Boris Johnson under fire as suspension of parliament is ruled unlawful

Corbyn calls for no-deal Brexit to be taken off the table after UK supreme court ruling

The UK's supreme court has ruled that prime minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully when he advised Queen Elizabeth to suspend parliament just weeks before Brexit. Video: Reuters

 

The speaker of the British House of Commons has said that parliament will resume its business tomorrow morning following a UK supreme court decision that its suspension was unlawful and void.

British prime minister Boris Johnson said he “strongly disagrees” with the court ruling delivered on Tuesday morning but that parliament “will come back”.

“As the law currently stands, the UK leaves the EU on October 31st come what may, but the exciting thing for us now is to get a good deal – and that is what we are working on. And to be honest it is not made much easier by this kind of stuff in parliament or in the courts. Obviously getting a deal is not made much easier against this background but we are going to get on and do it,” he added, in comments to reporters as he left a meeting in New York.

The UK’s highest court on Tuesday unanimously ruled that Mr Johnson’s five-week suspension of parliament was “unlawful”.

The ruling provoked calls for Mr Johnson’s resignation from opposition parties.

The supreme court heard appeals over three days arising out of separate legal challenges to the suspension in England and Scotland, in which leading judges reached different conclusions.

The decision of the 11 judges on the panel was announced by the court’s president Lady Hale.

President of the UK supreme court Justice Lady Brenda Hale during the verdict on the prorogation of the British parliament. Photograph: EPA
President of the UK supreme court Justice Lady Brenda Hale during the verdict on the prorogation of the British parliament. Photograph: EPA

She said this was not a normal prorogation of parliament, and it took place in “quite exceptional circumstances”.

Mr Johnson acted unlawfully when he advised Queen Elizabeth to suspend parliament just weeks before Brexit and that therefore the legislature had not been prorogued, the court ruled.

Reasonable justification

“The decision to advise her majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification,” Lady Hale said.

“It is for parliament, and in particular the speaker and the Lords speaker, to decide what to do next.”

On Tuesday night, a senior government official said Mr Johnson had spoken to the queen following the ruling, but would not say whether he had apologised.

A Downing Street source had earlier criticised the 11 supreme court judges, saying they had made “a serious mistake in extending its [the court’s] reach to these political matters”.

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg also told the cabinet in a call on Tuesday evening that the supreme court judgement amounted to a “constitutional coup”, according to media reports.

Full text of judgment

Borderlands

A special investigation on Brexit & the Border Read More

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow said the ruling meant parliament must now reconvene. “As the embodiment of our parliamentary democracy, the House of Commons must convene without delay. To this end, I will now consult the party leaders as a matter of urgency.”

It emerged after the ruling that attorney general Geoffrey Cox had advised the prime minister that the suspension would be lawful. An Attorney General’s Office spokesman said of the ruling: “We are disappointed that in the end the supreme court took a different view. We respect the judgement of the supreme court.”

Varadkar response

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would “absolutely not” join calls on Mr Johnson to resign. “Whoever is prime minister of the United Kingdom is somebody we’re going to work with. It’s not for us to decide who the prime minister of the UK is,” he said.

Mr Varadkar, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting, met Mr Johnson on the fringes of the UN gathering on Tuesday to discuss Brexit.

Afterwards, Mr Varadkar said the two “got into some more details” in the meeting but stressed: “No agreements by any means.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn brought forward his speech at his party’s conference to Tuesday afternoon in preparation for parliament’s resumption.

In the speech he said Mr Johnson will never “shut down our democracy or silence the voices of the people” and that “this is an extraordinary and precarious moment in our country’s history”.

He promised to hold Boris Johnson’s government to account when parliament returns on Wednesday, again calling for a man he described as “this unelected prime minister” to resign.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses his party’s conference in Brighton, England, on Tuesday. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses his party’s conference in Brighton, England, on Tuesday. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

“His is a born-to-rule government of the entitled who believe that the rules they set for everyone else don’t apply to them.

“This crisis can only be settled with a general election.

“That election needs to take place as soon as this government’s threat of a disastrous no-deal [Brexit] is taken off the table.

“The prime minister has no mandate for a no-deal crash-out which is opposed by the majority of the people of this country.

“It would force up food prices, cause shortages of medicines and threaten peace in Northern Ireland, thus destroying the great work of the Good Friday Agreement.”

He also described a no-deal Brexit as a “Trump deal Brexit” and said: “Labour will end the Brexit crisis by taking the decision back to the people [in a fresh Brexit referendum] with the choice of a credible Leave deal alongside Remain.”

Earlier in the day Mr Corbyn said Mr Johnson acted wrongly in shutting down parliament, abused his power and should resign. “I invite Boris Johnson, in the historic words, to consider his position and become the shortest-serving prime minister there’s ever been.”

Liberal Democrat party leader Jo Swinson said that “the court have found what we all knew all along, Boris Johnson has again proven he is not fit to be prime minister”.

‘Extraordinary ruling’

The SNP, Plaid Cymru and Change UK also called on Mr Johnson to resign. The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said parliament “must remove” Boris Johnson as prime minister if he doesn’t resign.

Downing Street said the court’s decision was an “extraordinary ruling”. It also said the prime minister would not resign. Mr Johnson is expected to fly back to the United Kingdom from New York overnight, ITV’s Robert Peston reported, a few hours earlier than expected.

Former Tory prime minister John Major said Mr Johnson should issue an apology. “I hope this ruling from the supreme court will deter any future prime minister from attempting to shut down parliament,” he said, adding that “no prime minister must ever treat the monarch or parliament in this way again”.

European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator MEP Guy Verhofstadt said he never wanted to hear another Brexit supporter say the EU was undemocratic.

“At least one big relief in the Brexit saga: the rule of law in the UK is alive & kicking. Parliaments should never be silenced in a real democracy,” he tweeted.

“I never want to hear Boris Johnson or any other Brexiteer say again that the European Union is undemocratic.”

The European Commission said it would not comment on internal UK matters.

However, US president Donald Trump said he thought it would be a “terrible thing” if Britain did not leave the EU on October 31st. “They have to get it done, otherwise it will be a terrible thing to do it any other way,” Mr Trump said. “I don’t see another vote . . . I think they’re going to get it done.”

Mr Trump said his reaction to the judgement was to tell the PM “it’s just another day in the office”, as the two met at the UN in New York. – Agencies

BREXIT: The Facts

Read them here