“The decision to advise her majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful” the Supreme Court of Justice has decided, because its real motivation was preventing parliament from carrying out its functions.
The decision by Boris Johnson to suspend parliament is “void, unlawful and of no effect.”
“Parliament has not been prorogued – this is the unanimous decision of all 11 justices,” said Lady Hale.
And she insisted that both houses of Parliament should meet as soon as possible.
The decision of the highest court in the land is the worst possible outcome for Boris Johnson, who is away in New York and did not attend any hearings. Johnson refused to submit a statement defending his actions which did not help his case.
There were gasps and even applause in the normally staid court as Lady Hale read out the judges’ unanimous verdicts.
Johnson’s actions not normal
“This was not a normal prorogation… it prevented Parliament from carrying out its normal role,” said Lady Hale explaining the Supreme Court’s decision.
“This prolonged proroguing of parliament took place in quite exceptional circumstances… Parliament especially the House of Commons as representatives” had the right to debate and scrutinise “an orderly withdrawal from the European Union.”
She said no reasonable explanation for suspending Parliament for such a long time with the country facing a major crisis was given by Boris Johnson’s administration.
Boris Johnson misled the Queen
Lady Hale began by explaining that it is important to emphasise that these cases are not about the right and wrongs of Brexit: “They are only about whether the advice given by the PM to the Queen that Parliament should be prorogued was lawful.”
The Supreme Court held that it is justicable to consider prerogative powers – i.e.: the courts can consider the extent and exercise of the power of prorogation by the Government.
“The power to prorogue is limited by the constitutional principles with which it would otherwise conflict,” Lady Hale explained.
She added that advising the monarch to prorogue parliament could be judged unlawful if the purpose is to frustrate parliament’s powers.
Abuse of power
Mrs Miller’s barrister Lord Pannick QC, told the court on Tuesday that Mr Johnson’s motive for an “exceptionally long” prorogation was to “silence” Parliament, and that his decision was an “unlawful abuse of power”.
Sir James Eadie QC argued on the Prime Minister’s behalf on Wednesday that the suggestion the prorogation was intended to “stymie” Parliament ahead of Brexit was “untenable”.
The Prime Minister advised the Queen on August 28 to prorogue Parliament for five weeks and it was suspended on September 9.
Mr Johnson claimed the five-week suspension was to allow the Government to set out a new legislative agenda in a Queen’s Speech when MPs return to Parliament.
But those who brought the legal challenges argued the prorogation was designed to prevent parliamentary scrutiny of the UK’s impending exit from the EU on October 31.
A panel of 11 justices heard appeals over three days arising out of separate legal challenges in England and Scotland.
Leading judges reached different conclusions in those earlier cases.
The three-day hearing at the highest court in the country dealt with two appeals – one from campaigner and businesswoman Gina Miller, the second from the government
Mrs Miller was appealing the English High Court’s decision to throw out her challenge to prorogation.
The government, on the other hand, was appealing the ruling from Scotland’s Court of Session that the prorogation was “unlawful,” Boris Johnson had misled MPs and the Queen on the grounds for suspending Parliament and had actually used it to “stymie” Parliament.
The challenge to the prorogation in the Scottish Court was brought by 75 parliamentarians, including SNP MP Joanna Cherry.
Boris Johnson refuses to say if he will resign over misleading the Queen
The PM was questioned by reporters on the RAF Voyager on Sunday as he headed to the States over whether he would resign if the Government lost the case in the London court.
“I will wait and see what the justices decide, the Supreme Court decides, because as I’ve said before I believe that the reasons for… wanting a Queen’s speech were very good indeed,” he said.
He also dodged the question of whether he would resign for lying to the Queen on the BBC. “Let’s just see what the justices say,” he insisted.
Parliament should now reconvene now the PM has been defeated in the court.
Boris Johnson refused to rule out proroguing parliament again
Asked whether he would rule out proroguing Parliament again before the current October 31 Brexit deadline, he replied: “I’m saying that Parliament will have bags of time to scrutinise the deal that I hope we will be able to do.”
Today’s scathing direction of the unlawfulness of his actions by the Supreme Court makes suspending Parliament again incredibly unlikely though.
Johnson held Brexit talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel European Council president Donald Tusk and the PM’s Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar in the US, but EU sources said he still had not brought anything new to the negotiating table.