UK parliament to sit tomorrow after court ruling on 'illegal' suspension

Published September 24, 2019
Anti-Brexit supporters gather in the rain outside the Supreme Court in London on Tuesday. — AP
Anti-Brexit supporters gather in the rain outside the Supreme Court in London on Tuesday. — AP

In a setback for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Britain’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the suspension of parliament was illegal.

Shortly after, the speaker of Britain’s House of Commons said parliament will resume its deliberations tomorrow (Wednesday).

Speaker John Bercow said there will be full scope for emergency debates following the Supreme Court’s ruling that the government’s suspension of parliament was illegal and void. He said the ruling means the suspension never took effect.

A person dressed as a caricature of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court in London on Tuesday. ─ AP
A person dressed as a caricature of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court in London on Tuesday. ─ AP

He added there will not be a Prime Minister’s Questions session on Wednesday. Prime Minister Johnson is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. He has refused to say whether he will resign if found to have broken the law, or will seek to shut down parliament again.

Bercow welcomed the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision and said British citizens deserve to have parliament in session to scrutiniSe ministers and perform its other core functions.

Court ruling

The court found Johnson’s suspension of Parliament to be “void and of no effect”, which means parliament was never legally suspended and is technically still sitting, said UK Supreme Court President Brenda Hale.

She said lawmakers could decide when to reconvene.

“The decision to advise her Majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification,” said Hale.

“Parliament has not been prorogued. This is the unanimous judgement of all 11 justices,” Hale said. “It is for parliament, and in particular the speaker and the lords speaker, to decide what to do next.”

Parliament was suspended, or prorogued in the British jargon, from September 10 to October 14.

The prorogation was approved by Queen Elizabeth, Britain's politically neutral head of state, acting on the advice of the prime minister as she is required to do under the country's complex, uncodified constitution.

The unanimous decision by the 11 judges is a devastating blow for the government.

The decision followed three days of hearings last week before a panel of 11 judges.

The court rejected the government’s assertions that the decision to suspend Parliament until October 14 was routine and not related to Brexit. It claimed that under Britain’s unwritten constitution, it is a matter for politicians, not courts, to decide.

The government’s opponents argue that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament just weeks before the country is due to leave the 28-nation bloc for the “improper purpose” of dodging lawmakers’ scrutiny of his Brexit plans.

They also accused Johnson of misleading the queen, whose formal approval was needed to suspend the legislature.

Johnson and Parliament have been at odds since he took power in July with the determination to take Britain out of the EU on October 31 with or without a divorce deal with Europe.

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