Yet again, I didn’t see as much of the Supreme Court hearing on Article 50 as I would have liked. But I did catch some of James Eadie QC’s submissions on behalf of the government, most of Lord Keen QC’s submissions, also on behalf of the government on the devolution issues, and the tail end of Lord Pannick QC’s submissions on behalf of the respondents,
I hope that my friend, Peter Knox QC, who has sensibly set aside the week to watch the proceedings, will give us his reflections on day two. He is a rabid remainer, but he is also, despite his strange political opinions, a brilliant lawyer and his interpretation of the interplay between advocates and judges is invaluable.
From the little I saw I reckoned that Eadie did quite well. Keen, of course, had an easy ride (the theory that we can’t leave the EU without the consent of the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Irish and Welsh assemblies is far fetched in the extreme). And then we got to Pannick. I do so wish I had seen more of him. He is an entertaining advocate. He is also very clever. Will you allow me an anecdote?
This happened in about 1981. I went to Brentford Magistrates Court in the morning to defend someone charged with a motoring offence. I got back to my chambers in the early afternoon. There was a message for me. Would I please ring my father at the Daily Telegraph (he was a rather distinguished journalist). I rang him. He said it was all right, he had had a query about discrimination law, but, because I was out, he had asked around the office and been put on to a “frightfully clever young man called Pannick”. Mr Pannick had answered all my father’s questions. More than that, he had demonstrated extraordinary intelligence. “Of course,” said my father, “he believes in all that nonsense [silly discrimination laws], but he understood why a dry old Tory might not, I think he will go far.”
Well, he has gone far. I have to say that, until I saw James Eadie’s excellent performance, I had thought it a shame that the government had not secured the services of Lord Pannick (he is a proper barrister and would certainly not have rejected a brief to act for the government just because his personal opinion was that the will of the people should not prevail).
From the little, far too little, I saw of David Pannick’s submissions I got the impression that the respondents’ case was not so certain to succeed as all the so-called experts tell us. Several of the Justices put telling points to him which suggested they had not, by any means, thought their job was to confirm the “group think” view that the referendum result was a disaster for civilised, North London opinion and should be quashed at all costs.
Those in my chambers who saw more than I did (and they are all part of the group think gang) told me they thought it quite possible that the government would win. Of course, they may just have been very nervous. But I will be very interested to read Peter Knox’s reflections on today’s proceedings.