The government’s Brexit strategy threatens to drive the UK down a “very slippery slope” towards “dictatorship” or “tyranny”, one former supreme court judge has warned.
Ex supreme court president Lord Neuberger condemned Boris Johnson’s internal market bill during a seminar with legal professionals.
He told lawyers on Wednesday that “Once you deprive people of the right to go to court to challenge the government, you are in a dictatorship, you are in a tyranny.
“The right of litigants to go to court to protect their rights and ensure that the government complies with its legal obligation is fundamental to any system … You could be going down a very slippery slope.”
Lord Neuberger’s comment came as the Scottish parliament overwhelmingly voted against the internal market bill.
The vote is unlikely to sink the bill but does show that Holyrood politicians “explicitly” reject the legislation.
The panel, organised by the International Bar Association, included former home secretary and Conservative party leader Michael Howard, the former attorney general Dominic Grieve QC, the SNP justice spokesperson Joanna Cherry QC, Helena Kennedy QC and Jessica Simor QC.
The panellists hoped the bill would be be defeated in parliament, rather than reaching the courts.
Cheery feared Holyrood would sue to the UK government if the bill ended up before the courts.
Lord Neuberger warned the hearing would “put the judges in a position where they are on a collision course with the government or are seen to be craven … [But] you have to sort out problems in court, if you don’t you have a civil war.”
Lord Howard said he opposed the controversial elements of the bill that threatened to break international law.
“I hope this bill is defeated in parliament not in the courts,” he said.
Grieve, the UK’s former attorney general, said the laws contained an “ouster clause which goes to the heart of parliamentary democracy.”
Rather than Brexit being “an assertion of sovereignty,” Grieve added, “it constitutes its undermining”.