Decision to suspend UK parliament was ‘unlawful’ – Supreme Court
Britain’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully in suspending parliament in the run-up to Brexit, in a stunning blow that sparked immediate calls for him to resign.
The 11 judges of the country’s highest court were unanimous in their verdict, which they said meant parliament could now immediately reconvene.
Johnson had argued that shutting down parliament until October 14 was a routine move to allow his new government to set out a new legislative programme.
But critics accused him of trying to silence MPs ahead of Britain’s scheduled exit from the European Union on October 31 — the terms of which remain unclear.
“The court is bound to conclude… that the decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue was unlawful,” Supreme Court President Brenda Hale said.
She said this was “because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions”.
She said the suspension was as a result “void and of no effect”, adding: “Parliament has not been prorogued”.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, said MPs should reconvene immediately.
The judges “have vindicated the right and duty of parliament to meet at this crucial time to scrutinise the executive and hold ministers to account”, Bercow said.
‘No time to lose’
The ruling is the most dramatic in the turbulent Brexit process, and comes at a crucial time.
Johnson has insisted Britain must leave the EU on October 31 no matter what, more than three years after the 2016 referendum vote for Brexit.
But the law passed by parliament earlier this month demands he ask EU leaders for a delay if he has not got a divorce deal by a Brussels summit on October 17.
He has expressed optimism that he can agree new terms by then, to replace the deal struck by his predecessor Theresa May, which was rejected by MPs.
But EU leaders are not as hopeful.
The bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Monday that London’s current position did not offer any “basis to find an agreement” on leaving.
Johnson met EU Council President Donald Tusk in New York on Monday, after which the latter tweeted: “No breakthrough. No breakdown. No time to lose.”
The British prime minister also held talks in New York with the French and German leaders, while further meetings with European colleagues are planned on Tuesday.
However, there is speculation he may now have to return to face a crisis at home.