Brexit legal challenge: Only a few of Nigel Farage's '100,000-strong people's army' march on Supreme Court

The hearing will last four days and wil be heard by an unprecedented 11 Supreme Court justices

Matt Payton
Monday 05 December 2016 13:12 GMT
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Anti-EU protesters outside the Supreme Court on the first day of its four-day hearing of the government's appeal
Anti-EU protesters outside the Supreme Court on the first day of its four-day hearing of the government's appeal

Protesters have turned up at the Supreme Court to register their displeasure that 11 judges have been given the power to decide who has the power to trigger the UK's exit from the European Union – though there weren't quite as many as Brexiteers had promised.

A pro-Brexit group had claimed 100,000 people would join Nigel Farage in a march against the decision to give Parliament a say on triggering Article 50.

Mr Farage himself said there wuld be disturbances on the streets if the judges ruled agianst the will of the people.

However, the number that actually turned up for the first day of the government legal challenge was somewhat shy of the intended protest size, with fewer than 100 people making the effort to register their anger.

The Supreme Court has allowed four days for the appeal hearing which will be streamed live.

Leave.EU campaign, run by leading Ukip donor and close Farage ally Arron Banks, had promised a "100,000 strong people's army" would march behind Mr Farage from Trafalgar Square through Whitehall to the hearing. The campaign had pledged £100,000 to support the march.

A record 11 Supreme Court justices will sit on the appeal and will have a say on one of the most important constitutional cases in generations.

If the appeal is unsuccessful, and any potential further appeal to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg also fails, the Government's current plans for Brexit will have to be scrapped.

However, the Prime Minister has made it clear she still intends to give an Article 50 notification by the end of next March to start the leave negotiations with 27 other EU countries.

Brexit Secretary David Davis is leading the Government's legal action. His team of lawyers, headed by Attorney General Jeremy Wright, will argue in the hearing that the three High Court judges erred over Article 50 and its use was legally justified by the June 23 referendum vote in favour of quitting the EU.

Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice, gave the ruling blocking the use of Article 50. Two other top judges - Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton and Lord Justice Sales agreed.

The Attorney General said: "The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum provided for by an Act of Parliament.

"The Government is determined to respect the result of the referendum.

"The Government's case is that it does have legal power to trigger Article 50 on the timetable set out by the Prime Minister. We do not believe another Act of Parliament is necessary."

Brexit supporters dressed a judges on anti-EU bus outside the Supreme Court

Even though it was emphasised to a packed court in London that they were deciding "a pure question of law" and not expressing any view about the merits of leaving the European Union, they faced fierce criticism from Leave campaigners and an accusation that they were "enemies of the people".

Against that background, the Supreme Court has already stressed that its judges will only be concerned with questions of law and not making political decisions.

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