Lawyers more than happy to correct them
Social media has erupted into a series of ‘I know my law better than you’ squabbles.
In one corner: journalists, namely LBC radio host Iain Dale and editor of the Spectator Fraser Nelson. Both men recently reignited the debate around the Gina Miller case, which concluded in the Supreme Court almost a year ago. Readers will no doubt remember the bench of 11 justices ruled that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty can only be triggered following a free vote in parliament.
For the avoidance of doubt, the court did not rule on whether Article 50 is reversible. Devereux Chambers barrister Jolyon Maugham QC had planned to bring a legal question to this effect to the High Court in Ireland, however this was discontinued this spring.
Weird, then, when former Tory politician Dale retweeted the following tweet, which included a screenshot of a Business Insider article from January, claiming the Miller case ruled Article 50 is irreversible:
Karma..it was Gina Miller's action taking Brexit to the Supreme Court that enabled the court to rule Article 50 is in fact irreversible pic.twitter.com/J6IHlXg2dS
— john locke (@jlocke13) November 10, 2017
In his tweet (embedded below), Dale described Article 50’s revocability as “another lie from Remainers”. He also name checked Lord Kerr, a Scottish Lord who was part of the team that drafted Article 50 (not to be confused with the Supreme Court justice of the same surname). Kerr has said on record that triggering the treaty provision can be reversed.
So, another lie from Remainers has been exposed. Perhaps Sir John Kerr might inform himself of the facts and perhaps people in the media will stop treating him as some sort of Euro-God. https://t.co/46PFaMQS62
— Iain Dale (@IainDale) November 12, 2017
Dale wasn’t the only journalist interested in the Miller case this weekend. Nelson also tweeted a screenshot of the Business Insider article alongside a caption to the effect of ‘the Supreme Court said Article 50 cannot be revoked’. He has since deleted this tweet, but screenshots remain on the social media site.
— Jo Maugham QC (@JolyonMaugham) November 12, 2017
The double-whammy of gaffes has been music to the legal Twitterati’s ears, who rarely shy away from legal fact-checking. One now retired technology disputes lawyer said Nelson’s comment was simply “wrong, wrong, wrong”:
Has any journalist ever been *so* wrong about a legal issue? See the pages and pages of responses from lawyers. He got this wrong, wrong, wrong.
The UKSC clearly explains that it does NOT say whether A50 is reversible – or not. It's not even a matter for UK court – it's EU law. https://t.co/1KWut03xtn
— Solange LeBourg (@solange_lebourg) November 12, 2017
A selection of other responses include the Secret Barrister’s contention that he “expected better” from Dale, and University of Sussex professor of public law Lindsay Stirton’s “they’re making this sh*t up”. Our favourite of all, however, came from Hélène Tyrrell, an academic at Newcastle Law School:
Mind boggling. I think even the most hungover first year law student in the land would understand this. Mr Dale, you are welcome to come do some law learning if you wish to catch up.
— Hélène Tyrrell (@DrHeleneTyrrell) November 13, 2017
Nelson has since deleted his tweet but has not apologised for it. Dale, however, is sticking with his guns, tweeting:
Do you actually understand what the Supreme Court is? You call my understanding naive. The Supreme Court has interpreted Article 50 as being irreversible. And you can't get away from that. That's not something Parliament can overturn. Learn your law.
— Iain Dale (@IainDale) November 12, 2017
Much to the concern of public law experts like King’s College London’s James Lee:
I do! It's the main subject of my research.
And for that reason, I know that when the Supreme Court accepts for purposes of an appeal an assumption which is 'common ground' between the parties, the Court is expressly not resolving the issue and the case sets no precedent on it. https://t.co/Q5v5vguSJ9
— James Lee (@jamessflee) November 13, 2017
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