UK justice minister defends court over Brexit ruling amid media attacks | News | DW | 05.11.2016
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UK justice minister defends court over Brexit ruling amid media attacks

The UK justice minister has defended the High Court over its ruling on the Brexit amid virulent media criticism of the judiciary. Conservative papers have accused the court of opposing the will of the people.

British Justice Minister Liz Truss on Saturday gave her support to the High Court after it came under intense media fire for its ruling on Thursdaythat the government must seek parliament's approval to start negotiations on leaving the European Union, despite a referendum showing a majority of Britons in favor of the move.

"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," Truss said in a short statement.

"In relation to the case heard in the High Court, the Government has made it clear it will appeal to the Supreme Court. Legal process must be followed," she added.

Just hours earlier, Truss had been criticized by the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, for her silence over "serious and unjustified attacks on the judiciary" in the media.

Conservative newspapers have accused the judges of going against the democratic will of the people as expressed in the June 23 referendum in statements condemned by politicians on both sides of the Brexit debate as subversive of the rule of law.

The "Daily Mail" tabloid called the High Court judges " "Enemies of the People" in its headline, while "The Telegraph" broadsheet spoke of "Judges versus the People."

Großbritannien Justizministerin Liz Truss (picture-alliance/empics/B. Birchall)

Lord Chancellor Liz Truss issued a statement in defense of the judiciary on Saturday after Thursday's ruling

'Chilling and outrageous'

Even some members of the Conservative government denounced the three judges behind the ruling, accusing them of "judicial activism" and wanting to undermine the June referendum vote.

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve called the attacks on the judiciary "chilling and outrageous" and "smacking of the fascist state," while Bob Neill, the Conservative chairman of the justice select committee, said they had "no place in a civilized land.

Bar Council chairwoman Chantal-Aimee Doerries emphasized that the High Court's decision did not pertain to the merits or not of leaving the EU, but just to the constitutional process of starting EU exit negotiations under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Prime MinisterTheresa May (Reuters/T. Melville)

Prime Minister May's government is to appeal the ruling

The landmark ruling by the High Court constitutes a setback for the government of Prime Minister Theresa May, and has sparked fears among Brexit supporters that the process of starting to leave the bloc could be delayed beyond the March date promised by May.

The prime minister on Sunday urged lawmakers not to block Brexit, saying in a statement that Britain's vote to leave the European Union was legitimate. 

"While others seek to tie our negotiating hands, the government will get on with the job of delivering the decision of the British people," she said, ahead of her first trade trip to India.

"The result was clear. It was legitimate. MPs and peers who regret the referendum result need to accept what the people decided," she added.

May has called on EU leaders to reaffirm her commitment to beginning Article 50 negotiations by the end of March, saying she is confident of overturning the High Court ruling.

The court decision has led to speculation that an early election might be called to strengthen May's support in the parliament ahead of any EU vote.

tj/jm (dpa, AFP)