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Farage judges the judges

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 11.11.2016

When the government appeals the High Court’s Article 50 decision, it can count on the close support of Nigel Farage and 100,000 of his closest friends. The former UKIP leader intends to lead a march to the Supreme Court, supporting the crown’s attempt to overturn the ruling that the elected representatives of the British people should decide their future.

This sits incongruously with Farage’s comments on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme last Sunday, when he spoke out against the idea that a court might be guided by political rather than legal principle. Discussing the case, the MEP told viewers he was “afraid that the reach of the European Union into the upper echelons of society… makes it quite difficult for us to trust the judgments”

Farage singled out Lord Thomas, whom he described as “the founding member of a body seeking to integrate law at an EU level”, arguing that people who had “been activists for political European integration shouldn’t be making these judgments”.

Thomas was a founder of the European Law Institute, which calls itself “an entirely independent organisation” and describes its mission as “the quest for better law-making in Europe and the enhancement of European legal integration”.

The idea that founding a non-profit body to improve lawmaking should disqualify him from the case is reminiscent of Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch-hunts for alleged Communists in 1950s Washington – a tone echoed by the pro-Brexit press.

They have declared open season on the judiciary with the Express exhorting readers to “Rise up… and fight, fight, fight”. On Sunday, the Mail and the Times both turned their attention to the “EU links” of four Supreme Court judges, accusing them of such offences as being “steeped in EU law” or even “speaking several foreign languages”.

The first, Lord Kerr, “sat as a judge in the European Court of Human Rights”. Quite how this is a strong enough link to the EU to impact his judgment is unclear, particularly as the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU.

The second, Lord Reed, not only served on the ECHR but “worked for the EU forum of judges”. Lord Carnwath co-founded this body, the “EU Forum of Judges for the Environment”. It is a not-for-profit open to non-EU citizens that promotes the enforcement of environmental law. It’s difficult to see how involvement with this body could compromise the impartiality of either judge.

Finally, Lord Mance “represented the UK on the Council of Europe’s consultative council of European judges”. Given that the Council of Europe, a body co-founded by Britain before the EU existed, goes to great pains to point out that it is not part of the EU, it’s unclear why either paper felt this was relevant. More pertinently, Mance sat on a panel that “helps select judges for the European Court of Justice”. In other words, he was trusted to ensure the independence and impartiality of judges, and can probably be trusted to look to those qualities within himself.

The government’s limp response to this latest attempt to disqualify experts because they know their subject is particularly dispiriting. An independent and trusted judiciary is an essential part of a democratic society. Giving the press licence to undermine confidence in our legal system for the sake of bringing Brexit forward a few months would be extremely unwise.

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Edited by Paul Taylor

8 Responses to “Farage judges the judges”

  • The remarks of Farage and the position adopted by the press in the above article are terrifying in their implications- so who are going to control the judges ?- and confirmation that the Brexit vote has unleashed an extraordinary and very un- English nationalist sentiment which is apparently now becoming quite acceptable to proclaim along with its corollary, the suspicion of ” foreigners ” . Is nationality becoming an issue in the UK?

    • I’m really surprised to find you never noticed that before. What about the xenophobic reactions and anti-foreigner rhetoric fanatism surrounding Brexit, the murders in London etc? Why do you think foreign nationals who lived for decades in the U.K. suddenly are no longer happy here?

  • Why put the 100,000 figure in your post? He doesn’t have a clue how many people he’ll get. Deserves quotes at least I would have thought.

  • So what should we do? Carry out purges of anyone with any connection to European organisations? Looks like that’s where we’ll be going if Farage has his way.

  • “Rise up… and fight, fight, fight” sounds uncommonly like an incitement to riot, which I believe is a criminal offence. Why has the press been allowed to continue with their inflammatory language, given that that particular section of the press is read by the most credulous part of society.

    And why, oh why, is any coverage being given to Farage ? He is a nobody without political office. The medias hunger for stories portrays his opinion as being more important than it is. For heavens sake, drop him.

    • “And why, oh why, is any coverage being given to Farage ? ”

      Because he sells…
      Quoting Farage will make the newspaper sell.
      Why in the UK newspapers are not banned for selling this and lies…. I do not know, it feels very strange as an European, oops non-UK European.

  • More should be made of the fact that before the referendum, Farage said that if the referendum went for Remain by a majority of less than 52 to48 then the referendum should be re-run!!! He should be challenged and asked why this should not apply in the reverse result.

  • The way farage comments on things is all small soundbites as it headlines in papers such as the daily fail etc .
    As well as the express should be taken to task over incitement to riots , farage ‘s selection of words towards Gina Miller on the Marr programme was imtimidation .