UK Government turns to Supreme Court over Brexit challenge

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The UK Government has applied to the country’s highest court for permission to appeal over a cross-party legal challenge on Brexit.

It has applied to the Supreme Court seeking permission to appeal against a court ruling to ask the European Court if the UK can unilaterally revoke its Article 50 request to leave the European Union.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled in September to refer the question to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) after a case brought by a cross-party group of politicians.

The CJEU applied its expedited procedure, as requested by the Court of Session, to the case and an oral hearing is fixed for November 27.

The UK Government made an application for permission to appeal against the ruling to the Supreme Court, which was refused by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge and Lord President of the Court of Session in Edinburgh, last week.

However the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has now applied to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal.

A statement issued by the Supreme Court said: “The Supreme Court has received an application for permission to appeal in the matter of Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Appellant) v Wightman and others (Respondents).

“The application has been referred to three Supreme Court justices – Lady Hale (president), Lord Reed (deputy president) and Lord Hodge – who will form the decision panel.

“The court is aware of the urgency of this matter. ”

The initial case had been brought by a cross-party group of politicians: Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Joanna Cherry MP and Alyn Smith MSP of the SNP, and Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, together with lawyer Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project.

The decision from Lord Carloway in September overturned an earlier ruling when it was said the question being asked was “hypothetical” and the conditions for a reference had not been met.

But Lord Carloway said it was “clear” MPs at Westminster would be required to vote on any Brexit deal agreed by the EU and the UK Government.

In his September judgment, Lord Carloway was clear the CJEU would not be advising Parliament on “what it must or ought to do”.

Instead, he said it would be “merely declaring the law as part of its central function”, adding that “how Parliament chooses to react to that declarator is entirely a matter for that institution”.

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