Boris Johnson’s Suspension of Parliament Ruled Illegal

By jamie.ross@thedailybeast.com (Jamie Ross)
Reuters / Phil Noble

Boris Johnson’s suspension of the British Parliament has been ruled to be unlawful in an explosive court decision in Scotland that accuses the prime minister of giving illegal advice to Queen Elizabeth.

The prime minister suspended parliament in an arcane procedure known as prorogation earlier this week. Though the suspension is the normal way to end one session of the British Parliament and begin a new one, opposition lawmakers reacted with fury at the timing of the move as it took away weeks of precious parliamentary time just as the U.K. hurtles toward its scheduled exit date from the EU at the end of October.

Scottish judges have now declared the decision unlawful after lawyers representing 75 British lawmakers from each of parliament’s major parties argued that it was designed to prevent the body from debating and taking action on Brexit. Johnson claimed he wanted to suspend parliament to allow him to introduce fresh legislation in a new parliamentary term.

Asked by The Daily Beast what they expected to happen next, a British government minister responded only: “Bad things.”

The shock decision is not expected to immediately reverse Johnson’s suspension of parliament as no order to do so was given by the judges in their Wednesday ruling. The British government will be forced to appeal the decision in a showdown at the U.K. supreme court next week.

The three Scottish judges said in a brief draft statement Wednesday that they unanimously believe prorogation was motivated by stopping parliament holding the government to account. The judges added: “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.”

The judges also ruled that Johnson’s advice to the Queen—who was asked to prorogue parliament by ministers from his government—was illegal. They said they believe “the PM’s advice to the HM the Queen is justiciable, that it was motivated by the improper purpose of stymying parliament and that it, and what has followed from it, is unlawful.”

A spokesperson for the prime minister’s office said they were “disappointed” by the decision and confirmed an appeal, adding: “The U.K. government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda. Proroguing parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this.”

Opposition lawmakers urged the immediate recalling of parliament. Scottish National Party lawmaker Joanna Cherry, who led the challenge, warned the prime minister: “You cannot break the law with impunity, Boris Johnson. The rule of law will be upheld by Scotland’s courts and I hope also the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.”

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