British PM Boris Johnson Misled the Queen—and Broke the Law—When he Suspended Parliament, Scottish Court Rules
Boris Johnson’s five-week suspension of the British Parliament was always controversial, but—according to Scotland’s highest court, it’s also illegal and therefore null and void.
The shock ruling came through Wednesday from Edinburgh’s Court of Session. The Conservative prime minister had said “proroguing” Parliament was necessary to prepare his government’s legislative agenda—this is what he told the Queen when asking her to approve the suspension. The Scottish court ruled that this advice was false and unlawful; rather, Johnson wanted to stop lawmakers debating Brexit.
The ruling, which was partly based on documents provided by Johnson’s government, overturned another Scottish judgment last week that said the prorogation issue was political and not a matter for the courts. It also ran contrary to a ruling last week from the High Court in London, which said Johnson had not acted unlawfully in advising the Queen to suspend Parliament.
Both the High Court and Scottish cases will now move up the U.K.’s Supreme Court for a final decision. The Supreme Court will only start examining them on September 17, along with a similar case that was lodged in Northern Ireland.
So what happens in the intervening six days?
Although they say Parliament’s prorogation is invalid, the judges at the Court of Session have not ordered Johnson to recall Parliament immediately, ahead of the Supreme Court hearings.
However, there is strong political pressure on Johnson to do so sooner rather than later, mainly coming from the opposition Labour Party and the Scottish National Party (SNP)—the 78 lawmakers behind the Scottish case were led by the SNP’s Joanna Cherry and the Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson.
Swinson’s deputy, Ed Davey, told the BBC that if the Supreme Court agrees that Johnson misled the Queen, it could mean he has to resign as prime minister.
The government has responded by briefing the media that the Scottish judges were politically biased. Gavin Barwell, who was chief of staff to former prime minister Theresa May, said on Twitter that this stance was “very unwise” for a Conservative Party that believes in the union with Scotland, and the rule of law.
“Our judges are renowned around the world for their excellence and impartiality and I have total confidence in their independence in every case,” tweeted Robert Buckland, who as lord chancellor is responsible for judicial independence—a clear slap-down for Johnson’s team.
Johnson, an ardent Brexiteer, claims he wants the U.K. to leave the European Union with a deal. However, all evidence suggests he is making no effort to achieve this—his Brexit negotiating team has shrunk to a mere four people—and that he instead wants the U.K. to crash out with no deal at the end of October.
Thanks to the looming prorogation of Parliament, opposition forces urgently coalesced and finalized a law forcing Johnson to ask the EU for another Brexit extension, just before the suspension took effect on Tuesday. However, the prime minister still maintains he will not do so, and that Brexit will take place on schedule.
It remains unclear how Johnson will avoid complying with what the new law tells him to do, while not breaking the law.
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