All 11 Supreme Court justices will hear the government’s appeal against the High Court’s Art 50 ruling.
The judgment that the government requires parliamentary approval before triggering Art 50, the formal mechanism to leave the EU, prompted outrage among some sections of the press and politicians.
The judges – the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, and Lord Justice Sales – were accused by some of attempting to subvert the result of the July referendum and branded ‘Enemies of the People’ (The Daily Mail).
In the wake of the media storm and personal abuse of members of the court, the Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, came in for strong criticism from the legal profession for failing to speak up to defend the independence of the judiciary and the rule of the law, as she is statutorily obliged to do.
A Bar Council resolution called on her to condemn the ‘serious and unjustified attacks’ on the judiciary.
On her behalf, the Ministry of Justice issued a statement saying: ‘The independence of the judiciary is the foundation upon which our rule of law is built and our judiciary is rightly respected the world over for its independence and impartiality.’
Former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge told the BBC’s Newsnight programme the statement was ‘too little and not a lot’. Labour’s former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer called on Truss to resign and Justice Committee chair, Bob Neill condemned the attacks on the judiciary.
Sixteen Silks from One Crown Office Row – including former Bar leaders Guy Mansfield QC and Robert Seabrook QC – wrote an open letter to Truss saying they were ‘dismayed’ by her ‘inadequate defence’ of the judges. Other sets may do likewise.
In a speech at the Law Society the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC, who represented the government, backed judicial independence and press freedom.
Contrary to reports that Number 10 had briefed against him following the judgment, he insisted he had the Prime Minister’s support and that he would represent the government in the Supreme Court.
He dismissed suggestions that the government had been advised that it will lose its appeal, but said if it did, the government would ‘respect’ the judgment. ‘The rule of law matters more than however big and important an issue may be,’ he said.
The appeal has been listed for four days from 5-8 December. The judgment will be reserved, most likely until the new year.