Police arrest man over threats to UK Brexit lawsuit claimant

Diane Abbott

Three lower court judges ruled last month that the British government can not trigger Article 50 of the EU's key treaty, launching two years of exit negotiations, without lawmakers' approval.

Eleven Supreme Court judges are hearing the case, which has major constitutional implications for the balance of power between Britain's legislature branch and the executive.

Senior lawyers also spoke today as to whether ministers in Westminster may trigger article 50 without consulting the Scottish Parliament or Northern Ireland Assembly. The involvement of the Scottish Government also raises the possibility - albeit a slim one - that Holyrood will be allowed a vote that could stop Brexit in its tracks.

James Eadie QC, for the Government, has insisted that it does have the legal power to use the prerogative to trigger Britain's exit from the European Union and has rejected the suggestion that its Brexit strategy was an "affront" to parliamentary sovereignty.

Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice, gave the ruling blocking the use of Article 50.

Inside the court, the legal argument was restrained, elegant and intellectual, ranging from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the World War II traitor Lord Haw-Haw and a dispute over Newfoundland lobster fishing. "However, those wider political questions are not the subject of this appeal".

"The ultimate question in this case concerns the process by which that result can lawfully be brought into effect", he said.

"The law of the land is not altered by a motion in Parliament".

London's Metropolitan Police said officers arrested a 55-year-old man Monday in Swindon, western England, "on suspicion of racially aggravated malicious communications" directed at a 51-year-old woman since November 3.

Miller - who has received a torrent of online abuse for her role in the case - arrived at court with her lawyers to cheers from pro-EU campaigners dressed as judges atop an open-topped double-decker bus.

Global interest is huge, with journalists from 80 countries accredited to cover the hearing, while outside the court in Westminster, pro-Brexit demonstrators gathered to make clear their concern that nothing should be allowed to thwart the outcome.

However, the Lord Advocate also said that if Westminster was trying to change Holyrood's powers in the way that Brexit will, MSPs would have to have a vote - and he has argued too that the consent of the Scottish Parliament should be sought because the UK's withdrawal from the European Union will affect areas that are devolved. "We do not believe another Act of Parliament is necessary".

Counsel General for Wales Mick Antoniw said: " The people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The powers enable decisions about joining or leaving worldwide treaties to be made without a parliamentary vote.

Mr Wright submitted that "in the context of this case the imposition of a legislative precondition by the courts which Parliament did not choose to impose itself, can not be supportive of parliamentary sovereignty but must be positively inconsistent with it".

Shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti defended the judiciary's role in the face of intense scrutiny "verging on vilification".

She said: "The judges are not fair game. They can not speak up for themselves and we all need them in the end if we are going to settle our disputes in a civilised way in the courtroom".

He said: "However much they may wish it had, those who support parliamentary sovereignty should, we submit, respect this exercise of parliamentary sovereignty too".

"The fact that the people have spoken via a referendum means that the people have spoken to Parliament".