The U.K. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the suspension of Parliament that was recently orchestrated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson was illegal. In light of the decision, the House of Commons will convene on Wednesday, Speaker John Bercow says.
Speaking to journalists outside of Parliament after the ruling, Bercow said the court’s ruling was “explicit” and clear. He was careful to say there will not be a “recall” of lawmakers, but instead a resumption of the session — because the court ruled the suspension was nullified entirely.
Reading the decision of the court, Senior Judge Brenda Hale said 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.”
In late August, Johnson asked Queen Elizabeth II to suspend Parliament for five weeks, meaning it would reconvene just weeks before Britain’s scheduled departure from the European Union on Oct. 31. The move was widely seen as a ploy to make it difficult for Parliament to block Johnson’s desire for a “no deal” Brexit.
The U.K. Supreme Court was ruling on two competing appeals — one by businesswoman and anti-Brexit activist Gina Miller, whose initial claim of unlawfulness was rejected by the High Court of England and Wales; and another by Johnson’s government, which lost a case filed by Member of Parliament Joanna Cherry and other lawmakers in Scotland’s Court of Session.
Siding with both women and against Johnson’s government, the high court says the prime minister’s “decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”
Johnson had attempted to justify the suspension, which put the legislative branch into a type of limbo known as prorogation, was necessary to give him time to shape policies for his new government.
The Supreme Court said the prorogation had been imposed upon Parliament by outside forces, and that it had halted lawmakers’ essential business, preventing them from questioning officials and debating the government’s policies.
A summary of the ruling states that the order to prorogue Parliament is “unlawful, void and of no effect and should be quashed.”
Detailing the court’s complete rejection of the prime minister’s rationale, the justices continued, “This means that when the Royal Commissioners walked into the House of Lords it was as if they walked in with a blank sheet of paper. The prorogation was also void and of no effect. Parliament has not been prorogued. This is the unanimous judgment of all 11 Justices.”