Brexit court ruling: Calls for Theresa May to calm backlash

Tory MPs have called on Theresa May to take action to calm the backlash sparked by the controversial High Court ruling on the process for leaving the European Union.

Theresa May has been urged to calm the public backlash over the High Court's Brexit ruling. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Theresa May has been urged to calm the public backlash over the High Court's Brexit ruling. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Former ministers have warned the Prime Minister she must “make clear” that the independence of the judiciary is a fundamental element of British democracy.

The judges behind the ruling that Mrs May must seek MPs’ approval to trigger Article 50 taking Britain out of the EU have faced furious criticism from some Conservative MPs and sections of the media.

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But Bob Neill, the Conservative chairman of the justice select committee, said the attacks were “threatening the independence of our judiciary” and had “no place in a civilised land”.

He told The Times: “Some of the things which have been said about the court’s judgment by politicians have been utterly disgraceful.

“All ministers from the Prime Minister down must now make clear that the independence of the judiciary is fundamental to our democracy. You have to respect that even if you think they have got a decision wrong.

“Some members of Parliament do not appear to understand that this judgment had nothing do with subverting the will of the people.”

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve described the attacks as “chilling and outrageous” and “smacking of the fascist state”.

Anna Soubry, a former minister and prominent Remain campaigner, said some media reports were “inciting hatred”.

“I think we have to call this out and say ‘not in my name’,” she told the Guardian.

“It needs somebody like Boris Johnson to step up and speak out. He’s our Foreign Secretary and he knows what the reaction of the rest of the world is as they look at our great country and are horrified. What message are we sending out to the rest of the world? Probably that this nation is in grave danger of losing the plot - and I think we might have done”.

It comes after Mrs May was rocked by the resignation of a pro-Brexit Conservative MP over “irreconcilable policy differences”.

Stephen Phillips announced he was quitting over the Government’s failure to appreciate the need to consult Parliament over Brexit.

He also attacked the Government for “shirking” responsibility for unaccompanied child refugees and changes in the way international aid was spent.

The surprise resignation came as the PM made a series of calls to European leaders insisting that the Brexit timetable remained unchanged, with March the deadline for triggering the process.

In a letter to George Clark, chairman of the Sleaford and North Hykeham Conservative Association, Mr Phillips said he could no longer live with being labelled a Conservative.

Mr Phillips said: “Some will label me a quitter or, no doubt, worse. Those are labels with which I can live. The label Conservative no longer is.”

His resignation as MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham fuelled speculation that the PM will call an early election, although a No 10 source insisted Mrs May stood by her statement that she would not go to the country before 2020.