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Supreme Court Article 50 - it's over

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10 December 2016 15:10

I start in one of the overspill courts, watching on a screen. Which way is this case is going? We seek a sign. Has Lady Hale been semaphoring all week with her motif brooches? It’s impossible to tell whether today’s is a brooch or simply an ornamental part of her black dress, but it looks like a black flower. Is she alluding to Black Flower, Kim Young-Ha’s novel about migrant workers caught up in a revolution who set up their own mini-nation?

The Brexit analogy is tempting. But I could be reading too much into it.


Helen Mountfield QC (below), for the crowd-funded People's Challenge group, starts with an unnecessary apology: ‘To some the legal arguments in the case may sound dry and antiquarian…’

No, for a non-lawyer this is the good stuff: we get the Treaty of Utrecht, the Seven Years’ War, Henry IV, Henry VIII (whose face is carved into an oak bench in the courtroom), William III and George III.

She adds: ‘Mr Eadie’s submissions are the equivalent of arguing that because none of the attempts to catch the Loch Ness monster succeeded, the Loch Ness monster still roams free.’

In court, there is a strained, earnest longing to find jokes funny. They are scrutinised afterwards by the commentariat like prize-winning bantams at a show for people who know how to evaluate bantams.

In the cruel world of stand-up, they would not win prizes. As a sacrifice to nerves, Mr Eadie started with something baffling which depended on knowing the form of a certain race-horse. Ad libs from the bench win overall on the comedy front.

Manjit Gill QC speaks movingly on behalf of vulnerable people, including British children and disabled people whose parents, guardians or carers, aka bargaining chips, may lose their right to live in the UK.

At lunchtime a punter hands out Cadbury Heroes. Hope he’s got some left for the heroic advocates and justices. Witnessing this superb exposition of legal process is a consolation after the national shame of Brexit and its spiteful aftermath.



In the afternoon I inherit a space in the courtroom. Bad for sightlines, good for authenticity.

Time for the last submission before Mr Eadie returns for the government. Lord Neuberger: 'Final shake of the kaleidoscope of the front bench. Mr Green.'

If I am to abandon my hobby of remoaning, where can I redirect my attention? Il faut cultiver notre jardin. But gardening is no real retreat from the world. The no-borders fox has just left contemptuous paw prints in wet cement. Fuchsia bug mite ignores trade barriers: it reached England from the US about ten years ago. My plants are riddled with it. You can’t disengage from the single organism we belong to, even if you suspect we're all inside a psychopathic alien’s test tube.

Mrs May is going for the ‘best possible’ Brexit. All the possibilities are invited to the Brexit party, but can we rely on them to turn up if there's a better gig somewhere else? Is the best possible Brexit an impossible one?

On Wednesday, David Scoffield QC said, ‘The UK Government's contentions on the extent of its prerogative power are, with respect, cavalier, perhaps in this context with both a small C and a large C.’ So, can anyone read anything into these two maps: the start of the English Civil War and the referendum result?

Yellow = Cavaliers
Yellow = Remain

PS Across the channel, there’s a spat involving the French equivalent of the Supreme Court. In a bureaucratic rejig, the Cour de cassation has been put under government supervision for the first time. The court’s president and the attorney general fired off a terse open letter to the prime minister. Le Figaro claims that the situation is more nuancée than it appears, but the article reads like a phone call from a weary government press officer.

PPS This is the second piece of EU referendum-related litigation to reach the Supreme Court, and presumably not the last as this fiasco plays out over decades of decline [smiley face]. In May, the court upheld a ruling that British expats who'd lived outside the UK for more than 15 years could not vote in the referendum. The Conservatives didn’t get round to changing that in time.

Lord Neuberger - two of many seat positions
  

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