way, if the Supreme Court rules that the prorogation was unlawful, it is likely that Parliament will have to return very quickly, potentially in the middle of the party conference season.

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