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Weston Mercury: Judges vs Parliament?

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That grinding noise you can hear are the tectonic plates of Britain’s unwritten constitution scraping past each other after the High Court ruling about whether Theresa May needs an Act of Parliament to trigger Article 50.

Whether you agree with the Judges or not, there’s a huge amount at stake. Passing a new law to allow the PM to deliver the referendum verdict could take months or even years, with oodles of potential for opponents to delay or even kill Brexit entirely.

So people were pretty upset when the judgement came out. But even though a free society means it’s perfectly OK to criticise the Court’s decision, backing it up with personal abuse or threats of violence towards the judges and the people who brought the case is a step too far. They stunt debate, and make us less free rather than more.

Equally, calls for a 100,000 person march on the High Court feel very dangerous too. We need our judges to be above politics, and immune to pressure from political factions on any side. Otherwise we wouldn’t know if we can trust the courts to be fair and impartial.

And, ultimately, nobody wants to start a pushing contest between Judges and Parliament either. Normally Parliament makes the laws and judges apply them, but the article 50 judgement effectively means the High Court is telling Parliament what to do. It’s couched as telling the Government they don’t have a particular legal power, rather than ordering politicians to do something, but the result is the same either way.

So it’s eye-wateringly complicated, and we need to make sure those tectonic plates don’t set off a constitutional earthquake. The whole point of a constitution is to set the rules so big political changes can happen peacefully. Threatening our judges, or setting the Courts against Parliament, doesn’t help at all.

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