British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks in the crucial countdown to the country’s Brexit deadline was illegal, ruled Britain’s Supreme Court today – Tuesday, Sep 24 – in a major blow that prompted demands for his resignation.
The apex court’s ruling declared the order to suspend Parliament “void and of no effect”. The 11 judges of the country’s highest court were unanimous in their verdict, which they said meant parliament could now immediately reconvene, reported AFP.
Supreme Court President Brenda Hale observed that the suspension was “unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”
She said the suspension was as a result “void and of no effect”, adding: “Parliament has not been prorogued”.
The court rejected the government’s assertions that the decision to suspend Parliament until Oct. 14 was routine and not related to Brexit, said media reports.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, said MPs should reconvene immediately.
The judges “have vindicated the right and duty of parliament to meet at this crucial time to scrutinise the executive and hold ministers to account”, Bercow said.
This case represents a rare confrontation between the PM, the Parliament and courts over their rights and responsibilities. The larger meaning behind this case revolved around whether Johnson acted lawfully when he advised the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks during a crucial time frame before the Oct 31 Brexit deadline when Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union.
Following the verdict, British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded that Boris Johnson call a new election. During Labour Party’s annual conference in Brighton, Corbyn was quoted as saying by Reuters, “I invite Boris Johnson, in the historic words, to ‘consider his position’.”
Johnson, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly, has refused to say whether he will resign if he is found to have broken the law, or will seek to shut down Parliament again.
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 Oct. 31 with or without a divorce deal with Europe.