Court bid to block 'no-deal' Brexit fails

Judge rules the suspension of Parliament is not a court matter, throwing the onus back to voters and parliamentarians.

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    Pro-European protesters gathered outside the Court of Session in Edinburgh before the hearing [Robert Perrey/EPA-EFE]
    Pro-European protesters gathered outside the Court of Session in Edinburgh before the hearing [Robert Perrey/EPA-EFE]

    Glasgow, Scotland - An attempt to overturn British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's planned suspension of Parliament was rejected by a Scottish court on Wednesday.

    Lord Doherty, presiding over the Edinburgh Court of Session, dismissed a legal challenge brought by a cross-party group of 75 parliamentarians, who argued against Johnson's prorogation - or suspension - of the House of Commons before the UK's forthcoming departure from the European Union, due on October 31.

    The petitioners asserted that suspending Parliament for five weeks before the Queen's speech on October 14 - when the UK monarch outlines her government's legislative agenda - was an attempt to curtail parliamentary scrutiny and their bid to prevent a "no-deal" Brexit.

    But the judge ruled the issue was not a court matter, throwing the onus back to voters and parliamentarians.

    "The court judgement was as I expected it to be," leading Scottish political analyst Gerry Hassan told Al Jazeera. "That Scottish courts - and courts generally - would not want to get involved in a judgement on prorogation. So, that leaves us in a position where it has got to be stopped, if it is to be, by political means rather than legal means."

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    Johnson suffered a major blow on Tuesday when Conservative rebels and opposition MPs voted to secure control of Parliament, paving the way for them to bring forward a bill on Wednesday requesting a Brexit delay in order to thwart what many have called a damaging no-deal exit from the EU.

    Johnson responded to defeat by threatening a general election, but the prime minister requires two-thirds of parliamentarians to back his request for an early poll.

    Appeal lodged

    As for prorogation, the prospect of suspension remains - and, following the judge's verdict, the petitioners immediately began the process of lodging an appeal, with the case likely to end up in the UK Supreme Court.

    Labour Party MP for Glasgow North East Paul Sweeney described the court ruling as "concerning" and "unsound" saying it "must be challenged legally in the courts".

    "The prorogation was actually cooked up by the executive in the form of Boris Johnson and the crown, so in that situation, MPs had no decision over either when to prorogue or how long that prorogation should be," Sweeney, one of the 75 signatories to the court petition, told Al Jazeera.

    Other court hearings on the matter include one brought by Gina Miller in England. The ardent anti-Brexit campaigner, who will be joined in her action by the former UK rime minister Sir John Major, will present her case to overturn the prorogation of Parliament in London's Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday.

    But, as the wheels of justice turn, Johnson's move to suspend Parliament looks to have backfired, said many observers.

    Robert Shrimsley, editorial director of the Financial Times, tweeting after Johnson's defeat, wrote: "This defeat was probably coming regardless, but the prorogation gambit undoubtedly brought it forward. That and the fact that no one felt able to trust Boris Johnson or feel confident about his real goals."

    In light of Johnson's humbling in Parliament, Sweeney said "although prorogation was designed to deny MPs a say or a capacity to shut down a no-deal Brexit on October 31", this week could see Parliament strong-arm the government into accepting a bill requesting a further delay to Brexit.

    But he added: "The court case must continue because we must seek to put a legal check on the executive's power to suspend Parliament in an indefinite way ... It's now a loophole that must be closed." 

    Follow Alasdair Soussi on Twitter: @AlasdairSoussi

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News