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Brexit vote 'not legally binding' says Supreme Court judge

Lady Hale is one of the Supreme Court judges hearing the Government's appeal against the legal challenge to Brexit next month

By Siobhan Fenton

The EU referendum was not legally binding, a Supreme Court judge hearing the Government’s appeal against the Brexit legal challenge has said.

Lady Hale also indicated the Government is now changing its legal arguments in its bid to fend off a court challenge to their plans to trigger Article 50.

She has suggested it now appears to be backtracking on its previous arguments that it does not have to answer to the courts, ahead of next month’s appeal.

She is one of eleven justices in the Supreme Court to hear the legal challenge to Brexit in December.

Last month the High Court ruled against the Government and backed anti-Brexit campaigners in pronouncing parliament must be consulted before Article 50 can be triggered. It is expected that such a requirement could delay Brexit significantly, or result in it appearing in a softer approach compared to ‘Hard Brexit’ plans.

Speaking ahead of the appeal hearing, which begins 5 December, Lady Hale told an audience of lawyers at a Kuala Lumpar lecture on constitutional law that the upcoming appeal is one of “fundamental constitutional importance”.

She said: “As is well known, the referendum on whether the United Kingdom should leave or remain in the European Union produced a majority of 51.8 per cent in favour of leaving. But that referendum was not legally binding on Parliament.”

Referring to the Government’s previous defence that Theresa May as the executive wing of the government has power to trigger Article 50 without parliamentary or judicial interference, Lady Hale said: “Perhaps significantly, the Government has given up the argument that the issue is not justiciable in our courts.”

The appeal case begins on 5 December and is expected to run until 8 December.

Independent News Service

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