Brexit rebels suffer court blow in bid to stop Boris Johnson suspending parliament
London court rejects bid to stop prime minister ordering suspension of parliament
London's High Court on Friday rejected a legal challenge against British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suspension of parliament before Brexit, but said it could still be taken to the Supreme Court for a final appeal.
Johnson announced at the end of August that he would suspend parliament from mid-September to mid-October, just before Britain is due to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, so the government could announce a new legislative programme.
That prompted campaigner Gina Miller to bring a legal challenge. She was later joined in the process by former Prime Minister John Major and opposition political parties.
Miller told reporters outside court that parliament should be sitting during such a crucial time for Britain's democracy, and she would not give up the fight.
"The Supreme Court has pencilled in Sept. 17 for the appeal hearing," she said. "My legal team and I will not give up the fight for democracy."
Miller's lawyer, David Pannick, argued on Thursday that comments from Johnson showed an important part of his reasoning for the prorogation, or suspension, was that parliament might say or do something that impeded the government's Brexit plans.
The legal challenge has lost some of its impact after lawmakers voted this week to force Johnson to seek a three-month delay to Brexit rather than leave without an agreement on Oct. 31, a move that is likely to lead to an election.
Mr Johnson announced last week that he will suspend the British parliament from mid-September to mid-October ahead of an Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, enraging his opponents and raising the stakes in the country's deepest political crisis in decades.
Robert Blackburn, a professor of constitutional law at King's College university in London, said the cases are likely to be combined and the Supreme Court could overturn the decision to suspend parliament.
"The legal challenges, if the courts accept the applications for judicial review as legitimate for trial, are certain to be combined and go all the way to the Supreme Court," he said. "The Supreme Court could quash and/or declare unlawful" the order.
The government has said its actions are in line with the convention by which a new prime minister briefly suspends parliament before announcing a new legislative programme.
Miss Miller mounted a successful legal challenge to Prime Minister Theresa May's government over its authority to leave the EU without a vote in parliament, sought a judicial review of Johnson's decision to suspend parliament.
"As our politics becomes more chaotic on a daily basis, the more vital it is that Parliament is sitting," she said. "We are therefore pleased that the judges have given permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on the grounds that our case has merit."
Mr Major joined the legal case after accusing Mr Johnson of hypocrisy for backing Brexit to secure more power for parliament, only to propose to sideline lawmakers when it suited him.
A group of about 70 lawmakers from opposition parties have backed a bid to have Scotland's highest civil court rule that Johnson cannot suspend parliament before Britain leaves the European Union on Oct. 31.
They launched their challenge before Queen Elizabeth agreed to the government's request for a suspension.
On Wednesday, the Scottish court ruled that Johnson's decision to suspend parliament was lawful, saying the matter was not one for judges to decide.
The lawmakers are appealing that verdict. The appeal began on Thursday and continues on Friday. Scottish National Party lawmaker Joanna Cherry said that the appellants had asked for interim remedies to prevent prorogation pending a final decision in the case.
The case is being led by Jolyon Maugham, a lawyer who successful won a case filed with the European Union's top court which ruled that Britain can reverse the Brexit process if it chooses to do so before it leaves the bloc.
A legal bid to force Johnson to reverse his plans to suspend Parliament launched in Belfast will be heard on Friday.
The case has been taken by Raymond McCord, a rights activist who also launched a 2016 challenge to block Britain’s exit from the European Union. He said he fears a no-deal Brexit could wreck the Northern Ireland peace process.
Published: September 6, 2019 02:01 PM