A three-judge panel in Scotland on Wednesday declared British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to suspend Parliament illegal because its chief purpose was to hinder lawmakers.
Johnson’s decision to suspend the House of Commons and House of Lords for five weeks has been roundly criticized as an overt strategy to pre-empt any parliamentary challenge to leaving the European Union without an agreement. It was, however, approved by Queen Elizabeth II and Parliament was suspended after its Monday session.
Johnson, who succeeded Theresa May in July, has insisted the suspension is designed to facilitate his domestic agenda and end a session that had already run for too long. Wednesday’s ruling by the Inner House, Scotland’s top civil court, agreed with critics who believe the move is Brexit-related.
“This was an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behavior of public authorities,” the court wrote in its decision. “It was to be inferred that the principal reasons for the prorogation were to prevent or impede Parliament holding the executive to account and legislating with regard to Brexit, and to allow the executive to pursue a policy of a no deal Brexit without further Parliamentary interference.
“It was incumbent on the U.K. government to show a valid reason for the [suspension]. … The circumstances, particularly the length of the prorogation, showed that the purpose was to prevent such scrutiny. The documents provided showed no other explanation for this. The only inference that could be drawn was that the U.K. government and [Johnson] wished to restrict Parliament.”
Both houses of Parliament will remain in suspension until Oct. 14, about two weeks before Britain’s deadline to depart the EU.
Scottish lawmaker Joanna Cherry, one of dozens of lawmakers behind the legal challenge, called the ruling a “huge victory.”
“We have uncovered more and more evidence that this was a plot by Boris Johnson and his cronies to prevent us from stopping them taking Scotland and the U.K. off a Brexit cliff edge by forcing through a damaging no-deal against the will of parliament,” Cherry said.
Lawmakers have urged Johnson to reconvene Parliament immediately.
Former Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve was one of 21 party members that Johnson expelled after they rebelled against his plan last week — voting for a law that blocks a no-deal exit. He called for Johnson to resign.
“If it were to be the case that the government had misled the Queen about the reasons for suspending Parliament, and the motives for it, that would be a very serious matter indeed,” he said. “Indeed, in my view, it would then be the moment for Mr. Johnson to resign, and very swiftly.”
Johnson’s government plans to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. A spokesperson said they were “disappointed” in the court’s ruling and said Johnson’s move was “the legal and necessary way” of delivering “a strong domestic legislative agenda.”
Last week, the London High Court declined to hear the legal challenge against Johnson’s move. Wednesday, it elaborated on its decision.
“We concluded that the decision of the prime minister was not justiciable. It is not a matter for the courts,” the court wrote.