Brexiteers urge Supreme Court judge to stand down from Article 50 hearing over wife's Pro-Remain tweets

Pro-Leave Tory MPs claim Lord Neuberger cannot be impartial because his wife isn't

Caroline Mortimer@cjmortimer
Saturday 19 November 2016 23:43
The Supreme Court will rule on whether can trigger Article 50 without Parliament next month
The Supreme Court will rule on whether can trigger Article 50 without Parliament next month

The Supreme Court’s most senior judge has been urged to excuse himself from the hearing to determine whether the Government has to get Parliament’s approval to trigger Article 50 because his wife posted a series of anti-Brexit tweets.

Supreme Court President, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, was attacked by pro-Brexit MPs for being “compromised” by the views of his wife.

They cite a clause in the Supreme Court’s code of conduct which warns justices to be aware that the “political activity” of a close relative could raise questions about their impartiality.

Lady Neuberger, who tweets under her maiden name Angela Holdsworth, denounced the referendum as “mad and bad” and said that votes for Ukip and Brexit were just “protest votes”.

She also retweeted a Remain campaign’s article which said it seemed “unlikely that a PM could trigger Article 50 without Parliament’s approval”.

Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, said: “This is embarrassing for the Supreme Court given the seriousness of the upcoming Court case.

“His wife’s views are injudicious and clearly his position is compromised.”

Similarly his colleague Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP for North West Leicestershire, said Lord Neuberger should step down as the case was "a crucially important judical decision for our country and must be taken impartially".

High Court rules Government cannot trigger Article 50 without parliamentary approval

But a senior source close to the judge rubbished the accusation, telling the Daily Telegraph they were “absolutely confident” there had been no breach.

They pointed out that the court had been asked to rule on how the Government can begin Brexit rather than whether it is allowed to happen at all.

They said: “This case is about a point of law and Lady Neuberger’s views are nothing to do with it.”

But many said that Lady Neuberger and her husband were entitled to hold their own, separate views and she was not bound by the same impartiality that Lord Neuberger is subject to.

The four-day judicial hearing next month will determine whether the Government can trigger Article 50 – which begins the formal process to leave the European Union following the referendum in June – without getting Parliament’s approval as it would, in effect, repeal the European Communities Act of 1972.

The campaigners who challenged the Government’s plan in the High Court, The People’s Challenge, said the decision was “the biggest attack on democracy the UK has ever known”.

But the High Court’s decision in favour of the campaigners provoked an outpouring of attacks against them with one right-wing newspaper calling them “enemies of the people”.

Several Cabinet members, such as Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, attacked the judges for attempting to “block the will of the people” – despite the fact that the Government has not been prevented from triggering the clause altogether.

After several days of silence, Justice Liz Truss spoke out against attacking the judges after the Bar Council urged her to condemn the “serious and unjustified attacks on the judiciary”.

The MP is now facing calls to resign by several legal groups for her lacklustre response and the former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Igor Judge, said she may have acted unlawfully by following the wishes of Downing Street rather than remaining independent as Lord Chancellor.

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