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Court rules British PM Boris Johnson’s move to suspend Parliament unlawful – The Globe and Mail

September 11th, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that he wants to reach a deal before the deadline, but he has said repeatedly that he will not seek an extension.

Phil Noble/Reuters

A court in Scotland has ruled that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to suspend Parliament for five weeks is illegal, dealing the Prime Minister another blow in his ongoing battle with Members of Parliament.

In a ruling released Wednesday, a panel of three judges found that “the Prime Minister’s advice to HM the Queen that the United Kingdom parliament should be prorogued from a day between 9 and 12 September until 14 October was unlawful because it had the purpose of stymying parliament.” The judges added that the court “will accordingly make an order declaring that the prime minister’s advice to HM the Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful and is thus null and of no effect.” However, the judges said they will not issue that order until Britain’s Supreme Court makes a final ruling on the matter.

“We are disappointed by today’s decision, and will appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court,” the government said in a statement. The Supreme Court was already scheduled to hear arguments in a similar case next week.

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Explainer: Where are we at with Brexit?

Scottish law is different from the law in England and Wales, and it’s not uncommon for courts to issue contrary rulings. Last week a High Court in London came to a different conclusion on prorogation and ruled that the current suspension was legal. The panel of three judges said that “a decision to prorogue parliament is a prerogative power, a discretionary power still in the hands of the Crown” on advice from the Prime Minister. The London case has also been appealed to the Supreme Court and a hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday.

Nonetheless, the ruling will be seen as a setback for Mr. Johnson who has been battling Parliament over his plan to pull Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a withdrawal agreement. He prorogued Parliament on Tuesday arguing that it was a routine suspension to allow the political parties to hold their annual conferences and to reset the government’s domestic agenda. Parliament typically shuts down for a couple of weeks during the fall conference season but this prorogation was one of the longest in history.

Opposition MPs and some Conservatives argued that the real purpose of the suspension was to block any scrutiny of Mr. Johnson’s Brexit plan, which MPs fear could lead to a no-deal departure and have devastating consequences for the economy. Parliament has already passed a law requiring the Prime Minister to seek an extension of the Oct. 31 deadline if he hasn’t reached a deal by Oct. 19. A group of 78 MPs also challenged the prorogation decision in court.

The Scottish court agreed with the MPs. One of the judges, Lord Brodie, said in the ruling that the prorogation “was an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities.” He added, “It was to be inferred that the principal reasons for the prorogation were to prevent or impede Parliament holding the executive to account and legislating with regard to Brexit, and to allow the executive to pursue a policy of a no-deal Brexit without further parliamentary interference.”

Mr. Johnson has insisted that he wants to reach a deal before the deadline, but he has said repeatedly that he will not seek an extension. He has also indicated that he will try to find a way around the law.

The ruling “is really important,” said Labour MP Keir Starmer who added that Parliament should be recalled immediately. “The idea of shutting down Parliament offended people across the country and then they felt they weren’t being told the truth.”

Joanna Cherry, a Scottish Nationalist MP who led the legal challenge, called the ruling “a huge victory and a vindication of our case” and she said the “prorogation must now be stopped.”

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Boris Johnson’s move to prorogue British parliament until mid-October may have stalled his political opponents, but the embattled prime minister has no easy route to his goal of leaving the European Union by October 31. European Correspondent Paul Waldie examines what could unfold next in the Brexit saga.

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