PM John­son’s sus­pen­sion of Par­lia­ment il­le­gal, judges rule

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Griff Witte and Karla Adam

LON­DON — A panel of three Scot­tish judges ruled Wed­nes­day that Boris John­son’s de­ci­sion to sus­pend Par­lia­ment was il­le­gal, es­ca­lat­ing an al­ready pas­sion­ate de­bate over whether the Bri­tish prime min­is­ter re­spects the rule of law and throw­ing into greater doubt his plans for Brexit.

The rul­ing does not mean Par­lia­ment will come back into ses­sion. But it does give the prime min­is­ter’s op­po­nents hope ahead of an ex­pected Supreme Court hear­ing next week. Some raised the prospect that John­son will have to re­sign if he loses that case.

The Scot­tish judges ruled that the gov­ern­ment had been mis­lead­ing — in­clud­ing, per­haps, to the queen — about its real rea­sons for the five-week sus­pen­sion and that the move was “un­law­ful be­cause it had the pur­pose of stymy­ing Par­lia­ment.”

The Supreme Court case will be heard Tues­day af­ter the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice said it would ap­peal the Scot­tish rul­ing.

“We are dis­ap­pointed by today’s de­ci­sion,” Down­ing Street said.

A gov­ern­ment spokesper­son later ruled out re­call­ing Par­lia­ment at least un­til the Supreme Court has a chance to weigh in.

Wed­nes­day’s rul­ing con­tra­dicts two other judg­ments. Courts in Eng­land and Wales had ruled that John­son’s move was le­gal. An­other Scot­tish judge, mean­while, had de­cided the courts did not have the au­thor­ity to in­ter­fere in the sus­pen­sion.

Scot­land has a sep­a­rate le­gal sys­tem from Eng­land and Wales; the Supreme Court, which is based in Lon­don, rules on mat­ters re­lat­ing to both ju­ris­dic­tions.

John­son crit­ics cel­e­brated Wed­nes­day’s de­ci­sion say­ing they had been “vin­di­cated.”

“You can­not break the law with im­punity, Boris John­son,” Joanna Cherry, one of more than 70 law­mak­ers who brought the case in Scot­land, told re­porters out­side the court in Ed­in­burgh. “The rule of law will be up­held by Scot­land’s courts, and I hope also the Supreme Court of the United King­dom.”

The leader of Cherry’s Scot­tish Na­tional Party, Ni­cola Stur­geon, called for Par­lia­ment to be “re­called im­me­di­ately to al­low the es­sen­tial work of scru­tiny to con­tinue.”

The Labour Party joined that de­mand.

Do­minic Grieve, a for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral, said fel­low Con­ser­va­tive John­son should step down if it turns out he “had mis­led the queen about the rea­sons for sus­pend­ing Par­lia­ment,” he told the BBC. “That would be a very se­ri­ous mat­ter in­deed. In­deed, in my view, it would then be the mo­ment for Mr. John­son to re­sign, and very swiftly.”

Queen El­iz­a­beth II had agreed to sus­pend Par­lia­ment, on the ad­vice of the prime min­is­ter, as is cus­tom­ary.

The court bat­tle over sus­pen­sion could ul­ti­mately be a pre­lude to yet an­other le­gal bat­tle that may arise from Brexit. Par­lia­ment last week passed a law re­quir­ing John­son to seek an ex­ten­sion to the Oct. 31 dead­line for Bri­tain’s exit from the Euro­pean Union if John­son can­not strike a deal be­fore then.

To some, the brew­ing stand­off re­flects an ex­ec­u­tive that lacks the re­spect for laws and con­ven­tions that had been a given in pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments.


The rul­ing con­tra­dicts two other judg­ments. Courts in Eng­land and Wales had ruled John­son’s move was le­gal.

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