The government trumped
Tuesday’s Supreme Court judgment held by a majority of 8 to 3 that an Act of Parliament is required to authorise ministers to give Notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the European Union. This blog has covered the case in some detail – see Dominic Ruck-Keene’s post on the central issue in the appeal here, Jim Duffy’s post regarding the court’s findings on the status of the Sewel Convention here, and Rosie Slowe’s guest post on the enduring relevance of the question of the irrevocability or otherwise of an Article 50 notification here.
Trump’s inauguration trumped…but what now?
Donald Trump’s inauguration was met with a rather lukewarm reception on 21st January 2017 when almost 5 million people took to the streets to join the globally organised Women’s March.
The event is estimated to have attracted approximately 4.8 million people across 673 marches. It was organised in support of all those who had been targeted during Trump’s election campaign: not just women, but migrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQ, people of racial minorities, and people with disabilities.
Trump himself seems untroubled by the protests, and responded the following day with a purportedly liberal and tolerant tweet: ‘Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views’.
Moreover, in no way has he been deterred from his objectives regarding certain women’s rights. Continue reading
In the new age of alternative facts, even Sean Spicer might struggle to spin Tuesday’s Supreme Court judgment as anything other than a comprehensive defeat for the government.
Yet, as my colleague Dominic Ruck Keene’s post alluded to, the ultimate political ramifications of Miller would have made the Article 50 process appreciably more turgid had the Justices accepted the various arguments relating to devolution.
In November 2016, the Government responded in rather disappointing terms (here) to a consultation about amending its costs rules in civil cases to reflect the requirements of the Aarhus Convention.
Article 9 of this Convention says that members of the public should be able to challenge environmental decisions, and the procedures for doing so shall be adequate and effective and “not prohibitively expensive“. Aarhus starters may want to have a look at my bluffers guide to Aarhus – here.
First, the limited bit of good news in the governmental response.
With the Supreme Court having ruled yesterday that Parliament must have a say in the triggering of Article 50 TEU, the ensuing debate regarding the process for exiting the EU will undoubtedly revolve around what is politically considered the most desirable ‘type’ of Brexit, and whether MPs can restrict the government’s negotiation position. This post puts forward the hypothesis that such debates may become irrelevant because, in the event that negotiations fail, the UK has no guaranteed input on the terms of its withdrawal from the EU. At the heart of this problem is the still unanswered question whether an Article 50 notification is revocable.
In R (on the application of Miller and another) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union  UKSC 5, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s appeal and upheld the High Court’s ruling that the royal prerogative cannot be relied on to trigger Article 50 (see yesterday’s post on this blog which summarised the court’s judgment). Rather than reliance on executive power, an Act of Parliament is required to authorise ministers to give notice of the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU. This is based on the premise that such notification under Article 50(2) would inevitably, and unavoidably, have a direct effect on UK citizens’ rights by ultimately withdrawing the UK from the EU. However, this assumption warrants exploration.
Sir Edward Coke’s bold assertion in 1605 of one of the cornerstones of the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom has been upheld today in a hugely important decision by the Supreme Court. In R(Miller) v Secretary of the State for Exiting the European Union  UKSC 5, the Supreme Court today ruled 8-3 that an Act of Parliament was required to authorise ministers to give Notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the European Union. This post focuses on the decisions made in relation to the more legally significant claim that this Article 50 notice could not be given without Parliamentary approval, rather than those made in relation to the devolution claims – although in terms of practical political impact, a ruling that the devolved assemblies had to approve the giving of notice would have been far more disruptive to the Government’s plans.
Lord Neuberger, with whom Lady Hale, and Lords Mance, Kerr, Sumption, Clarke, Wilson and Hodge agreed), gave the judgment for the majority. He introduced the case by putting the issue very simply “The question before this Court concerns the steps which are required as a matter of UK domestic law before the process of leaving the European Union can be initiated.”
In Rahmatullah (No 2) v MOD; Mohammed v MOD  UKSC 1, the Supreme Court gave a further important judgment in the litany of cases arising out of the UK’s intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Court held unanimously that the doctrine of Crown act of state defeated claims brought by non UK citizens seeking to sue the Government in the English courts in respect of alleged torts committed abroad.
R (Woolcock & Bridgend Magistrates Court) v Cardiff Magistrates Court and Bridgend County Council  EWHC 34 (Admin) (judgment awaiting publication)
There is an exceedingly long line of case law, stretching back beyond the days of the community charge (which was of course better known as the Poll Tax). In those cases, the courts have traditionally quashed custodial orders improperly imposed by magistrates for non-payment of council taxes.
Most recently, the legal charity Centre for Criminal Appeals have picked up the reins as part of their work challenging unduly harsh sentencing practices. The case of R(Woolcock & Bridgend Magistrates Court) v Cardiff Magistrates Court and Bridgend County Council, a judicial review claim, is the first of the cases supported by the Centre to reach the High Court, and concerned imprisonment of a woman who had failed to make council tax payments required of her.