Johnson Takes Aim at U.K. Courts After Brexit Case Humiliation

Thomas Penny

(Bloomberg) -- Fresh from winning a commanding majority in last month’s general election, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is wasting no time in taking revenge for his humiliation last year at the hands of the U.K. courts.

Johnson, who had to rush back from New York in September after the Supreme Court ruled his suspension of Parliament was unlawful, said he wants to block people taking legal action for political reasons.

“Our independent courts and legal system are admired around the world,” Johnson told the House of Commons on Wednesday. “We will continue to ensure that judicial review is available to protect the rights of individuals against an overbearing state, while ensuring that it is not abused to conduct politics by another means or to create needless delays.”

In an unprecedented rebuke, the U.K.’s top judges ruled Johnson had acted wrongly by pushing through a five-week suspension of Parliament in the run-up to the Oct. 31 deadline he had set for leaving the European Union. He gave Queen Elizabeth II “unlawful” advice to pause the legislature, preventing elected politicians from scrutinizing his government’s actions, the court found.

Legal Woes

Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, also fought a series of court battles brought by pro-European Union campaigners seeking to hamper her plans for Brexit and was forced to give Parliament a say over leaving the bloc after the Supreme Court ruled against her in January 2017.

Unable to win the support of lawmakers for her agreement with the EU, she failed in her mission to take the U.K. out of the bloc.

It’s already clear that Johnson, who won the election with a promise to “get Brexit done,” will do all he can to stop the same thing happening in future.

He’s not the first prime minister to try. David Cameron railed against “completely pointless” judicial reviews in 2012. But Johnson, with his 80-seat majority in the House of Commons, may be able to deliver.

--With assistance from Alex Morales.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Penny in London at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at, Stuart Biggs, Christopher Elser

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