Sun, Nov 06, 2016 - Page 5 News List

British PM urged to quell Brexit backlash

AFP, LONDON

British Prime Minister Theresa May was urged yesterday to try to quell the furore sparked by a UK High Court ruling that she needs parliamentary approval before triggering Britain’s exit from the EU.

Former UK ministers called on her to address the angry backlash after three senior judges upheld a challenge to her right to start the departure process without members of parliament having their say first.

May spent Friday trying to assure European leaders that Thursday’s verdict would not affect her timetable for triggering Article 50, the formal procedure for leaving the EU.

However, on the domestic front, members of her governing center-right Conservative Party and pro-Brexit newspapers were raging about the ruling, fearing it could derail the process.

UK Justice Select Committee Chairman Bob Neill said the attacks were “threatening the independence of our judiciary,” as he urged May to intervene.

“Some of the things which have been said about the court’s judgment by politicians have been utterly disgraceful,” Neill told the Times newspaper.

May and her government “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,” he said.

Former UK minister Anna Soubry, a prominent Remain campaigner, told the Guardian newspaper that some media coverage was “inciting hatred.”

“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.”

The Daily Mail, which branded the judges “enemies of the people,” yesterday said it was an “anti-democratic ruling,” as other newspapers kept up the heat.

Opposition UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was expected to call on May to set out her Brexit negotiating strategy in parliament “without delay” in the wake of the UK High Court ruling.

“There must be transparency and accountability to parliament about the government’s plans,” he was to say to a think tank in London yesterday, according to pre-released extracts of the speech. “I suspect the government opposes democratic scrutiny of its plans because — frankly — there aren’t any plans, beyond the hollow rhetoric of ‘Brexit means Brexit.’”

On Friday, May telephoned European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

She told them the government still intended to invoke Article 50 between the New Year and the end of March, and that she was confident of winning a UK Supreme Court appeal against Thursday’s ruling.

The UK High Court decision raises the prospect of a protracted parliamentary debate, although EU leaders have urged a swift departure.

In a sign of the likely parliamentary storms ahead, pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker Stephen Phillips resigned as a member of parliament on Friday, citing “irreconcilable policy differences with the current government.”

He said “quitter” was a label he could live with, but “‘Conservative’ no longer is.”

The resignation leaves May’s government with a slim working majority of 14 in the 650-member House of Commons.

It also fueled speculation of an early general election, though Downing Street maintains that polls should not be brought forward from 2020.

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