UK Supreme Court: Parliament prorogation ‘unlawful’

Britain’s top court of appeals ruled on Tuesday that the prorogation of parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “unlawful.”

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court said the decision to suspend parliament was “null and void.”

In his only comment so far in response to the stinging verdict, Johnson told the BBC that the government will respect the court’s decision that suspending Parliament was unlawful.

Parliament Speaker John Bercow said the House of Commons will convene on Wednesday. Speaking outside parliament, Bercow said he had contacted party leaders or senior representatives before making his statement. 

Bercow said the traditional weekly questions to the prime minister cannot be held tomorrow due to notification requirements.

Parliament has a right to a voice

Brenda Hale, president of the panel of judges, said the prorogation would be unlawful “if it has the effect of preventing parliament from being able to carry out its constitutional functions.”

She said: “This prolonged suspension of Parliamentary democracy took place in quite exceptional circumstances: the fundamental change which was due to take place in the Constitution of the United Kingdom on 31st October,” referring to the date set for Brexit, which the suspension would have made it hard for parliament to have a say in.

She continued: “Parliament, and in particular the House of Commons as the elected representatives of the people, has a right to a voice in how that change comes about. The effect upon the fundamentals of our democracy was extreme.

“No justification for taking action with such an extreme effect has been put before the court.”

“The Court is bound to conclude, therefore, that the decision to advise Her Majesty [Queen Elizabeth] 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,” Hale said.

This “prolonged” prorogation was unusual, she said.

The ruling said: “This Court has already concluded that the Prime Minister’s advice to Her Majesty was unlawful, void and of no effect.

“This means that the Order in Council to which it led was also unlawful, void and of no effect and should be quashed. This means that when the Royal Commissioners walked into the House of Lords it was as if they walked in with a blank sheet of paper.

“The prorogation was also void and of no effect. Parliament has not been prorogued.

“This is the unanimous judgment of all 11 Justices.”

Baroness Hale added that the both houses of parliament can make arrangements to meet and carry on business as soon as they can.

Calls for Johnson to resign

Tuesday’s ruling came as a huge blow to the Johnson government as its latest move has been declared unlawful by the court.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the judgement showed that “Prime Minister Johnson has acted wrongly in shutting down the parliament.”

“It demonstrates a contempt for democracy and abuse of power by him,” he said, speaking at a Labour Party conference in Brighton.

“And I invite Boris Johnson in the historic words to consider his position. And become the shortest-serving prime minister there’s ever been,” Corbyn added.

“Boris Johnson’s position is untenable and he should have the guts to resign,” Scottish National Party (SNP) spokesperson Joanna Cherry said in immediate reaction to the ruling.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson also called for prime minister’s resignation. 

Johnson has pledged an exit from the EU, even in the case of a damaging no-deal scenario, on Oct. 31.

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