Downing Street Questions Impartiality of Judge After Court Rules Against Parliament Suspension

Anti-Brexit activists, and demonstrators opposing the British government's actions in relation to the handling of Brexit, protest near Downing Street in central London on September 10, 2019. - Beleaguered British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to continue with his attempts to strike a new Brexit deal with Brussels, after losing …
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Scottish judges ruled Wednesday that the government suspending Parliament for five weeks until mid-October is illegal, leading to Downing Street questioning the impartiality of the ruling judge, and Scottish politicians in turn accusing the government of acting dictatorially.

Three courts of sessions judges ruled against the government Wednesday morning following an appeal by anti-Brexit lawmakers against an earlier ruling that Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament ready for a new Parliament was legal.

While the government insists the so-called Prorogation is essential to bring new domestic legislation and that it ends an already historically long Parliament — the longest since the English civil war — anti-Brexit campaigners are anxious that it curtails their opportunities in Parliament to prevent Britain leaving the European Union.

The ruling found:

The Lord President, Lord Carloway, decided that although advice to HM the Queen on the exercise of the royal prerogative of prorogating Parliament was not reviewable on the normal grounds of judicial review, it would nevertheless be unlawful if its purpose was to stymie parliamentary scrutiny of the executive, which was a central pillar of the good governance principle enshrined in the constitution.

The opinion stands in direct contrast to the ruling already made in London’s high court that the advice given to the Queen by her government — in this case to suspend Parliament — is always political by definition, and therefore it is not for the courts to intervene. The government immediately challenged Wednesday’s ruling, which will be heard again at the supreme court in London next week where the matter — and disagreement between the English and Scottish courts — will be settled for good.

Opposition members of parliament said the ruling meant the house, which was suspended in the early hours of Tuesday morning, should immediately be recalled. The government rejected this suggestion, insisting that Parliament remained closed as planned.

Particular outrage was directed at Downing Street Wednesday following the ruling after reports claimed individuals within the Prime Minister’s team believed the ruling may not having been totally politically neutral, given Scotland is significantly more anti-Brexit than the United Kingdom as a whole.

Leading the charge on taking offence on behalf of Scottish judges was Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who called the remarks “pitiful, pathetic and desperate”. Scottish Nationalist Member of Parliament Thomas Sheppard went further, calling the Prime Minister “dictatorial and dangerous” and akin to a “tinpot dictator”.

Boris Johnson’s allies for their part have defended the Prorogation of Parliament vigorously, pointing out that it is normal for a new government to suspend Parliament to allow a new programme of laws to be presented, and that Parliament was due to be closed for most of the Prorogation period for conference season anyway. Analysis by Britain’s state broadcaster found that just half a dozen sitting days were due to be lost due to the Prorogation over the whole five-week shutdown — nevertheless, the move has been treated as a constitutional outrage.


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