The United Kingdom Supreme Court has ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was acting unlawfully when he suspended Parliament in August for five weeks, a move which anti-Brexit campaigners claimed was intended to thwart their attempts to prevent Britain leaving the European Union.
In a shock ruling which strongly went against the government on every count, the Supreme Court in London unanimously found Tuesday morning that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament was not only unlawful but was null and void, meaning it legally did not take place. Parliament is now free to sit again as soon as desired by the speakers of both houses, the court explained.
Update 1330: Boris Johnson speaks
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now reacted, speaking to the BBC on a balcony of the United Nations building in New York, insisting that despite the court ruling against him this morning Brexit would still be going ahead at the end of October as planned.
In remarks that have already angered remainers, the Prime Minister said he regretted the decision of the court but pointed out the coalition of anti-Brexit campaigners who have worked tirelessly to prevent Britain’s withdrawal from going ahead.
The Prime Minister told the BBC:
As I say, I strongly disagree with this decision of the supreme court, I have the utmost respect for our judiciary, I don’ think this was the right decision I think that the prerogative of prorogation has been used for centuries without this kind of challenge. It is perfectly usual to have Queen’s speech, that’s what we want to do.
More importantly, let’s be in no doubt there are a lot of people who want to frustrate Brexit. There are a lot of people who want to stop this country coming out of the EU. We have a parliament that is unable to be prorogued, doesn’t want to have an election, and I think it is time we took things forward.
…as the law currently stands, the UK leaves the EU on October the 31st come what may, but the interesting, exciting thing for us now is to get a good deal and that’s what we are working on. And I’ll be honest with you… it is not made much easier by this kind of stuff in Parliament and the courts. Obviously getting a deal is not made much easier against this background but we’ve got to get on and do it.
…As the law stands we leave on October the 31st and I am very hopeful that we will get a deal, and I think what the people of the country want is to see Parliamentarians coming together, working in the national interest to get this thing done, and that is what we are going to do.
A government spokesman has said the Prime Minister will not resign, and he will return to the United Kingdom tonight after his speech to the United Nations.
Update 1305: Farage calls Boris proroguing parliament “worst political decision ever”
Brexit leader Nigel Farage has no sympathy for Boris Johnson’s unforced error and has said his chief advisor Dominic Cummings — who has frequently crossed swords with Farage & co in the past — should step down over the affair which he is widely thought to have engineered.
Speaking to Breitbart London before the ruling was made, Mr Farage said: “We have a Parliament that twice has stopped us from having a General Election and instead we have a Supreme Court making a decision as to whether Boris Johnson remains prime minister; virtually, that’s how important the ruling is.
“I don’t like it one little bit and I think our whole constitution has been thrown completely up into the air by Speaker Bercow and others.”
Update 1255: Tony Blair’s lingering influence on British politics
The Supreme Court was the creation of the Blair years of government, a time of enormous constitutional and political change in the United Kingdom. As Breitbart London’s James Delingpole has it, the court Blair created is now doing his bidding. Read more here
Delingpole: Judicial Enemies of the People Sabotage Brexit Again https://t.co/GwteWW9Wyz
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 24, 2019
Update 1220: Parliament will resume session tomorrow
Commons speaker John Bercow has spoken to reporters outside Parliament, answering the questions over when Parliament would resume, given the Supreme Court has given it leave to do so whenever it wishes. The answer is Wednesday morning, with opportunities for members to make urgent questions, request emergency debates, and to hold ministers to account. Expect fireworks.
BREAKING: Speaker Bercow: Parliament Will ‘Resume’ Wednesday After Supreme Court Nullification of Suspension https://t.co/2kWH5SaOKa
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 24, 2019
Update 1115: Calls for the Prime Minister to resign
Anti-Brexit politicians have leapt upon the ruling as resembling a fatal blow against Boris Johnson, who it is claimed could be the shortest-serving Prime Minister in British history if he were ousted now. But what or who could replace Mr Johnson is not clear as no single party can command a majority in Parliament.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed his party’s annual conference in Brighton as the ruling was made, and told the delegates there that the Prime Minister should “consider his position”. Speaking outside the Supreme Court former Tory MP turned independent Anna Soubry also called on the Prime Minister to resign, saying it was time for what she unironically calls a government of national unity to take power. Presumably formed of a coalition of opposition parties, the purpose of the much-discussed “unity” government would be to overturn Brexit, it has been claimed — despite delivering Brexit being the majority position in the United Kingdom.
The original story continues below:
The first question was whether the court even had the right to consider the question — a matter of jurisdiction. Some had argued the division of powers under the UK constitution meant it would not be proper for the unelected judiciary to make decisions on the acts of the executive — the government — but the court disagreed, stating they believed they had the right. In the words of Lady Brenda Hale who read out the unanimous decision of the 11 justices, the matter was “judicable”, and for for them to decide on.
Lady Hale explained: “…this was not an ordinary prorogation in the run-up to a Queen’s speech. It prevented Parliament from carrying out its constitutional role in five out of the possible eight weeks between the end of the summer recess and the exit day on the 31st of October. Proroguing Parliament is quite different from parliament going into recess.
“While Parliament is Prorogued, neither house can meet, debate, or pass legislation. Neither house can debate government policy. Nor may members ask written or oral questions of ministers, or meet and take evidence in committees.”
Of the decision to Prorogue itself, Lady Hale said: “The decision to ask her majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing Parliament from carrying out its constitutional functions without justification.”
Mr Johnson had used a mechanism known in Westminster parlance as Prorogation to suspend Parliament, usually a normal and regular event in Parliamentary life, but one met this time with outrage by anti-Brexiteers. Normal Parliamentary sessions have lasted between one and two years, being regularly suspended to clear out old unfinished legislation and to allow new government programmes to be launched.
But amid the endless Parliamentary discussion over whether to honour the result of the 2016 referendum which saw the British people vote by a margin of over one million votes — the largest democratic mandate given in British history — this Parliamentary session has rumbled on, becoming the longest since the infamous ‘long Parliament’ of the English Civil War.
The government under Mr Johnson insisted given those circumstances, and the fact the UK government has not yet been able to introduce new domestic legislation, it was reasonable to suspend Parliament.
Anti-Brexit activists claim the Prime Minister not only lied to the country, but lied to the Queen, as under the British constitutional system she has to be asked as a formality to suspend Parliament.
The Associated Press has created this handy timeline of the most recent events leading up to today, to give some context for today’s ruling:
July 24, 2019: Boris Johnson becomes prime minister after winning a party leadership contest to succeed Theresa May. He vows to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a deal.
August 28: Johnson suspends Parliament for a five-week period ending Oct. 14. Queen Elizabeth II approves his request, as she is required to do under Britain’s constitutional monarchy. He says it is a routine decision to set the stage for announcement of his new domestic agenda, but House of Commons Speaker John Bercow calls it a “constitutional outrage.”
August 29: Activist Gina Miller launches legal action against Johnson at the High Court in London. Her case is subsequently joined by former prime minister John Major and others.
August 30: In a separate case, a judge in Scotland refuses to grant an emergency measure blocking the suspension of Parliament but schedules a full hearing at a later date.
September 4: The Court of Session in Scotland rejects the bid to have the suspension declared unlawful.
September 5: The High Court in London hears Miller’s case against the suspension. Her lawyers argue the move was an “unlawful abuse of power” by the prime minister.
September 6: The High Court in London rejects Miller’s case. She vows to take it to the Supreme Court.
September 11: The Inner House of the Court of Session in Scotland rules that the suspension was illegal and was intended to “stymie” Parliament ahead of the Brexit deadline.
September 17: A three-day hearing on both cases begins at the Supreme Court, with 11 justices presiding.
September 24: The Supreme Court is scheduled to announce its decision.