In the News: no-deal rumblings and abortion buffer zones
27 August 2019
In the News
Rumours of a coming parliamentary coup to avoid a no-deal outcome rumble on, prompting the usual range of responses.
Speaking at the G7 summit in Biarritz on Sunday, Boris Johnson stated that Britain can ‘easily cope’ with a no-deal Brexit. The Prime Minister ascribed sole responsibility for whether or not Britain crashed out of the European Union on 31 October to ‘our EU friends and partners’, while Brussels officials asserted that it was ‘squarely and firmly’ up to Britain to find a solution to the Irish border issue. His comments come after a week in which Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron indicated their unwillingness to countenance reopening the withdrawal agreement, while Donald Trump promised a ‘very big trade deal’ between the United Kingdom and the United States once the country had freed itself from the ‘anchor’ of the EU.
Writing in the Times, Cambridge historian Robert Tombs argues that those who consider parliamentary resistance a legitimate expression of its sovereignty would ‘do untold damage to the institution they claim to defend’ by preventing the government from ‘[carrying] out a policy approved by the electorate’. In the Guardian, Heather Stewart and Rowena Mason covered the opposing view, outlining the key points in the six-page document prepared for Jeremy Corbyn by the shadow attorney general, Shami Chakrabarti. The advice includes an assertion that Boris Johnson would be committing the ‘gravest abuse of power and attack on UK constitutional principle in living memory’ if he shuts down parliament to help force through a no-deal Brexit.
Earlier this week, the archbishop of Canterbury sparked criticism by Brexiteers, including former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith, for reportedly meeting MPs with a view to chairing citizens’ assemblies to stop a no-deal departure from the EU. Today, Jeremy Corbyn met with the leaders of the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Green party and the Independent Group for Change and issued a joint statement agreeing to work together to avoid ‘a disastrous no-deal exit’.
In Other News
- Mark Thomson, the director general of HM Passport Office (HMPO) and UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), two of the Home Office sections at the centre of the Windrush scandal, has told staff he will be stepping down this year. A Home Office spokesperson said that the decision was made ‘for personal reasons’ and would be ‘phased to ensure minimal disruption’ to both HMPO and UKVI.
- The Guardian reports a trafficked Vietnamese woman has received a £50,000 payout from the Home Office. After arriving at Heathrow airport while experiencing a miscarriage and unable to stand, the woman was placed in detention for three days . The Home Office admitted to ‘clearly significant failings’, accepting that the 33-year-old was detained unlawfully and the detention constituted inhuman and degrading treatment. Additionally, they stated that a thorough investigation has been conducted to prevent future failings.
- Housing charity Shelter Scotland is seeking to crowdfund legal action over what it says is Glasgow City Council’s unlawful failure to offer homeless people temporary accommodation. A spokesman for the council stated in response that court action is an ‘unhelpful distraction’ and the money raised for court action could be better spent to directly ‘tackle the pressing issue of homelessness’.
In the Courts
Dulgheriu & Anor v The London Borough of Ealing  EWCA Civ 1490 (21 August 2019): Anti-abortion activists lost a Court of Appeal challenge against a Ealing Council’s decision to ban protesters from gathering in protest outside the Marie Stopes UK West London Centre. The activists argued that the public spaces protection order (“PSPO”) imposed by the council was incompatible with articles 9, 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”). Additionally, they argued that a PSPO was designed to protect local residents from the anti-social behaviour of ‘those in the locality’, which did not include occasional visitors to the centre. The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed these arguments. Although the appellants’ rights were engaged by the PSPO, the judge had correctly carried out the proportionality and balancing exercise. Objections to the wording of the PSPO was considered overstated and ‘contrived’.
The authority was the first to create a ‘buffer zone’ in April 2018 following reports of daily ‘intimidation, harassment and distress’ for women using the facility. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, acknowledged that ‘the right to peaceful protest must be respected’ but nevertheless called the decision ‘welcome’. In a similar vein, Jeremy Corbyn celebrated the ‘good news’ in a tweet which asserted that ‘a woman’s right to choose, free from intimidation or harassment, must be protected’. Julian Bell, the leader of the council, expressed his delight at the decision. Along with women’s charities, Bell called on the home secretary to legislate to introduce ‘safe zones’ across the country to protect clinic users and local people. Similar calls were rejected by the then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid in September 2018.
- Singh v The Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1504 (22 August 2019): The Court of Appeal granted an application to reopen a final determination under CPR rule 52.30, which provides that a court may do as where it is necessary to do so to avoid real injustice, the circumstances are exceptional, and there is no alternative effective remedy. Lord Justice Hickinbottom held that an earlier refusal of permission to appeal for leave to remain had been made without reference to important later submissions, filed properly and in good time, and that the decision was therefore critically undermined.
- Harun Gurbuz v Turkey – 68556/10  ECHR 597 (30 July 2019); Urek and Urek v Turkey – 74845/12  ECHR 598 (30 July 2019): The European Court of Human Rights heard two applications against the Republic of Turkey under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by Turkish nationals. In both cases, the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 6, rejected the applicants’ claim for pecuniary damage, and awarded them costs.