LONDON: Britain´s Supreme Court began an historic hearing Monday to decide whether parliament has to approve the government´s Brexit negotiations, in a highly-charged case that could delay the country´s EU exit.
For the first time ever, all 11 Supreme Court judges convened to hear a government challenge against a ruling that Prime Minister Theresa May must seek approval for starting the Brexit process.
Protesters on both sides of the debate rallied outside the court as the four-day hearing began, with pro-Europe demonstrators arriving on a double-decker bus, wearing judges´ wigs and waving EU flags.
The High Court ruled last month that the government did not have the executive power alone to invoke Article 50 of the EU´s Lisbon Treaty, formally starting exit talks which could take two years.
The decision enraged Brexit supporters and some newspapers who accused judges of thwarting the will of the 52 percent who voted “Leave” in the June 23 referendum.
The vote for Britain to become the first country to leave the 28-nation bloc sent shockwaves across the world and emboldened populists in Europe and the United States.
Supreme Court president David Neuberger said people involved in the case had received threats and abuse and stressed that judges would rule without political bias in a case that has ignited tensions.
A parliamentary vote on Article 50 could open the door to pro-EU lawmakers delaying or softening Britain´s withdrawal from the bloc.
Neuberger said the judges were “aware of the strong feelings” surrounding Brexit but “those wider political questions are not the subject of this appeal”, an AFP reporter at the hearing said.
“This appeal is concerned with legal issues, and, as judges, our duty is to consider those issues impartially, and to decide the case according to the law. That is what we shall do,” he told the court.
The proceedings were shown live on television with the presence of all 11 justices “a historic first”, according to the court.