Liz Truss backs judiciary over Brexit ruling backlash

Lord Chancellor Liz Truss. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Lord Chancellor Liz Truss. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Have your say

Lord Chancellor Liz Truss has broken her silence following a High Court decision over Brexit, saying the independence of the judiciary is the “foundation upon which our rule of law is built”.

Ms Truss made the comments following widespread calls for her to condemn the “serious and unjustified attacks on the judiciary” from some Conservative MPs and sections of the media in the wake of the ruling on Thursday.

She said: “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.

“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.”

It comes after MPs and barristers demanded action in the wake of furious criticism over the controversial ruling on the process for leaving the European Union.

The Bar Council had urged Ms Truss to speak out as a “matter of urgency”, saying: “A strong independent judiciary is essential to a functioning democracy and to upholding the rule of law.”

High Court judges made the ruling that Prime Minister Theresa May must seek MPs’ approval to trigger Article 50 taking Britain out of the EU.

It triggered a major backlash, with the Daily Mail criticising them as “Enemies of the people”, while the Daily Express called the ruling a marker of “the day democracy died”.

Tory MPs have called on Mrs May to take action, with former ministers saying she must “make clear” that the independence of the judiciary is a fundamental element of British democracy.

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”.

Politicians from all sides have soundly condemned the attacks on the judiciary, with former attorney general Dominic Grieve calling them “chilling and outrageous” and “smacking of the fascist state”.

Chantal-Aimee Doerries QC, chairwoman of the Bar Council, emphasised that the judgment was not about the merits of leaving the EU, but rather the constitutional process of triggering Article 50.

She said: “It is the judiciary’s role to ensure the rule of law underpins our democratic system. Without it fulfilling this vital role, the people would have very limited scope to hold the Government in power to account.

“Publicly criticising individual members of the judiciary over a particular judgment or suggesting that they are motivated by their individual views, political or otherwise, is wrong, and serves only to undermine their vital role in the administration of justice. It also does no favours to our global reputation.

“None of the parties suggested that the court did not have jurisdiction to decide the point at issue. They are simply doing their job - impartially ruling on a dispute between parties, one of whom happens to be the Government in this instance.

“The right to appeal is there to challenge the court’s decision if a party feels they have grounds to do so. Whilst acknowledging that this question is one of potentially significant constitutional importance, the independent role of the court should be respected, particularly by those who disagree with the outcome.”