LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of the British parliament was unlawful, a Scottish court ruled on Wednesday, prompting immediate calls for lawmakers to return to work as the government and parliament battle over the future of Brexit.
Scotland’s highest court of appeal ruled against Johnson’s decision to prorogue, or suspend, parliament from Monday until Oct 14 — a blow for the government as it seeks to leave the European Union on Oct 31 with or without a deal.
With seven weeks to go, the government and parliament are locked in conflict over the future of Brexit, with possible outcomes ranging from leaving without a deal to another referendum that could cancel the divorce.
“We are calling for parliament to be recalled immediately,” said Scottish National Party lawmaker Joanna Cherry, who led the legal challenge, after Scotland’s Court of Session ruled the prorogation should be annulled.
“You cannot break the law with impunity, Boris Johnson.” The government will appeal against the ruling to the Supreme Court, the United Kingdom’s highest judicial body, and an official said Johnson believed parliament remained suspended pending a decision by that court.
Still, a group of opposition lawmakers gathered outside the 800-year-old Palace of Westminster demanding its recall.
Johnson announced on Aug 28 that parliament would be prorogued, saying the government wanted the suspension so it could then launch a new legislative agenda.
Opponents said the real reason was to shut down debate and challenges to his Brexit plans. The court was shown documents that showed Johnson was considering prorogation weeks before he formally asked Queen Elizabeth to suspend the legislature.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the ruling, saying it was a matter for the government.
Dominic Grieve, one of 21 Brexit rebels thrown out of Johnson’s Conservative Party last week, said that if Johnson had misled the queen, he should resign.
Johnson, who was a figurehead for the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, when 52 percent of voters backed Brexit, has rejected opposition complaints that he was denying parliament the right to debate Brexit in an undemocratic way.
Johnson’s bid to quit the bloc “do or die” on Oct. 31 has hit the buffers: parliament has ordered him to delay Brexit until 2020 unless he strikes a deal, while a new Brexit Party is threatening to poach Conservative voters.
After three years of Brexit crisis, British politics is in turmoil, with the prime minister blocked by parliament and an election or even a second referendum on the cards.
In an excoriating judgment, the Scottish judges ruled the principal reason for parliament’s suspension was to stymie lawmakers and allow Johnson to pursue a no-deal Brexit policy.
“This was an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities,” concluded one judge, Philip Brodie, according to a summary of the court verdict.
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2019