Former PM Who Suspended Parliament Threatens to Take Johnson to Court… if He Suspends Parliament

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Former British Prime Minister John Major waits to deliver a speech on Britain's exit from the European Union, on February 27, 2017 in London, England. Mr Major attacked the government over its approach to Brexit and said they should be honest with voters over the …
Carl Court/Getty Images

Sir John Major has said that he will take Boris Johnson to court if he tries to suspend parliament to facilitate a no-deal Brexit.

Frontrunner in the Conservative leadership contest Mr Johnson has not ruled out proroguing (suspending) Parliament if he becomes party leader and prime minister in order to stop Remainer MPs blocking the UK leaving the EU in a clean break by the October 31st deadline.

Sir John told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday said that proroguing parliament was “totally unacceptable” and that he would seek a judicial review to stop him.

“I think the idea of proroguing parliament is utterly and totally unacceptable from any British parliamentarian or democrat. I for one would be prepared to go and seek judicial review to prevent parliament being bypassed,” Sir John said.

Major — who as Conservative prime minister in 1993 brought the UK into the Maastricht Treaty which officially founded the EU, in subsequent years putting supremacy of Brussels offices over the British parliament — continued: “I served in Parliament for over 20 years, I am very proud to have done so, I have huge admiration for our Parliament traditions – I am not going to stand by to see them disregarded in this fashion. It is utterly, utterly and completely the wrong way to proceed.”

A source close to Boris Johnson told the BBC that Sir John has “gone completely bonkers” over the threat of legal action.

Westminster news and gossip blog Guido Fawkes reminded Britons of Major’s incongruous position, given that he prorogued parliament in 1997 to delay the publication of a report into the “cash for questions” scandal which involved his Tory government.

Guido remarked:

Prorogation is presented as a power grab but in practice all it does is keep the law as it is – preventing changes to the statute being made for a time. It wouldn’t work as a mechanism to deliver a No Deal Brexit if MPs hadn’t already voted for No Deal. When they set it as the legal default by passing the EU Withdrawal Act a year ago.

Major is no stranger to legal action. After the Maastricht Treaty, William, Lord Rees-Mogg — father of Conservative MP and Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg — went to court to stop the treaty becoming law in the UK, but the judges sided with the government.

Then-Prime Minister Major was said to have savoured the Eurosceptic’s defeat, writing on a document: “Good, a full gloat is merited.”

The threats came as the Europhile-dominated House of Commons passed an amendment by a single vote on Tuesday that could threaten the UK leaving as scheduled on Halloween.

The amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill was put forward by Tory MP Dominic Grieve, who has been instrumental in pushing forward other pieces of legislation to frustrate Brexit.

Mr Grieve said in comments reported by The Times that he was “absolutely delighted” that his amendment passed, saying: “It is essential that parliament expresses its outright opposition to prorogation, which would be unconstitutional. I’m so pleased it has the chance to do that.”

The former attorney-general’s amendment would require ministers to return to parliament fortnightly from October to December to report on the situation in Northern Ireland, where the country’s government collapsed in January 2017 over power-sharing disagreements between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin.  While an obstruction to suspending parliament, it stops short of preventing a prime minister from enacting prorogation.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.