Theresa May refuses to say she will defend judges from press attacks ahead of Brexit judgment

The PM cited 'freedom of the press' after the Daily Mail branded judges 'enemies of the people'

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Theresa May has refused to say she will defend judges from attacks in the press ahead of a vital judgment on the legal details of of Brexit. 

High Court judges were publicly shamed as “enemies of the people” earlier this month by right-wing newspapers after it was ruled that the Government could not railroad Brexit through without the consent of Parliament.

The Government is appealing the ruling in the Supreme Court, with a result due next month. Ahead of the judgment, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May whether the highest court’s justices could expect support from the Government.

“When the Supreme Court meets at the beginning of December if it decides to upholds the decision of the High Court will the Lord Chancellor this time defend the independent judiciary against any public attacks?” Mr Corbyn asked Ms May at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Ms May did not pledge to defend the judges, instead citing the “freedom of the press”. 

“We believe, I believe, this government believes in the independence of our judiciary and the judiciary will consider that decision and come to their judgment on the basis of our arguments put before them. But we also believe that our democracy is underpinned by the freedom of our press,” she told the House of Commons.

One of the Supreme Court judges hearing the case, Lady Hale, noted that the EU referendum was not legally binding, it emerged yesterday.

The appeal case in Britain's highest domestic court begins on 5 December and is expected to run until 8 December. A judgment in the case is expected by the end of December.

In an unprecedented move, all 11 Supreme Court justices are sitting on the case.

Downing Street has said the ongoing case will not affect the timetable for Brexit.

The Prime Minister has said she wants to start negotiations by triggering Article 50 in the first quarter of 2017.