UK court rules Johnson’s closing of parliament ‘unlawful,’ in damning defeat for government

A handout screengrab made available by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom shows the start of court proceedings on the prorogation of British parliament, in London, Britain, 24 September 2019. [EPA-EFE/SUPREME COURT]

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proroguing of parliament is ‘unlawful, void and of no effect,’ the country’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday (24 September), in a decision that commentators said will have “huge constitutional consequences” for the future of the government.

Announcing the unanimous decision, the Court’s president, Lady Hale, said that “the effect [of prorogation] on the fundamentals of our democracy was extreme.”

Downing Street say they are “processing” the judgement, as Boris Johnson attends a United Nations conference in New York. He is expected to return to London immediately, as a cross-section of MPs call for him to step down.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference in Brighton after the ruling was announced on Tuesday, leader Jeremy Corbyn said Johnson’s prorogation was established to have  demonstrated “contempt for democracy and an abuse of power”.

The ruling means that Johnson’s request for the Queen to temporarily close the doors on parliament is deemed ‘null’ and in effect, the house is not legally in a state of prorogation at the current time.

Parliament was suspended, or prorogued, from 10 September to 14 October. The prorogation was approved by Queen Elizabeth II.

Following Tuesday’s announcement, the speaker of the House, John Bercow, made a call for MPs to resume their seats.

“In reaching their conclusion, they have vindicated the right and duty of parliament to meet at this crucial time to scrutinise the executive and hold ministers to account,” he said. “As the embodiment of our parliamentary democracy, the House of Commons must convene without delay.”

In Brussels, the decision brought a strong reaction from members of the European Parliament.

British MEP Claude Moraes said he “did not expect such a strong, unanimous and interventionist judgement from the Supreme Court of the UK,” adding that the ruling was “damning” for Boris Johnson and the UK government.

In addition, Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith hit out at Johnson’s reputation in the EU. “Boris Johnson, already a laughing stock in Brussels, should resign. His behaviour has been disgraceful and his position is untenable.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission declined to comment “on the internal constitutional matters of member states”.

Gina Miller, leader of several legal challenges to the Brexit process, applauded the decision of the court on Tuesday, demanding the prime minister to “open the doors of Parliament tomorrow,” and imploring MPs to be “brave and bold in holding this unscrupulous government to account.”

Moreover, Remain-backing MP Anna Soubry said the ruling will have “huge constitutional consequences,” while the Scottish National Party’s Joanna Cherry that Boris Johnson’s position was now “untenable.”

Liberal Democrat MP Chuka Umunna was just as critical, saying that Johnson “should never have tried to prorogue Parliament under these circumstances.”

“This was the strongest possible condemnation I think I’ve ever seen against the UK government, and this is not something our judges do lightly.”

On the other side of the Brexit divide, some politicians also had some tough words for Johnson’s government. Brexit Party MEP Richard Tice said that the prime minister “will have to offer his resignation” and that the UK will now be required to request an extension. “People across the country are going to get very cross,” he added.

Johnson sparks fury in UK after suspension of parliament, EU stays cool

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sparked fury among pro-Europeans and MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit by forcing the suspension of parliament weeks before Britain’s EU departure date.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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