LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday vowed to press ahead with his plans for Brexit on October 31 despite a momentous Supreme Court ruling that found his decision to suspend parliament unlawful.
The ruling is a huge blow to Johnson’s authority, coming after a series of defeats in parliament that have curbed his plans to leave the European Union even if there is no divorce deal with Brussels.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, immediately announced that MPs would reconvene on Wednesday.
The Conservative leader, who is currently in New York, told British media he “strongly disagreed” with the decision but said he would respect it.
Johnson also renewed his call for an early election to end the stand-off with parliament.
He said it was “the obvious thing to do”.
Johnson had argued that shutting down parliament until October 14 was a routine move to allow his new government to set out a new legislative programme.
But critics accused him of trying to silence MPs.
Delivering the unanimous verdict of 11 judges, Supreme Court president Brenda Hale said “the decision to advise Her Majesty (Queen Elizabeth II) to prorogue was unlawful”.
She said this was “because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions”.
As a result, the suspension was “void and of no effect”, Hale said, adding: “Parliament has not been prorogued.” The judge instantly became a social media sensation thanks to the large spider brooch she was wearing as she issued her strongly-worded condemnation of government policy.
Bercow subsequently announced that he would reconvene the Commons on Wednesday morning, while the upper House of Lords said it would return the same day.
The judges “have vindicated the right and duty of parliament to meet at this crucial time to scrutinise the executive”, Bercow said.
A small group of protesters outside the court hailed the decision, with one, Gareth Daniels, telling reporters: “This is a great day for democracy.”
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, led calls for the prime minister to step down.
“I invite Boris Johnson, in the historic words, to consider his position, and become the shortest serving prime minister there has ever been,” he told his party’s annual conference.
He brought forward his concluding speech to the meeting in Brighton, southern England, from Wednesday to Tuesday to allow him to return to parliament.
Some opposition MPs called for a confidence vote in Johnson, and Bercow indicated that he would allow time for this if a formal request were made.
The Supreme Court was ruling on two separate challenges, brought by more than 75 lawmakers and a team backed by former Conservative premier John Major.
“No prime minister must ever treat the monarch or parliament in this way again,” Major said after the verdict. “Parliament must now be recalled immediately to recommence its work, and to receive the prime minister’s unreserved apology.”
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But Johnson is likely to resist any demands to step down, even if his Conservatives no longer have a majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.
Opinion polls suggest his battles with MPs over Brexit are actually making him more popular with voters. — AFP